Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California
Arts & Entertainment

Disney's 'Sofia the First': What does a real Latina princess look like?

Parents have been sending in photos to a blogger's call to
Parents have been sending in photos to a blogger's call to "Let’s Show What a #LatinaPrincess Really Looks Like," in response to a recent flap over a Disney character.
Screen shot from SpanglishBaby's #LatinaPrincess Pinterest board

Last month, when a Disney executive producer  told reporters that a new princess in the upcoming animated telefilm "Sofia the First" would be Latina, a minor scandal ensued. While some cheered such a character, there were Latino media watchdogs, parents, bloggers and Disney fans who were incensed.

Why, they asked, was Disney not making a bigger deal about the new Princess Sofia's ethnicity, making her the child of a mother hailing from a fictional country with "Latin influences" (as one Disney spokesperson explained), but little more? And why did she have medium brown hair and blue eyes? The latter controversy launched a very public, and heated, discussion of just what Latinas/Latinos are supposed to look like — a question for which there is no easy answer.

In the end, Disney clarified that Sofia — who debuts Nov. 18 at 7 p.m ET/PT on the Disney Channel —  isn't really Latina after all. Her mother comes from a fairy-tale kingdom called Galdiz that's "inspired by Spain," as Disney described it; her father hails from a fictional land that's ostensibly farther north. Sofia is bicultural, but not quite Latina.

All of which made sense to SpanglishBaby blogger and "Bilingual is Better" co-author Ana L. Flores, who wrote last month that she was skeptical about the producer's original statement. She had worked with Disney executives as a consultant recently and was surprised: "Never, not once, did the issue of Sofia being Latina come up," Flores wrote. "Don’t you think they would have been reaching out to Latina bloggers with that message?"

The ensuing flap — especially the complaints about Sofia's appearance — got the Salvadoran-American mom thinking: What should a real Latina princess look like? Should she be dark-haired and olive-skinned — a look shared by the Latin American majority — as many critics argued? Should she look like Princess Tiana, Disney's first black princess, who would look perfectly at home in Havana or Santo Domingo? Or like the brown-haired, fair-skinned Sofia, who might be found anywhere from Mexico City to Buenos Aires?

The answer is all of the above. Using the hashtag #LatinaPrincess, Flores began soliciting photos from parents via Twitter of what real Latina princesses — i.e. the pint-sized kind who don't live in castles — look like. The photos are adorable, and they make the point. (And because niños are not to be overlooked, there's also #LatinoPrince.)

Flores writes on the SpanglishBaby site:

We want you to join us right now in showing Disney and all media what the Princesas in our lives look like so it can be an inspiration for when they finally do make a movie featuring a Latina Princess. We want to create a massive community canvas of pictures from all the real Latina Princesses. Let’s show them who we are and how bellas we are. 

Parents have been posting photos to Spanglish Baby's Facebook page or tweeting them; Flores has set up a Pinterest board with the submissions.

Your turn: If there ever is a truly Latina Disney princess, what should she look like? And if you know a Latina princess already, feel free to share an image below, or join the #LatinaPrincess discussion on Twitter.