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I’ve never wanted to be a Princess. Mostly because I never truly thought I could be one.
I remember the first time I saw Tiana. She looked like me. It was 2009 and for the first time, Disney gave little Black girls their first taste of what it was like for the fairest of them all to be Black.
Tiana exemplified the epitome of what life told us it meant to be a strong Black woman: responsible, a bit sassy, and dedicated to her family. She was fiercely independent, with a story that sung a soulful song of the honor and pressure felt by Black women to fulfill the dreams of their loved ones, safeguard their culture, and place the needs of others before their own.
Our princess — with beautiful cocoa flesh, a wide nose, and slicked up hair — charmed all of the little Black girls and grown Black women who longed to see a princess they could relate to grace the screen. We tried to be hopeful witnessing the first “Black princess” in pixels. But we were very quickly reminded that the world refuses to view us with such grandeur.
She was a frog for most of the movie.
Thus, at seven years old, I was faced with the reality that Black women and girls are always strong, resilient, and magical, but even in the mythical realm of Disney movies, we are often left little room to be human. So, I skipped over childhood dreams of becoming a princess because for little girls like me, I knew it meant that my real-life character arc would fall short of a whimsical tale. Unlike the Auroras, Belles, and Cinderellas of the world, my “fairytale” was destined to be disrupted by an animalistic coming to princessdom.
How could I be a princess if the world couldn’t fathom me as human?
I remember the first time the media announced that the second son of the people’s princess was to be married. To a Black woman. I was getting a do-over. A real life princess was made up of half the same stuff as me. Like Tiana, she is responsible, sassy, dedicated to her family, and fiercely independent. And because this was real life and I was now 17, I was sure she’d be a princess that nobody could turn into a frog, whose growth and character would not be entrapped by slimy mucus-drenched skin in a body that didn’t belong to her.
And again, Black women tried to be hopeful witnessing the first “Black princess” in real life. But we were quickly confronted with the reality that the rest of the world wouldn’t watch cheerfully alongside us.
The British press conjured up defamatory headlines and pieces with racial undertones. The family Meghan Markle married sent her to photo-ops and royal engagements while they whispered their concerns about the potential darkness of her unborn child’s skin. She was vilified and slowly deprived of her humanity, as though she were some undesirable creature whose “exotic” DNA would plague the royal family.
Black American women lay awake at night sending hushed prayers into the universe for Meghan’s emotional and physical safety. We were afraid because we knew better than to believe that the colorism that opened the doors would shield her from the anti-Blackness that would ultimately throw her out. We know better than to believe that our princess could ever truly be considered royal, especially knowing that the world fears any ounce of Blackness that threatens to permeate its perfectly constructed white castles. In fact, some would kill us over it.
When Prince Harvard bestowed upon me a fateful kiss, I’d hoped that I could slay the villains that had robbed me of the fantastical dreams of Black princessdom. But the truth is, both inside and outside of this white castle, that this little Black girl cannot want to be a princess, mostly because she knows the world would never let her be one.
When we die, nobody says our names. Nobody cries at our funerals. Harvard doesn’t offer commiseration. What’s more, though, is that when we’re living the world would rather see us contorted and distorted in pixels and in person — holding our breath until we reach the brink of death — than hold us in high regard.
I know we don’t need titles or the world’s permission to be royalty. Black women will still rise. We are royalty in our own right. But the “fairytales” written for princesses that look like me have always insinuated that the happy endings never come unless we first let the world strip us of our skin and morph us into something, or someone, we can barely recognize — all while fighting the scariest of villains, the darkest of demons, and the centuries of violence at the hands of misogynoir.
Kyla N. Golding ’24 is a Crimson Editorial comper in Adams House.
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