There was a great deal of excitement, understandably so, around Disney’s announcement of a new princess, Elena of Avalor, this week. An olive-skinned, gorgeous babe who looks like she goes to Jasmine’s same hair salon to get blow-outs, Elena was widely celebrated in the media because, well, it’s crazy that there still hasn’t been a Latina royal in the Disney family.
We came close about a year ago with Sofia The First, whom many also assumed was Latina. But it wasn’t long before the backlash started, mostly consisting of “She’s too white!” comments. All of which caused Disney to clarify — or perhaps backpedal — and state that Sofia was “a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world. Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia.”
Disney Junior’s VP Nancy Kanter further clarified: “What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures. The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America.”
Following that uncomfortable PR moment for Disney, Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, had a direct conversation with Kanter in which he apparently pressed, “When are we going to have a real Latina, not a counterfeit?’”