Audrey Young's fascination with Disney started out like that of most kids. She grew up on the classic animated films, the memorable characters, and the inspiring storylines. But it wasn't until years later that her fondness would blossom into an obsession, one that inspired her to found a DisneyBound community and visit the theme parks regularly. Flash forward five years, and her sense of community and creativity would extend to a group of women set on changing the way we see Disney princesses. Thus, AfricanPRINTcesses became a reality.
"I said, 'Well if there aren't any more black Disney girls, let's make the Disney girls black.'"
I first saw Audrey when she and her fellow royals popped up on my Instagram explore feed. Fourteen women, fourteen outfits, fourteen new ways of looking at princesses; from Snow White to Vanellope. Over email, Audrey told POPSUGAR she'd been trying to get this idea off of the ground for a number of years. "It was important to see this through because when I came up with the idea, it was literally because our group had run out of black women Disney characters to portray," she explained. "After only TWO projects we had depleted the extent of black female Disney characters (the Muses and Princess Tiana). I said, 'Well if there aren't any more black Disney girls, let's make the Disney girls black.'"
Audrey played around with the idea starting in 2017, but busy schedules and other projects kept it from becoming a reality. Looking back, she thinks this hold-up might have been serendipitous since she had the chance to meet so many other black women in the DisneyBounding community over the past three years. The group came together (mostly via Instagram), picked their princesses, brainstormed outfits using traditional African prints and fabrics, then decided to plan the big reveal around Black History Month because "it would make a bigger impact and really showcase the point of the idea."
On Feb. 8, the group — along with photographer Madeline Barr — made their debut, delighting castmembers and guests at Disneyland. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Chip, and Dale all stopped for a little time with the princesses. People asked to take their photo. "At one point we finally had to leave Main Street because there were a lot of people staring and pointing as photos were being taken," Audrey said. "All day guests were commenting on how beautiful and majestic we looked."
Much like how Disney is a beacon to both children and adults alike, I imagine Audrey and her fellow "PRINTcesses" will shine as an example to all ages, but especially young women of colour. "For all the little girls out there who still don't see the representation they deserve or who are still told that their black/brown skin and kinky hair are undesirable, you are beautiful princesses. The standard of beauty is YOU! You can be a mermaid, you can be a boss lady, you can be a warrior, you can be an adventurer," she said. "Dream big and dream bold."