Disney recently announced the inclusion of a Latina princess, Elena of Avalor, who will make her first appearance in Disney’s popular show for preschoolers Sofia the First. After her appearance on Sofia, Elena will soon begin her own spin-off show dubbed, Elena of Avalor set to debut on Disney Junior sometime in 2016. The network describes Elena as a “confident, and compassionate teenager” whose kingdom is “inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore.”
Aimee Carrero, of ABC’s Young and Hungry, and Cartoon Network’s Level Up, is set to voice Elena. Carrero is also of Dominican Republician descent, meaning we get visual and behind the scenes representation for the upcoming show. Originally Sofia was slated to be Disney’s first Latina princess, but controversy over her pale complexion and blue eyes caused the creators to seemingly back off.
Nancy Kanter, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, stated that, “Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world,” sidestepping the question of whether Sofia was Latina due to some hints of Latin heritage early on in the show.
The problem went deeper than Sofia’s pale complexion, it was more that Sofia herself was white passing, and white passing Latinas are more often prioritized and marketed in media than dark skinned Latinas. A similar problem exists with black women in media as well, a topic that Wendy Browne touched upon in her recent piece, Dear Hollywood: Please Give Us The Storm Movie We Have Been Waiting For.
Whether Sofia was, or is, Latina and the creators and network decided to nix the idea due to the original controversy remains to be seen. Furthermore it’s more important to focus on the confirmed identity of Elena, her dark skinned Latina status, and see how this mix of Latin cultures and folklore the creators are promising are showcased in her own show.
It means a great deal that younger girls will be able to see Elena on their TV screens alongside Sofia and her friends — which include a black princess as well — leading her own show. I’ve discussed the importance of Latinx people leading their own shows and stories before, so I’m overjoyed to see this Elena being created and marketed to young girls from Disney.
It still may be a while until we see a Latina princess in the main lineup of princesses from Disney, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.