Updated: Jun 20
In 1997, Brandy starred as Cinderella in a remake of the 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical co-produced by Whitney Houston, who also plays the fairy godmother in the television film. This Cinderella was a childhood favorite of Symone Seven, an Atlanta photographer who used Photoshop to make herself into a Disney Cinderella and posted the picture on Instagram this April. (See her process in the embedded post below.) The picture is the first of a series that has drawn delighted attention from lots of little girls who don't usually see themselves reflected in Disney princesses other than Tiana.
In an unusual and concrete way, Yara Shahidi got to see herself reflected in Cinderella as a child, but our Disney-saturated American culture usually represents princesses as white.
Twenty years ago, The American Library Association curated a list of Multicultural Cinderellas, and there is a certain irony in this effort—necessary though it was—because the original Cinderella was not blonde. The oldest recorded Cinderella-esque tale is from the first century BCE and it centers on a Greco-Egyptian girl named Rhodopis. The next oldest recorded version comes from China in the ninth century CE, and that Cinderella is named Ye Xian (or Yeh-Shen). The Cinderella story Disney retold comes from late 17th-century France.
It is the nature of fairy tales to transform as they travel, so people of all colors ought to put themselves into the Cinderella story—just as Europeans did when they got hold of it.