‘Moana’: A Disney Princess Like Me

Here’s a happy pic of me celebrating my natural hair, after seeing Moana yesterday. But I also did some serious soul searching as to why I found myself tearing up during Moana – and it hit me like a ton of bricks. More like Moana’s hair hit me like a ton of bricks.

Growing up as a darker skinned mixed kid with “my kind” of hair, was rough. I was made fun of constantly for my “frizzy” “poofy” hair. Kids would laugh at me, put gum in my hair, pull on it, and all I could do was take it and tie my hair back into a braid everyday. As a teen, I was convinced that I “looked better” when I’d flat iron my hair. So for all of my special events/dances/etc I ALWAYS went to get my hair straightened – because that somehow meant I was “trying harder to look nice” or simply “prettier”.

In my 20’s I found less time to flat iron, but when I’d straighten my hair myself I’d always hear, “Why don’t you straighten your hair ALL the time? You look so great/pretty/sexy/etc!” Then when I’ve taken a look at hair beauty commercials past and present with a scrutinizing eye, I realize that the “before’s” ALWAYS had my type of “frizzy” hair or curlier – because who could possibly want to live with my NATURAL hair?

It took cutting/buzzing off my hair for a theater production in college to really fall in love with my hair. As I watched it grow back, and saw the curls come in, I finally saw the REAL me and liked what I saw. Sadly, it’s only been the last 10 years where I’ve truly loved my hair – and ultimately ME.

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I’ll be honest, when I began to see Moana toys and even a Moana wig earlier in Oct…I found myself…incredibly…angry… Angry because for more than 2/3rds of my life media/entertainment/people of power/fashion moguls/etc had continuously told “people” THAT I WAS UNATTRACTIVE. THAT I COULD NEVER BE A DISNEY PRINCESS. THAT I JUST WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH.

By excluding “me” or really those who look like me…myself and others have been told that we weren’t good enough to exist in popular media – unless we altered ourselves to meet their “standards” of “good enough.” And now, suddenly My HAIR which was never good enough for most of my life was a Disney costume piece – A FREAKIN COSTUME PIECE. It still boils my blood in a way many may never experience, but I hope what I’m writing brings a level of understanding.

The closest Disney character and Princess that I feel represents me has been Mulan, and most recently Princess Elena  – the first Latina princess! But these two speak more closer to my mixed heritages, not necessarily to the person I see in the mirror (although Elena is close). I was hesitant and excited to see Moana, and once the movie began I found myself tearing up throughout the entire thing. Here was a DISNEY princess who was being championed by popular media, a new hero to young and old, a future representation of inner/outer beauty – and she looks LIKE ME!

And there it was, as raw a could be…I was crying for all the times I didn’t…

If Moana had existed when I was a child…I never would have been laughed at…or had gum placed in my “frizzy” hair…if Moana came out when I was in high school I would actually have pictures of myself going to Prom rocking my natural curls…instead of alway trying to hide them…if Moana existed in my 20’s no one would have inadvertently shamed me for not straightening my hair…perhaps they would have encouraged me to “be me” and to go natural more often…if Moana simply existed when I needed her most…maybe just maybe I would have realized sooner that I WAS ALWAYS GOOD ENOUGH…that I was always BEAUTIFUL…WHERE WAS MOANA WHEN I NEEDED HER!?!? Awkwardly, I’m tearing up as I write this.

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Sigh…Hopefully me writing this brings a sense of clarity and zen to myself while sharing a different perspective with others. There are conflicting feelings of jealousy, sadness, joy, awe, and some other things raging inside me – but mostly Pride. I’m proud that I will be able to take my kids to any store and they will be able to find a toy, a hero, a champion on the shelves that not only represents their personality but represents them PHYSICALLY & SPIRITUALLY.

So trust me when I say this, REPRESENTATION IS IMPORTANT. My current falling tears are proof.

Lani is one half of the Dynamic Cosplay Couple, though with their children it might be time to just become The Dynamics.

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