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Voices: A Latina Disney Princess Works For Me

Disney announced a new princess, Elena of Avalor

Disney announced a new princess, Elena of Avalor, “ a confident and compassionate teenager in an enchanted fairytale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore.” Disney.com

NEWARK, NJ -- I am a 22-year-old college graduate. Growing up, none of the Disney princesses, Barbies, baby dolls or any doll I played with really looked like me. I adored Jasmine (the princess from "Aladdin") in part because she was the princess that most resembled how I looked. I have brown eyes, brown hair, and a tan complexion.

So when Disney announced they would be releasing Elena of Avalor, the new Latino culture-inspired princess sometime in 2016, I jumped with joy. Even though they did not officially name her the Latina princess, she will represent diverse Latin cultures and folklore and will be voiced by Dominican actress, Aimee Carrero.

Disney’s “Latina” princess as she is being coined, is long overdue. Living in a country where the majority of the population will soon be Latino, I would have thought that Disney and other children’s brands should have created characters that look like the population they cater to even sooner.

I believe Disney still has a lot more to do in terms of creating princesses that represent the new and emerging American population and culture. I am not just referring to the way they look but also the way in which they act.

Even though I loved Disney princesses and their Prince Charmings growing up, I think little girls should learn to be strong and fearless through these beloved childhood characters. Not all of us get swept off our feet in a white horse.

"Frozen" was an incredible success, not only because of the catchy songs, but because it was outside of the norm in some ways. It was not your typical princess being saved by her prince, but rather being saved by the love of her sister. It represented a different kind of relationship.

As an aunt, I have seen how Disney and other animated characters have an impact on how children view themselves and the world. My niece believes that many of her dolls are her role models. This is why all children should have a doll that reflects who they are.

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My friends and I are huge Disney fans, so it's no surprise we immediately had a conversation about this new princess. After speaking with them, I realized that in fact Disney is taking a step forward in creating more relatable characters. But my friends brought up some interesting issues.

My friend Leslie Duran, a Dominican from New York said, “Not all Latinas look like that, though. It’s hard to come up with a picture of a Latina because we are such a blend.”

I completely agree with this statement. Latinas come in all different colors, shapes and sizes, so to simply say this new princess is representative of all Latinas is not accurate.

Another issue my friends seem to have with this princess is that she is coming out in a series and not a movie. According to my group of friends, more success comes from Disney movies than series on Disney Junior.

This could also be that as adults, we no longer watch Disney Junior, so we are not as aware of how popular those characters are.

“She isn’t going to reach as many people as she would if she were in a movie,” said my friend Kayla Fernandez. “I think a movie would expose more people to the Latin culture.”

Now that I think about it, princesses with movies do have a larger reach. Parents take their kids to watch the movies and it becomes a family activity. With television shows, usually children are the only ones exposed to those series.

Technically these characters were not created for us but for young children. But it’s all about trial and error. The more criticism Disney gets, the better outcome they will have. And hopefully, they will create even more diverse princesses.

I do wish Elena of Avalor much success and hope that one day I see a movie come out.

I guess we never completely "grow up." A part of me will always enjoy watching Disney princesses, and now more than ever. Maybe I finally found the princess who looks like me.