It's Halloween again — that time of year when finding what to wear matters most. It's likely that you're running up and down store aisles at the last minute, stringing together the odd fairy wand and stray feathered boa or scouring closets for bell-bottoms and an afro pick from yesteryear. However, with the surge of African-American figures populating the mainstream this year, rather than dressing up as a generic witch, as I did for many years, African-Americans now have plenty of other options.
Disney will make history on Dec. 11 when it showcases its first African-American princess in the animated feature film "The Princess and the Frog." Little girls don't have to wait until then to dress up as Princess Tiana, however. Costumes are already available in Disney Stores and online. Although the deluxe costume, which retails for $89.50, is a bit pricey it looks set to do well anyway.
According to the National Retail Federation, princess costumes are the number one costume of 2009 for children and Disney Princess costumes come in at number seven. Shawn Turner, an executive at Disney, reports that Princess Tiana has been selling well saying, "we're pleasantly surprised because the film hasn't been released yet." In fact, she notes that Princess Tiana's wedding dress will be in Disney stores ahead of schedule although sadly not in time for Halloween.
One of the most recognizable black faces both here and abroad — President Barack Obama — is also set to be popular this Halloween. Online Halloween retailers use mask sales every four years to predict presidential winners during election time. Buycostumes.com they've had a 100 percent success rate for picking winners since 2000, and 2008 was no exception.
Last year, before Barack Obama was sworn in, the retailer sold several thousand units of his mask. Now that he's president there is no projection for how well sales of his likeness will do, but with his popularity high, it is expected that they will sell very well. For the conservatives, there is always Condoleezza Rice. She may be a little last year, but who can forget the matrix-esque trench coat and those high boots of Germany 2005?
For African-American sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts, in addition to Storm from the "X-Men," Lando Calrissian from "Star Wars" and "Blade," there are two more additions to the realm of paranormal costumes. One is Laurent, the dreadlocked, bare-chested vamp in the hysteria-inducing "Twilight" movie who will reprise his role in this year's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." The other is the striking, multi-lingual Nyota Uhuru, who has been around for a while but received a popularity surge with his highly visible role in this summer's blockbuster hit "Star Trek."
King of Pop
Last but not least and regardless of race, the costume accessories running off shelves are those of the late pop icon Michael Jackson. It is reported that Michael Jackson will be the most ubiquitous costume this year. Robert Pinzon of Abracadabra Super Store, a popular costume store in New York, confirms that anything associated with Michael Jackson has been selling fast. "He's always been popular but since his death, it's picked up steam. Michael Jackson gloves, sequined hats, socks, glitter jacket — [we've] basically sold out of all of them. We sold whatever we had."
When talking about the impact that increased numbers of highly visible African-Americans has at this time of year, Darnell M. Hunt, director of the Bunche Center for African-American Studies at UCLA, says: "Anything you see in film and television [will be] exploited by Halloween costume makers. They know those characters have a following, and that following is made up generally of those that dress up in the Halloween costumes [of those characters]. There would be some relationship between what we see in television in the movies and what people find as proactive around Halloween."
For African-Americans this Halloween, it seems that there are more options than ever before.