In 1997, Whitney Houston and Brandy gave us a groundbreaking movie full of possibilities. These two gave us our first Black Disney Princess. For centuries we’ve only seen Caucasian princesses, and this film illustrated a multicultural cast and told Hollywood we could play any role a white person could. In other words, even though it was a fairy tale — and perhaps because it was a fairy tale — the Brandy Cinderella was an ode to Black excellence and artistry that was revolutionary. From the debut of Cinderella, we gained a forecast of a world with more possibilities for us.
Houston’s movie paved the way for our first animated Black princess — Princess Tiana played by Anika Noni Rose. It was about time. Today, Halle Bailey is preparing to play Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” live-action remake and Yara Shahidi is playing Tinkerbell in the “Peter-Pan” live-action. Although we’re in 2021, you wouldn’t think these roles would bring as much controversy if we, Black people, were to play them but we’re still fighting this uphill battle. When it was made public that Halle would play Ariel she gained a lot of supporters on one side, while plenty others spewed hate, beginning the hashtag #NotMyAriel. Yara also experienced some negative feedback from fans because she’s playing a “traditionally white character”. No matter what we do, there will be individuals who feel threatened but we will continue to shine in our excellence. The beauty of fairytales is that they are fictional stories, with no constraints; the only limit is your imagination. To our Black actors, artists, directors, producers, and filmmakers breaking barriers and being inspirations for the next generation, we see you and we thank you. Continue to tell our stories in every way.
Be sure to tune to BET on Saturday, March 27, 2021, at 8:00 p.m. (ET.) and watch the only award show that shines a light on our excellence on BET. Follow the NAACP Image Awards social media pages for more amazing content, teasers, and surprises about the show. Don’t miss out on history being made!