Colorism, or Complete Makeover? Disney's Princess Tiana Has a New Look, and We Have Questions

Screenshot: Disney Pictures/TheTalko (YouTube)

Disney, who dis princess? That’s what fans of The Princess and the Frog’s Princess Tiana wanted to know after seeing the latest round of trailers for the upcoming Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, which features a reunion of pretty much every Disney princess imaginable, reincarnated through the magic of CGI.

For those who remember the 2009 debut of Disney’s first African American princess, there was much excitement at the prospect of seeing her featured alongside Disney’s classic princesses and fellow princesses of color Pocahontas, Moana, Mulan and Jasmine. But as at least one trailer would prove, there was something ... different about our favorite Disney princess.

The Disney princesses stage a sleepover, and like Frozen’s Princess Anna, we have questions about Tiana’s new look.
Screenshot: Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Disney Pictures/YouTube)

Call it a trick of the (animated) light, but the newest iteration of Tiana seems to have traded in her dark skin and more African features for a seemingly more caramel hue and prototypical Pixar snub nose, complete with a mane of 3c curls (but at least they left her natural ... I guess?).

She was definitely still black, but ... not a good look, Disney.

Screenshot: The Princess and the Frog (Disney Pictures)

And social media (read: Black Twitter) was not amused, criticizing the studio for whitewashing their only black princess to date:


Others weren’t so convinced of a whitewashing conspiracy, pointing out the aforementioned differences in lighting, combined with the inherent differences in 3D modeling—as well as surmising that the variety of facial expressions the princess is making might explain the difference in her features.


Of course, lighting still doesn’t explain why Tiana looks like she had a nose job. But then, there’s also the fact that she’s not the only Disney princess to have a major makeover for this film to fit the Pixar animation style—including a lighter and larger-eyed Pocahontas and a less Chinese-looking Mulan (skip ahead to 4:58 for Tiana’s breakdown). That said, most can agree that Tiana’s makeover was the most dramatic, by far. And why was that necessary?

Our verdict? Disney definitely did too much—and simultaneously, not enough to preserve their sole African American princess; effectively undermining their own attempts at inclusion with their insensitive re-rendering. But there’s another thing bugging us about Tiana’s appearance in Wreck-It Ralph 2: Why does she consistently seem to be placed in the back? (Seriously: find Tiana in this shot. The only saving grace is that she’s definitely dark-skinned here.)

Screenshot: Disney Pictures

We will never not appreciate having a black Disney princess—and hope the rumors are true that there are more to come. But as one (non-black) Twitter user aptly noted, when our inclusion is such a rarity, we deserve our imagery to be treated with far more sensitivity, rather than just another Pixar princess with a tan. Hopefully, Disney is listening.


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About the author

Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.