Disney Unveils Its First Black Princess - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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Anika Noni Rose

Tony award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose will give voice to Princess Tiana in Disney's The Princess and the Frog. (Source: Disney)

Playing princess is something shared by little girls around the world. But until recently, the most recognizable princesses worldwide featured in the Disney Co. franchise did not include one that modeled the skin, hair, and facial features associated with women of African descent.

Princess Tiana, the heroine of Disney’s new movie The Princess and the Frog, changed that when she made her debut Monday at this year’s American International Toy Fair in New York. Starting in Fall 2009, the company will sell dolls, t-shirts, backpacks, and other products that feature the likeness of Princess Tiana, Disney’s first American princess who also happens to be its first black princess. The movie will air in theaters nationwide during this year’s holiday season.

“We did a lot of work internally to make sure that the product that we were developing would speak to a really broad range of moms,” says Kathy Franklin, the vice president of global studio franchise animation and Disney consumer products. “We don’t see Princess Tiana product as being just for African American girls at all. But we want little girls who have not seen Disney Princesses who look like them to see Princess Tiana and be thrilled that they have a character in our franchise who speaks to them and how they see themselves as a princess.”

Tony award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose will give voice to Princess Tiana. Talk show host and business mogul Oprah Winfrey will play the voice of Eudora, and Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard also voices a character in the movie.

Noni Rose says she was “thrilled” to give life to the first black Disney princess. “It has been a lifelong dream of mine to voice a Disney character and to have it be this one could not be more exciting,” she added.

The story is set in 1920s New Orleans. To prepare for the role, Noni Rose says she “listened to a lot of music of the era, watched documentaries, and read up on New Orleans at that time.”

Franklin describes Tiana as a smart, aspiring entrepreneur. “Her dream is not to marry a prince. Her dream is to open a restaurant. It is a dream that she has had from the beginning,” Franklin says.

Princess Tiana dolls will be introduced in several sizes and at several price points, which will be determined by the retailers. The dolls will include a standard collector fashion doll equivalent in scale to a Barbie doll, a Tiana toddler doll, a doll that holds a talking frog, and a doll set with Tiana and Prince Naveen, her tadpole-hopping love interest post-transformation.

This year the Disney princess franchise, which accrues $4 billion in yearly retail sales worldwide, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Tiana will be the ninth character, the fourth princess of color, and

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.


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