Be My Guest: Rosalyn Yates



Back in February, I received an entry for the PitchMe! column from a young lady named Rosalyn Yates. Rosalyn was trying to perfect the perfect pitch. (Say that three times fast!)  We all pitched in and helped her out by giving her our opinons. She handled our critique with aplomb–a sign of a solid writer with great potential.

I’m so happy to have Ms. Yates back in the fold–this time as a guest blogger.

Rosalyn’s got a bone to pick with Disney about their upcoming animated film, The Princess and The Frog. The new princess is Black. Her love interest? Not Black.

Does it matter? Check out what Rosalyn has to say….


Black Love: A Fairy Tale

By Rosalyn Yates

Beauty and the Beast was the first animated Disney film I ever owned.  I viewed it religiously as a child, spending many weekends locked inside my room while magical teapots and candelabras danced within the confines of my television screen.  I loved the movie so much that I begged my parents to let me dress as main character Belle one year at Halloween.  After an exhaustive search, we managed to find a “Belle” recital costume in a dance studio.  I skipped excitedly out of the building—costume in hand—anticipating the fun I’d have travelling door-to-door as my favorite Disney princess.

The author, as Belle.

The author as Belle.

Growing up, I never gave a second thought to the race of Disney characters.  All I saw were white characters in fairy tales. That was my normal.

But things should be different now. Right?

This fall, Disney is returning to classic 2D animation with the much-anticipated release of The Princess and the Frog.  Set in New Orleans, this animated film stars Princess Tiana. Princess Tiana will be voiced by Anika Noni Rose and is generating lots of buzz because it marks the first time a Disney film features an African-American princess.

When I saw the movie poster, I was confused:


Meet Prince Naveen, Princess Tiana’s love interest.  Played by Brazilian actor Bruno Campos, Prince Naveen is definitely a handsome fella, with his perfectly coiffed hair and an award-winning smile.

Naveen’s from a fictional place called Maldonia. It’s not clear if he’s Middle Eastern, Latino, Indian or perhaps mixed race. Or just plain white.

But our heroine is black.  Why isn’t her beau created in her image?

Prince Naveen is actually our new princess’s first runner-up. According to a listing in the Manhattan Theater Source Forum, The cast sheet for the original role of the prince read as follows:

[PRINCE HARRY] A gregarious, fun-loving European Prince, in his early twenties. A young Cary Grant. Charming, witty but irresponsible and immature. Loves jazz. Dialect: British upper-class.

A young Cary Grant with a British upper-class dialect? Really?

Disney officially recognizes eight princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas and Mulan.

With the exception of two, all of their princes have been white.

I guess we’re supposed to be satisfied that we’re getting a Black princess. But this casting is doing African-American children a great disservice and defeating what is arguably the whole purpose of the film: to show audiences something different.

How many little black girls will rush to stores for their Princess Tiana costumes in the years following the movie’s release, the way I did with Belle?

Now, how many black boys would have liked to be a prince for a day?

The issues here go beyond a child’s inability to play dress up.  Not only would it be beneficial for African-Americans to see a beautiful black couple on the big screen but it would help to counter negative stereotypes and show that there is more to black families than broken homes and single motherhood.

Perhaps Disney is afraid of what having a black prince will mean.  After all, most princes will one day become king.  Even if the story isn’t developed as far, that much will be implied.  And we all know that the king holds the highest position in the land—ruler of all people in the kingdom.

If Tianna and her beau were Black, children across the world would be able to  look at The Princess and the Frog and believe that anyone—regardless of their physical appearance—could ascend to such heights.

I learned about The Princess and the Frog in early 2007, when “Tiana” was “Maddy”—then a fatherless chambermaid for a white southern debutante.  Disney has since gone back to the drawing board to bring our princess into the modern world while still being true to the film’s time period. But I don’t understand why she can’t have a Black man by her side, showing little future Tianas that anything is possible.

What’s Disney rationale? Would a Black couple be threatening to the American public? Would it shrink their potential audience? Do they think their audience is not ready to see Black love on the big screen? Is the idea of a royal Black couple just too much?

The people at Disney may not be ready. But let the evidence show that fairy tales do, indeed, come true.


Rosalyn Yates is a writer out of Chicago. She blogs at


Dear readers: I don’t know what to say. Rosalind makes some great points here! Would I like to see a Black man as Tianna’s beau? Sure. But I’m not so sure a Latino leading man is that bad. I just met Lori Tharps, a fellow writer, at a conference in Philadelphia this weekend. Her husband is Spanish. And I can just imagine that her children are going to be thrilled to see this film, which reflects their own lives. We live in such a multi-culti world–the president himself is biracial!–maybe this is actually a good thing?

Then again…Who am I kidding? We all know that Disney had to give some serious thought to who Tianna’s prince would be. And they knew that making him ambiguous would make a statement. But what exactly does it say?

Should Tiana’s beau be a Black man? Does it matter?

Rosalyn and I would love to hear from you…

27 Responses to “Be My Guest: Rosalyn Yates”

  1. spamwarrior Says:

    I get the writer’s point… a black couple would be good. Besides, we don’t get any of that in Disney. At least not yet. (Remember Pocahontas? She got the white guy. Mulan doesn’t count ;) ) But at the same time, there are a lot of mixed race couples here in this world… and maybe showing a mixed race Disney couple isn’t such a bad thing.

    I can’t stand his looks. Really can’t stand his looks. Why is his waist so small?

  2. M.Renee Says:

    I applaud the intention of the film by Disney but despise the actual outcome. For one, the improper talking firefly sidekick she has just gets all up under my skin lol. And second, I would love it if little Black girls are able to see that their prince charming can look just like them.

    President Obama and his wife send such a powerful statement to small children by living at 1600 Penn Ave. My son is 7 and its the first time he’s ever taken notice of the color of anyone. He’s usually very oblivious to color (my best friend is White so he’s exposed to all kinds of people). He even chose to vote for Obama in his 1st grade school election…when I asked him why, he stated “Well Mom, because he’s black.” All of a sudden, skin color mattered.

    That one small fact tells me that Disney will make a bigger statement, to children who like Rosalyn who look up to these animated figures as the ideal, than we think. I really hate to think that little Black girls will believe from a film that the only way they can live happily ever after is with a non-Black man — but its highly likely that this ideal can be created.

    We see a lot of mixed race couples in the media these days, it just would have been really nice for them to at least make him a couple shades darker. Maybe I’m not really hooked on his ethnicity, maybe just his skin tone. Regardless, I do have issues with the movie ( as you can see lol)

    There’s nothing wrong with multi-racial families ( shoot, being a military wife, they are all I come in contact with) but my issue is with children already having a predisposed notion that someone other than themselves is an ideal. I’m not quite sure if I can support the media endorsing that, let alone Disney.

  3. Luvvie Says:

    Disney’s very racist past (and some can very well say present) makes me just shrug my shoulders. I honestly wasn’t expecting them to cast a Black Prince. That would have been too much like right. I think it’s absolutely counterproductive for them to give the first Black Princess a Prince that can’t use her comb. Black Girls who are finally seeing themselves on screen won’t see their brothers.

    I read another post about this called A Princess and the Non-Black Frog. The comments got really heated because some folks felt it was a show of diversity while others felt it was Disney’s half-hearted attempt at appeasing Black folk.

    I REALLY hate that I love Disney. Truly.

  4. Kennedy Nicole Says:

    Great points! I would have LOVED to have seen a Black prince. I’m thinking that there may have been some complaints about that, too! (Why can’t a Black princess have a love interest of another race?) I’m wondering why her name is Tiana. Couldn’t it have been a Madeline or Crystal? Maybe I’m taking it too far?? I guess Disney thinks we should be happy with one African American image in the movie. We’ve moved on up from the voices of hyenas and goats to princesses. Yippee.

    At any rate, I’m definitely taking my little cousins to see the movie. I’m very interested to see how it plays out.

  5. hamptongrad Says:

    I agree with the author as well. I think that young black girls will flock to see this movie. and, they should be able to see a fairytale movie, including a prince in her image. There definitely needs to be positive figures on the movie screen, even if only imaginary. Little girls should be able to have a visual to compliment their dreams of being a princess (like the one in the movies).

    For many decades, there have been may princesses who were caucasian. Mothers had to change the picture in the minds of many young impressionable black girls, that you too, are a beautiful princess. So, I do believe it is time for Disney to step up to reality and give our black princesses a moment to shine.

  6. Timothy Says:

    Nice article, but I vehemently disagree with making a issue out of the looks of the Prince or the Princess for that matter.

    America has grown color blind (Obama) and we should too.

    Also, I would suggest that boys dont aspire to be a prince, like a girl might aspire to be a princess

  7. Jamilah Barnes Creekmur Says:

    Yeah, I think he should be African-American for sure..

    Especially with the positive image that the new President and First Lady represent… I am totally open to the interracial couple, but I am more about making a statement that celebrates Black Love right now… the African American community and young kids needs these images reinforced, just as much as Barbie needs Ken. The studios would never pair Barbie up with a bi-racial Ken. Or Khalil or Kevin, for the matter. ;) It’s about reinforcing a positive image that we want young kids to embrace… The image of interracial acceptance is mainstream. Assimilation for our kids is something they learn by default. So celebrating and showcasing African-American love, is intentionally celebrating self-love to our kids.

    Just my 2 cents…

  8. Dennis Schultz Says:

    As a black man with black daughters, I think it would be nice for them to see a black animated couple on the big screen. I don’t think that one Disney film will affect the psyche of my youngest daughter to the point where she thinks ill of marrying a black man and living happily ever after, however I am concerned that the world (not just the US) still isn’t ready for a black leading character for young girls and boys (of all colors) to look up to. Black men must be bad for revenues. According to the author of the post, the Brazilian lead was second choice to a proposed British lead character. The black prince wasn’t even the second choice! I wonder what the third choice would have been. I wonder what Disney was scared of. Was a black prince not even an option? Ahh, to be in that pitch meeting. Based on the timing of the movie, it’s obvious that production for the film started long before a President Obama was even a consideration. A black leader of the free world trumps a cartoon any day. Could a dark skinned prince with a fade and a voice like Denzel not work? I guess we should be happy with Simba. He’s an African prince right?

  9. Timothy Says:

    Will Smith = most bankable actor in the business….google it…Johnny Depp is #2

  10. Retha Says:

    I too am torn….but I’m going to “pick a side”….is it really an issue??? I say let’s just celebrate love! If these two characters are portrayed as showing respect, consideration and love for each other, does it really matter what shade they are? I think that’s more of the message we want to convey to our children.

  11. Michael Says:


    Will Smith is the most bankable star in Hollywood, but when he starred in Hitch, they cast Eva Mendes as a means of avoiding the taboo of interracial couples.

    And notice in Hancock there was limited physical activity between Will and Charlize Theron.

    Then consider the lack of Black faces on network television.

    As far as Obama goes, there were so many issues surrounding Obama’s candidacy throughout the entire campaign that I find it comical people cite that to support their argument that America become “colorblind.”

    Check the stats, the milk still isn’t clean.

  12. Michael A. Gonzales Says:

    “America is colorblind…”
    jeez, that kid is funny
    believe me, one black president
    hasn’t stopped the racism show

  13. Michael Says:

    *has become colorblind.

  14. Kenesha Says:

    I TOTALLY understand why Disney didn’t want a black prince for their princess. Someone mentioned Will Smith and Hitch, when Hitch came out I distinctly remember them talking about not wanting a black female lead because then people would think it was a “black” movie and they wouldn’t bring in as wide an audience. Another example is the movie “Something New” the writer spoke about writing other scripts for black romances, but no one wanted to pick up a “black movie”, but as soon as she wrote this it was scooped up. America is scared of black love because black love is the answer to MANY of the societal ills we currently face and they do not want us to succeed and we can only succeed through a strong family structure and LOVE for one another. For those who mentioned Obama as a sign that the world has become colorblind, read any online article about Obama and then read the comments under it and tell me if we’re colorblind.

    I say all that to say, I do not expect Disney or the main stream media to show me black love, but we can show ourselves. This means things as small as watching HBO’s “Happily Ever After – Fairytales for Every Child” and Karyn Parson’s “Sweet Blackberry Presents” to writing our own stories for our children and as big as mentoring children that don’t see these examples in their own home and creating/maintaining your own strong black family.

    Sorry for writing so much. I hope it was clear.

  15. SoSoulfull Says:

    Being a card-carrying lover of all things Disney, Rosalind defintely makes some great points. It’s wonderful to see Disney’s first black princess, yet it doesn’t move me one way or the other about Tiana’s prince being Latino. I know the importance of black love and I recognize that it isn’t represented much in our media/entertainment, but I’ll continue to take on that responsibility of ensuring that my two sons become well-rounded with images/stories. Like Kenesha mentioned, there are other avenues to see different shades of brown faces, such as ‘Happily Ever After’, which happens to be a fave in my household. At the same time, I also want to instill in my kids that they can fall in love/date/marry whomever they choose, as long as that person treats them right. So yea, for me and mine, it doesn’t matter.

  16. la negrita Says:

    Kenesha I agree with you about them not wanting it to be a “black” movie, and I think that’s BS. But hey, it’s the world we live in. People of color cannot escape the mainstream. We are born having to adjust to its rules, while white folk never have to have any contact with POC if they choose. I think it’s funny, actually, that minorities can make *some* people so uncomfortable. Just look at how many people got anxious and went out to buy firearms when Obama got elected. Are you freakin’ kidding me?? LOL, how many white presidents have black people had to sit through? Get out of here.

    I LOVE the Happily Ever After series and writing this post made me want to go out to get the series on DVD.

  17. JennyWHOA Says:


    America has become color blind???

    Have you been asleep for decades after eating a poisonous apple? What fairytale America do YOU live in? Please let me borrow your Disney colored glasses for a spell…

  18. Timothy Says:

    @ all yall who are @ me….get a grip and get over your personal hangups…yall are living in the Was, and not in the Now…

    you need to live in the Now!

    your arguments/wish lists are great for the 70s 80s even early 90s..

    get with the times, its about your Character as a person, not about your Color or shade.

  19. Timothy Says:

    Prime example of poor character display, someone above referring to another as a kid, simply because he doesn’t agree with his position.

  20. Michael A. Gonzales Says:

    unless of course you use it as a term of endearment…as in, “get a grip, kid.”

  21. Timothy Says:

    again, wow

  22. fayemi Says:

    I know folks want to transcend to a post-racial America but it ain’t happening. Look at everything Obama had to endure and now Sotomayor. Of course, Black and Brown folks CAN and DO achieve greatness but this is in spite of racism.

    I’m not mad at Disney for the new prince and princess. At least they are both brown this time. lol. But I think there is something hidden underneath it all. The trouble with multiculturalism is that some folks use it to mask their disdain and fear of Blackness…straight up. These are the same kind of folks who support getting rid of affirmative action.

    Nah, we not there yet people. The lame apology for slavery Black Americans received is always the saddest display to me and I’m bored with debates about how we should move on and get over the past, when racism is still so clearly prevalent.

    Have y’all been following all the police brutality cases involving Black men this year? The Oscar Grant trial started a few days ago. Revisit that video footage showing how he was killed and then let’s talk about our color blind society some more.

    Disney isn’t ready to create an image of the Black man as King or even a Prince. But we shouldn’t get too caught up in symbols. It’s a distraction. We need to stay focused on the reality around us and the things that really need to change.

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    The particular characteristics of this ideal observer can vary from an omniscient observer, who would grasp all the consequences of any action, to an ideally informed observer, who knows as much as could reasonably be expected, but not necessarily all the circumstances or all the possible consequences. ,

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