Why This Black Mom Isn’t Buying Her Daughter Elsa for Christmas


Not long ago, I was at the store gathering balloons for a graduation when two little Black girls walked up to the customer service representative. The girls asked him if the store had any more Princess Tiana costumes. The customer service rep told them whatever they had on the floor was all they had. The little girls’ faces drooped a bit, but then they went away and that was that.

I frowned. I had walked around the entire store not 10 minutes earlier and passed the costume section. Even in summer, the store had tons of frilly costumes for little girls to play dress up. There were plenty of princesses. They were all White princesses.

And that’s what made me sad.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen in such real-time what it looks like to not have representation for little brown girls. This is not anything serious as college entry exams or glass ceilings. No, it’s just the sadness on a little Black girl’s face when she realizes in all of Disney movie history, there is only one character who resembles her.

I have a little brown 3-year-old daughter, and she absolutely loves the movie Frozen. Bean loves Elsa, she loves Anna, and she loves Olaf the snowman. Despite my annoyance with the movie having a plot full of holes, my daughter absolutely does not care. And she doesn’t care that the characters are White.

I love the open spirits of young children, who not only see beauty in the diversity of color, but can easily imagine themselves adorned in that beauty. But I cannot lie, when Bean wears her Elsa shirts I wish Elsa were a Black girl. I don’t want her to one day see Elsa’s luxurious blond mane and think to herself, “I want to wear a hat with a big blond ponytail on it.” I don’t want to tell her “No” with my adult views on race and mar her childhood innocence.

I thought I was alone in my discomfort, but a friend of mine recently shared that her daughter keeps asking her for “yellow hair” to be like Elsa. Another friend expressed misgivings about little Black girls in blond Elsa wigs for Halloween. And maybe we are all reaching. Little Black girls in Elsa dresses are yet beautiful. People wear dyed wigs to finish costumes all the time. Still, something in me wants to shield my little girl from the ubiquitous standard of long blond hair as long as possible.

When Black girls are made into cartoons it can be a magical thing. It happens so infrequently that every little pixel matters. So yes, Black girls rejoiced over Rihanna having a role in the animated film Home. My daughter adores that movie, too. Yes, Black mamas absolutely love Doc McStuffins. Another mother I know is opting for a McStuffins doll instead of an Elsa one. So am I.

There will always be another ivory princess for girls named Ebony to love. But I fear there will not be another Black one. Princess Tiana items were probably few and far between this Christmas because Princess Tiana is the only Black girl Disney princess. White girls,  on the other hand, do not have to choose Princess Tiana–because they are nearly everyone else.

You can always see a Black girl with a White princess on her chest. But you will scarcely see a White girl with a Black princess on her chest. That sight would make me smile. The whole world, not just little brown girls, needs to believe that Black girls in frilly dresses, too, are beautiful. Diversity is a wonderful thing. But sometimes, little Black girls just don’t feel like being White princesses.

Am I overreacting? How do Black mothers strike a balance between encouraging diversity and affirming their little brown girls? 

About Dara Mathis

Dara T. Mathis is a freelance writer and editor, the brains behind the lifestyle blog Truly Tafakari, and a lover of great homemade soups.


  • Superstrings

    Great article. I’ve also dealt with this. From the beginning I’ve taught my daughter that her appearance is not an accident of birth. She is the expression of a beautifully complex accumulation of her ancestors. I also teach her that her beauty is not at the expense of others. As such, the converse is also true. It isn’t always easy to navigate, and it requires constant reinforcement of her individuality, concurrent with active dismantling of external influences.

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  • http://www.lilthisandthat.com/ Latonya

    One way I’ve managed to keep things in balanced is I don’t purchase clothing or shoes that have characters on them whether Black or White. For me, I didn’t want my daughters to walk around with others’ faces on their bodies. I decided early on that I would build their confidence in themselves. To me this meant not doing the things that culture says we should do because culture is not dependable or stable, in my opinion.

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    • Caitlin Nicole Sealey-Brown

      I love your response! We should not let our children try to mold themselves into fictious characters.

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      • http://www.lilthisandthat.com/ Latonya

        Thank you 🙂

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    • Sandra L Mort

      I don’t know how old your kids are. That was my goal, but it ended up a bit more complicated than I was able to enforce.

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      • http://www.lilthisandthat.com/ Latonya

        They are 11 &8. I think each family will find a path that works best for their family. 🙂

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  • Andrea Howard Oliver

    I live in a very conservative community in North Florida and see little White girls with DocMcStuffins stuff ALL the time! It is very refreshing!

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    • kalexa1

      that is encouraging to hear.

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  • Berdell Fleming

    The law of supply and demand, we are so complacent with what we see, we don’t demand what we want!!

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  • Sabrina black

    You are not overreacting at all, You shouldn’t apologize for how you feel. You literally want your daughter to see the beauty and herself in those dolls. You are advocating self love, not ignorance. When your daughter sees white princesses and white dolls in every store, it just tells her that she’s not worthy enough to be a princess. Your daughter should have Mcstuffins and Princess Tianas. My niece Jordyn has blacks dolls from Dr. Mcstuffin to Dr. Mcstuffin cartoon movies. She even has black dolls. This is not just a white world. Black people are the original inhabitors of the universe. The Egyptians (aka kemets) loved them selves so much that they painted themselves black. Whoopie Goldberg once said that when she saw the black lady on Star wars, She got her mom to come watch and said that she could be anything that she wanted. Representation matters! If you carry things that relates to you, everyone else will love you too. It’s about representations! not ignorance. sincerely a 20 yr old.

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    • Sandra L Mort

      *GIGGLE* I think you’re referring to Uhura from Star Trek, not Star Wars. Nichelle Nichols is amazing and gorgeous. I sure wouldn’t mind looking like her at her age!!!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nichelle_Nichols

      Unfortunately, my first thought of who you might be referring to in Star Wars was Jar Jar Binks. THAT character was offensive enough to start off another depressing thread!

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      • Sabrina black

        Oh, Welll yeah, I forgot that there was a Star Trek. Yeah I meant Uhura but that’s the demo. Representation matters.

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  • Wanda Lilly

    I wish they made Doc t-shirts for little boys. My 4 yr old son is madly in love with her. My best friend got him his own little Doc doll. I hope the trend that Tiana started gets bigger. I feel like she was the strongest of the princesses. Not waiting on a prince to save her, but standing on her own feet and rescuing everyone else. Thank you for your words and sharing your stories with us.

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  • Sandra L Mort

    I applaud any parent who helps to navigate this path. As somebody with the White privilege backpack, I try to be sensitive to the needs of parents who are POC. In the meantime, when my younger daughter’s favorite character is Doc McStuffins or Dora, or when my older daughter’s first choice of American Girl doll has brown skin and textured hair, I am happy to help do a little bit more to remove the marginalization of POC in media.

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