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Race & Ethnicity

Disney's Latest Princess, Sofia, Is Latina!?

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Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 4:41 PM

click to enlarge Sofia. - DISNEY
  • Disney
  • Sofia.
Updated below. Um. Maybe she's not Latina after all. First posted at 2:04 p.m. Oct. 18.

Disney has a black princess (Tiana, from New Orleans -- yeah), a native American one (Pocahontas) and an Asian one (Mulan).

But, until now, America's largest minority group has been shut out of this me-to pageant.

So, like a politician running for president, Disney executives revealed that princess Sofia, to be debut on a Disney Channel show next month, ...

... is Latina.

Sofia will come out of the brown closet on "Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess," Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.

The question is, did Disney just add that descriptor to the character last-minute for marketing effect, like salsa on a hamburger, or is she really, really for-real Latina?

click to enlarge DISNEY
  • Disney

It's a question about as offensive as the time a co-worker said an award-winning Latina food writer was not Latina enough to write about Mexican food because "she's blonder than I am!"

No, really. That wasn't offensive. And neither is Sofia. At least not for her ethnic background. Like almost all of Disney's princesses, she's light-skinned and blue-eyed. So what's new?

The Burbank company's roster of characters is like crack to little girls and poison to feminists. They're training wheels for Honey Boo Boos across the globe, broadcasting a vision of female objectification, timidity and master-race looks.

And all this long before the Latina one came along. Disney princesses have much bigger issues than eye color.

Still, folks are questioning Sofia's true Latina-ness, given her whiteness. (See the comments below this story).

This in a world where Mexican immigrants in L.A., fresh from the cactus fields of Oaxaca, name their daughters Ashley. (It's true. We've seen it. They pronounce it otch-lee).

And, interestingly, like many a Latino celebrity, Sofia's Latina background is not going to be discussed in her stories, a company exec told NBC Latino. It's unspoken. It just is. Comprendes?

(Though, to be fair, her mama, apparently, is slightly darker than your average, peach-skinned Disney princess. No, the mother is not Arnold Schwarzenegger's maid).

Now, if you could have imagined a Disney princess who's Latina, Sofia is exactly what you'd have come up with. Remember, Disney is the company that brought us Christina Aguilera and Selena Gomez. Not exactly cholas, these girls.

click to enlarge Nicole Richie. - @NICOLERICHIE
  • @nicolerichie
  • Nicole Richie.

And, of course, there is the age-old argument, one we've covered many times, that Latino is not a race. We come in all colors, from to Zoe Saldana to Nicole Richie (whose aunt is the Afro-Latina percussionist Shiela E), from Cameron Diaz to Charlie Sheen (a.k.a. Carlos Irwin Estévez).

So why does this one have to be so white? We'd worry more about the princess effect on little girls than the shades of is characters. But, yeah, it's Disney: What did you expect, princess Rosie Perez?

[Update at 4:41 p.m. on Oct. 22]: Nancy Kanter, a senior VP at Disney Junior Worldwide, says not so fast.

Over the weekend she tried to distance Sofia from any Latina roots, saying mom is actually from a fictional, Spain-like country that isn't actually Spain (and thus not Latino) and this is all make-believe anyway:

What's important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures.

Which explains our original observation that they're all the same.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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