Most Latinas are delighted that Disney has finally created a darker-skinned Hispanic character who resembles their daughters a little more than her predecessors but Princess Elena has stirred up some controversy. You may remember that when Princess Sofia debuted in 2012, Disney announced that she was their first Latina princess. When people complained that she looked too ‘white’ and that her origins seemed a bit murky, Disney back-pedaled and said she was of mixed heritage (Spain-inspired and Scandinavia-inspired).
While Princess Elena is definitely Latina, some feel that the fact she doesn’t have a specific country or culture of origin could paint the enormous variety of Latin American and Hispanic cultures around the world with too broad a brush. Even so, most agree that this is an important positive step toward diversity in mainstream media. Cosmo for Latinas Editor-in-Chief Michelle Herrera Mulligan enthuses, “Having a princess/role model who looks like them is a huge step forward for girls’ self-perception everywhere.” And the voice of Princess Elena, Aimee Carrero (who hails from the Dominican Republic) is excited to be a part of the changing face of Disney. She recently told Latina, “When I was growing up, I just wanted to see someone up there that I could identify with. I wanted to see my images represented and my culture represented…I don’t know how it’s going to affect everybody, but my hope is that it’ll make it a little bit easier for people to find themselves represented in mainstream media and culture.”