Meet Anika Noni Rose: Disney's First Animated Black Princess

02/19/2009 at 05:00 PM ET
Inset: Landov

Jumping from the stage to the world of animation, Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose takes on her most enchanting and monumental role yet: Princess Tiana, Disney’s first animated black princess.

“This feels amazing,” Rose, 36, told PEOPLE this week at the Manhattan unveiling of the toy line for The Princess and the Frog. “Not only is she the first black princess, she’s the first American princess. So, the scope and the significance is larger than people even realize.”

Rose, who costarred with Jennifer Hudson in the 2006 film Dreamgirls, also had comforting words for her former costar, who recently suffered an overwhelming family tragedy.

“She knows she has my support and if she ever were to need me, she’s got me,” said Rose. “Sometimes you’ve just got to let people know that you’re there, and then let go, and then people come to you when they are ready.”

In the meantime, Rose is enjoying her newfound role as “Princess of America.”

“I’m not like, skipping down the street with it, but when you take a moment and you think about the fact that this is what America has chosen to put out as Princess-hood, Princess-dom, it’s amazing,” she said.

In The Princess and the Frog, set in New Orleans, Tiana’s mother is voiced by Oprah Winfrey.

Click below to see who rounds out Disney’s multicultural royalty, and to take our poll!

Rounding out Disney’s multicultural royalty (see below) are Mulan, from China; Pocahontas, who is Native American; and, from the Middle East, Jasmine.

Meet Anika Noni Rose: Disney's First Animated Black Princess| Movie NewsTimeline of Disney princesses

— Allie Gross

The Princess and the Frog Tiana Doll ($25) from Mattel will be available October 2009 in advance of the film. Just like in the story, beautiful Tiana wears her sparkly blue ball gown and comes with her frog Prince Naveen.

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Showing 45 comments

chris on

No disprespect to Ariel, Jasmine, Auroa, etc. but my daughter’s room will be decked out in this theme. I am so excited I can’t wait. This is way long overdue!

Lily on

As Chris said, this movie is long overdue. I’m 23 and think I’m more excited to see it than my sons will ever be. Also, it’s a refreshing return to the classic Disney princesses. Don’t get me wrong, PIXAR is amazing but it’s also nice to pay homage to the originals.

Jaclyn on

I’m very excited to see this movie and I don’t even have kids yet! I love Anika and believe she will provide one of the most memorable animated voices of all time and I think Disney’s return to their more traditional hand-drawn roots and storylines will be fantastic. I hoping this will be the start of a third Golden Age of traditional fairytales.

However, I cannot believe Disney faced such a backlash over the so-called lower class name Maddy (short for Madeleine, which is absolutely lovely IMHO)and chose to name their first black princess Tiana. Unfortunate.

kat on

I’ve been very happy with the variety of princesses, but I also felt the line wasn’t complete without a black princess, too.

I thought that having one of each hair color and one of each color would be the best they could do for helping EVERY girl know that she is a princess.

My daughter LOVES the Little Mermaid best, but I guarantee we’ll be seeing this one… she’s seen every single disney princess movie and loves them.

I remember the excitement of the variation in cultures when Pocahantas and then Mulan came out…. and I’m glad that it’s here for this movie.

Veroncia on

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Rebecca on

I’d love to see them bring out Mulan and Pocahontas more often than just when they need an extra body. My 4 year old has the Disney Princess wall stickers and there are 8 of them: 2 each of Snow White, Aurora, Belle, and Cinderella. They could have easily done one of each of the princesses that were out at the time (Tiana wasn’t out yet), it really disappointed me.

Mel on

VERY excited about another princess- and movie. Did anyone else think that the doll in the pic only had one arm? I sat here for 3-4 minutes staring at the picture trying to figure out what happened to her. Just me? Okay. =)

eva on

I just showed my child this image of Princess Tiana.She doesn’t care for princesses, she’s a Lion King gal but it is official, she is in love with this princess.I see myself buying some serious disney merchandise this summer.Like many said,long overdue.

NativeMama81 on

I like that there is finally a black princess… But she is NOT the first american… Pocahantas was the first american princess speaking natives are the first americans!

simms on

YES agreed LONG overdue – this is really great.

Native MAMA – I thought the same thing about Pocahantas – Obviously Anika needs to review her Disney princesses lol

JR on

Long overdue. Both the movie and the doll. Can’t wait!

CelebBabyLover on

AWWW! I’ll bet Zahara Jolie-Pitt will be thrilled. I know Angie said several months back that she (Angie herself, that is, not Zahara) was “upset” or “saddened” (I forget which one) by the lack of black Disney princesses. She also spoke about how she tries to find black barbies…But they all have straight black hair! Also, from what I’ve heard, “The Princess and the Frog” takes place in New Orleans’ French Quarter…Which, as most of is know, is where the Jolie-Pitts have one of their main homebases!🙂

Anna on

Yes, she is definitely not the first American princess, that was Pocahontas.

I think it’s a bit strange, that in a post about Tiger Woods children we are judged for talking about the colour of skin. But now the post is about this fairy tale princess and the skin colour is soooo important. Double standard?

Tan on

its very pretty.my two girls will definitely be getting one of these.

FC on

I didn’t know about the doll until earlier yesterday morning. But I’ve heard about the movie for months and was waiting for its release. I’ll be going to see it, most definitely. I like the premise of it.🙂

I love that Oprah is the voice of the mother.🙂

Noelle on

Forgive me if I’m missing something really obvious, but I thought basically all the Disney princesses were American? Ariel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White…what nationality were they? I know Pocahontas was American, and Mulan was Chinese, but I assumed the rest were American.

But I’m VERY glad there is finally an African-American princess! And so are my daughters! It’s funny, last Christmas, my 5-year old wanted a Lee Middleton doll (they’re lifelike newborn baby dolls that sell at a gift store near us) and we agreed to get one for her even though they’re expensive. But she was very adament that she wanted an African-American baby! Both of my daughters are very Caucasian, so I found that really adorable that she wanted a babydoll of a different race. And she’s absolutely in love with her new “baby”!

She’ll be thrilled to have a black Disney princess!

Lee on

I honestly never considered Pocahontas a Disney Princess. She is my favorite character of all time and I still have the original tape. She’s more of a important historical character than a princess to me, not saying anything bad about the princesses, but most of them are set in Fairy Tale Land.

Did Disney even mention where the first princesses were from? Maybe their not American, maybe they are more Fairy Tale like and some of the other ones, like Jasmine, Mulan, and Pocahontas, since they include her, seem to be from actual places we can pinpoint in history. Anyhow since Princess Tiana is from New Orleans, I’m assuming, using the information from the previous post above as well as Pocahontas maybe not being seen as a princess, maybe that’s what was meant by that Tiana is the first American Princess.

eilidh on

zara joile pitt will be pleased x

Bren on

I am so glad to see this! I was wondering not long before I saw this movie preview when they would make one. It seemed odd to me as I watched a Disney DVD with all the princess’ in it with the child I am a nanny for and there wasn’t one black princess. I grew up loving Disney movies so I was surprised. I think the closes they ever kind of came was using an a black girl to do the voice for Nahla in the lion king and to me that doesn’t count, I just know that they did use the little girls voice but thinking about it there has never been one.
I also agree she is not the first American Princess.

g-girl on

Anna – it is the first black princess. And it’s not the same as mentioning shades so the analogy of a double standard should not apply. Anna – it is the first black princess. And it’s not the same as mentioning shades so the analogy of a double standard should not apply. The celebration is about little girls of color having a princess to look up to too! It’s 2009 and it took a black president for all of these doll companies to see, many don’t have black dolls. It’s not just about Zahara, it’s also about little white girls not being able to buy a black princesses too. Children should have a selection of dolls that reflect the world we live in. We order black dolls online mainly from black companies but spend a premium so our children have dolls of all colors. I make it a priority. Imagine little black girls, never until today, being able to buy a black princess Disney doll that looks like them? It’s something that has been taken for granted. Truly.

Mary-Helen on

She is very pretty. My daughters love all the Disney Princesses so they will love this one too.

I think it’s great that there is an African American princess, but I have never liked the assertion that Disney was somehow “racist” or prejudiced for not having one until now. Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan are all considered Princesses and are all minorities and Ariel’s bright red hair probably helped alot of red headed little girls who felt a litt slighted that princesses all had fair skin and blonde hair. I think Disney has been fairly diverse and it was only a matter of time before an African American princess was included.

P.S. did anyone notice Giselle is missing from the list? I thought she was an official “Princess” now? I hope she is, because my oldest LOVES Giselle.

Rachel-Jane on

Mary-Helen, Giselle’s from Enchanted right? I seem to remember reading that she wasn’t going to be an official Disney Princess because they’d have to buy the rights to Amy Adam’s image and that was too complicated/expensive. Something along those lines anyway.

I’m excited about this movie, and I don’t have kids.

shemari on

If you look at the official names that Disney has given them above Pocahontas and Mulan are not officially princesses. They were heroines, but not princesses.

Cece on

I can’t wait to see this movie! It’s been far too long since Disney put out an ANIMATED princess movie! The only thing that slightly bugs me about this picture is the color of the dress. I associate that color blue with Disney’s Cinderella…couldn’t they have picked a different color?!

Oh, well, it’s not the end of the world.

XOXO on

Oh I cant wait to see this movie, and I am sure my daughter will love it! We are Mexican-American, and my daugter LOVES Mulan!!

D on

Yay! It is about freakin time!!! It would be awesome if lots of different races/cultures were represented by the Disney Princesses. Is Jasmine an offical disney princess?

I have all boys so I don’t know why I posted to this but I have a lot of nieces!

Mary-Helen on

Yes, it would’ve been nice for her to have her own dress colour. Maybe a nice green?

Destiny on

I have 3 nieces ranging from 1 to 2 years of age. When this movie comes out, I would love to take them to see the movie together, and I will def buy them all their own dolls as well as other items from the movie. Of course they are too young to fully understand yet, but I have literally been telling them that they are princesses since the day that they were born. Just as I will when I have daughters of my own, I will make sure that my nieces all know that they are truly princesses, as beautiful, smart, talented, unique, and special as all the other princesses across the world. But it is wonderful for them to have an image of a princess that is similar to them beside the other images of princesses. As Chris Rock and Angelina and countless others have said in different ways, african american children need to have that image out there. Anyway, I am really happy about this, and I’m a little excited about seeing the movie myself.

dee on

I was 7 when The Little Mermaid came out and I loved Ariel. But seeing a Disney princess that looks like me and now my young nieces makes me so happy. Like others have said, it’s about time.

Danyelle on

Yay! I’m so excited about this doll (and the movie!) I think it’s important to have princesses of every race, so little girls can see positive images of themselves. I just turned 22, but I’ll be seeing this movie when it comes out. I’ll just take a younger cousin and that will be me excuse lol.🙂

Danielle on

I think aside from Pocahontas (North America), Jasmine (Arabia), Belle (France) and Mulan (China), Disney has never mentioned where the other princesses hailed from. I think they’re probably European, though, because that’s where the fairy tales originated.

I don’t think that Disney created an African-American princess because of President Obama, though it does dovetail nicely. Animated movies take a really long time to create. I suspect that The Princess and the Frog has been in the works for years.

Personally, I’d like to see a Latina and Jewish Disney Princess to represent my culture!

Alice on

I’m so happy about this!! Now (like many said) little girls can have a black doll but even better they can DRESS UP like her!! I used to love Disney Princess costumes but it always looked “off” because when you’re little you want to look the closest you can to her. Good that all kids have a princess looking like them now! And I like her name, I think she’s beautiful.

To Noelle (#16), the other princesses are not really American. All the ones you mentioned (Ariel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White) are not princesses that Disney invented. They are from old tales that were written by Europeans. The Little Mermaid was written by Hans Christian Andersen who was Danish. The Little Mermaid statue is in Denmark. Snow White was written by the Brothers Grimm (in German) and Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are both based on tales by Charles Perrault who was French. I think as a Disney movie they don’t have (or need😉 ) a nationality but if they did it would most likely be those. And that time when princes and princesses lived in castles never happened in America either so it’s less “logical” that they would be American.

Pauline on

To Noelle (#16), I was going to post someting along the lines of what Alice (#32) just said.🙂 All those fairytales are originally European, and when you think about the colourful places depicted in movies like Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty (and Pinocchio, come to think of it!)… Where do you actually find romantic old villages with medieval houses still standing along meandering streets and market places, ancient stone bridges and real castles with their mysterious towers and gates…?

Yep. Not in America but in good ol’ Europe.

Being a history freak i must admit I love being a European citizen…😉

Cece on

Yeah, Beauty and the Beast definitely takes place in France and Snow White in Germany…NOT America.

Daisy on

Pocahontas is definatley my favourite Disney lady, Then Jasmine then Belle.
As much as I think Tiana making an appearance is long overdue I prefer the doll to the cartoon. I know it’s only a small pic but I am not too fussed on the animation for some reason. Probabably cuz it’s been so long since Disney gave us a proper princess and she looks very “new” compared to Mulan who seems to have been out aaages ago. Love the dolls dress though.

Ann on

Yeah it’s overdue and it’s nice that Disney has done this, but I don’t like her name (Tiana). Would love to see a Latina princess who kicks butt. But it’s nice to see a black Princess.

And for the record, Pocahontas was not in her 20’s when she met John Smith and helped the Settlers of Jamestown. Nor was she ever proven to be romantically involved with Smith. Gotta love how Disney takes liberties with the facts and we eat it up! Does anyone know how The Little Mermaid truly ends? She dies and because an angel. No happily ever after sailing into the sunset with her prince.

Ah well, guess that is why they call them fairy tales.

GaPeach on

As a mother of a 4-year old African-American girl, i am VERY happy Disney finally decided to include us. it makes it difficult to create a positive self-image and confidence when none of the “beautiful princesses” look like us. in her little head, the image of beauty is white skin and long hair because thats what she sees on the toy store shelves, in book stores, on clothes and on tv.

The other day we were browsing books & she picked up a disney princess book & asked for it. i picked up another book with a black princess on the front and suggested that one. She told me “she doesn’t look like a princess.” That broke my heart because she probably doesn’t see herself as a princess either.

i, as well, don’t think disney is racist, but i do feel like it is their responsibility to represent for children of all shades. i refuse to purchase any disney princess paraphanalia, nor will i visit Disney world until Tiana is in place. i am looking forward to travelling to Florida this Christmas to show my support.

Cyn on

What I’d like to know is why Disney didn’t see fit to use an African/African-American folk tale. Twisting a European fairy tale and changing the race/ethnicity of characters to appeal to African-Americans desire for representation is an insult to both. An African-American/African tale would be significantly more beneficial in providing a vivid and wonderful example to relate to as well as bringing a piece of their culture and/or history to life for everyone to enjoy.

Cyn on

On that note, for those who think Disney’s Princess and the Frog is as positive as it first appears, ask yourself if the way Disney presented it doesn’t insinuate she has to live, act and dress like whites to be considered a princess or marketable to audiences.

Cyn on

One final tidbit that annoys me. Tiana would not be an American princess, American heritage, yes, but she would be princess of whatever country her prince is from. The Constitution forbids such titles of nobility and royalty.

Paula Settles on

I am so excited about Tiana as an African American princess. Nice to see Disney finally acknowledge. But to call her the first American princess?? What about Pocahontas? Native American is American too. Can’t wait for the movie and the doll’s appearance. I believe all children will love this. After all, aren’t all little girls princesses?

Sandra Sealy - BARBADOS on

This movie is a momentous event anticipated ALL OVER THE WORLD – even down here in the Caribbean.

We receive our movies just about the same time they are released in the USA…so yippee!

Congrats to Ms. Rose and the rest of the cast. I’m a big fan of Oprah Winfrey, Jenifer Lewis and Terrence Howard too.

Anika is understandably proud to be making a Disney milestone as the first Afrocentric princess.

However,I have to point out to her that POCAHANTAS is really the first AMERICAN (North American?!) one.

Rich on

Yes, indeed, Pocahontas was the first North American Princess, she was the daughter of Emperor Powhatan, thus very much a legitimate BORN “Princess”… much more many of the Disney Princesses who married into royalty like Belle, Cinderella, etc.

I very much appreciate that Disney FINALLY did the right thing by making a Black Princess, but I would have loved it even more if the story actually concerned a truly African Princess in Africa. Perhaps, as was the talk about a decade ago, for Aida, the daughter of a Nubian King, to become Disney’s first animated African Princess, but that was shunned, as I understand, due to the fact that she was a slave. The story centering on ancient Egyptian themes and was even a musical by Elton John and Tim Rice (the team from “The Lion King) whose story is based on Verdi’s opera. The fact that the setting for “The Princess and the Frog” is Creole is very interesting, though.

Finally, I’m saddened that OTHER Disney Princesses are not featured in the Princess Line. Not counting “animal” Princesses, I know that Rapunzel is due to be the next (2010), and that Giselle (“Enchanted”) was dropped due to monetary issues. But there is still the Greecian Megara who married Hercules, the son of the King of the Gods, Zeus, the exotic Princess Kida (played by Cree Summer in “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”, 2001), Princess Eilonwy (“The Black Cauldron”, 1985), Jane who married the Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan (I loved her Jungle outfit at the end of “Tarzan”), and others who Disney considers, like Mulan, still to represent there Princess tradition, such as Alice (“Alice in Wonderland”) and the Hindi girl, Shanti (from both “Jungle Book” features).

IMHO, Disney still lacks a viable Central or South American/Latina Princess. Maybe something from Mayan lore?

Molly on

can they make a princess with a dress size larger than 0 for once? it isn’t just the diversity of skin color of the princesses past that’s begging for an update. at least they’ve come a long way from princesses just sitting in a tower waiting to be rescued. hopefully disney will continue to make good steps towards representing the strength and beauty of all types of women in this beautiful world we all share.

Anonymous on

mulan’s really the best!!She’s one of my hero!!!!!muah!

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