When the Walt Disney Company announced it was introducing its first princess of Hispanic descent, “Sofia,” it might have been expecting more of a storybook ending.
The media giant is now under fire in the US from Hispanic advocacy groups over whether it is downplaying Sofia’s Latina heritage.
"We consume a hell of a lot of television,” said Alex Nogales, President and CEO for the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “And I don't understand the reluctance of the producers to not be upfront and say, 'This person is Latina,'" he told E! Online.
Princess Sofia will make her debut on the Disney Channel on Nov. 18 in a TV movie “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess”. A television show is in the works as well.
While some, like Nogales, are disappointed Disney isn’t doing more to promote the heritage of its first Hispanic princess, others took to social media criticizing the characters pale skin, blue eyes, and auburn hair as not representative of Hispanic heritage.
“Disappointment: Disney unveils first Latina princess who DOESN'T look like the vast majority of Latinas” tweeted one woman.
“Is it me, or does Disney's first Latina princess look... white?” wrote another.
An executive producer of the TV movie, Jamie Mitchell, said Sofia is indeed Latina, but critics say the company hasn’t marketed the character’s ethnicity as they have with other historic milestones, including in 2009, when Disney debuted its first African American princess, Tiana, in the movie “Princess and the Frog”.
Craig Gerber, co-executive producer of "Sofia the First," clarified in a Facebook post on Friday that "Princess Sofia is a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world. Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia."
“They seem to be backpedaling," said Lisa Navarrete, spokeswoman for the Hispanic civil rights group, National Council of La Raza, "They've done such a good job in the past when they've introduced Native American, African-American and Asian princesses. They made a big deal out of it, and there was a lot of fanfare, but now they're sort of scrambling. It's unusual because Disney has been very good about Latino diversity."
But not everyone takes issue with Princess Sofia’s look. Blogger Monica Vila, a native of Mexico, has green eyes and light brown hair. In an op-ed piece for NBC Latino, Vila says she believes, “Disney got it just right.”
“All of us in the Latino community have been asking brands to STOP stereotyping us – we don’t all eat beans, we don’t all play the guitar, trust me we are not all good gardeners and our skin comes in all shades,” Vila wrote.