Mo Young’s 5-year-old daughter loves princesses. In fact, she “decided she was a princess,” says Young, a longtime community activist and parent.
When Young’s daughter came home from a princess event in tears last year, crying because she “wished she were white,” Young says she felt “heartbroken.”
“She’s beautiful, and she has beautiful dark skin,” she says. “She doesn’t see that in Eugene a lot, or in Oregon a lot.”
Now, Young says she’s encouraging young women of color to volunteer for Princess for a Day on May 3, in hopes that this year’s event will feature more representation for young girls of color.
A Family for Every Child, a local nonprofit for foster children, has put on Princess for a Day every year since 2010 — young girls glitz up in pretty dresses, get their hair done and dine on fancy snacks. Foster children attend free, while other girls from the community can attend for $50.
Young female volunteers from the community dress up as fairy godmothers to help do hair and makeup and greet the incoming princesses. Young says she thinks her daughter wouldn’t have been as bothered if there had been more volunteers of color.
Christy Obie-Barrett, executive director of A Family for Every Child, says that the nonprofit welcomes all people at Princess for a Day, adding that she would love to see more women of color at the event.
“It is always important for our girls to be able to look up to women they can feel a connection to,” she says.
Young adopted her daughter about four years ago, and although Young herself is biracial, she says, “I have really light skin, so I don’t know what it feels like to walk in the skin that she’s in. We talk a lot in our house about the different shades that black people come in, but this particular event showed me that all of us really needed to be talking more with her, even at 4 years old.”
Young says that even though her daughter wants to be a princess, all the princesses she sees around her and in books and movies are different from her. Young points out that even Tiana, the only African-American Disney princess, has perfectly straight hair.
“We go out of our way to find books and media she can see herself in,” she says, but at Princess for a Day, “she saw a bunch of princesses, and none of them looked like her.”
Obie-Barrett says that the event has always had at least one hairdresser available to do ethnic hair, and her African-American daughter volunteers as a hairdresser, but she welcomes the idea of recruiting more volunteers of color.
“Unfortunately, Eugene is not a really diverse community,” she says, “but it’s really important for us to make everybody that comes feel special, and anything that adds to that, we’re happy to do.”
Young says she’s not sure if she’ll bring her daughter to Princess for a Day this year, but she’s hopeful that through her outreach efforts, volunteers will step forward to provide more diverse role models for the girls.
To volunteer for Princess for a Day on Sunday, May 3, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.