Princess Leia Organza

Maria Spadafora (10)

Princess: Maria Spadafora
Location: My flat, Morley

I had no plan to be part of my own project, but I was determined to include Princess Leia. Of all the princess icons (and she’s technically owned by Disney, now) I expected loads of people to jump at the chance to recreate her image, as she genuinely is/was a strong, determined character with agency. Curiously, not a single person wanted to! Those who didn’t already have their own costumes in mind, wanted to dress up in full princess bling. So I did Leia, swamped by tulle and organza, camera and long lens mimicking her blaster.

Finding a costume was a challenge. If you purchase Princess Leia fancy dress, you will
a) find it hard to get anything above a size 12 and
b) soon learn that most designs are skin tight with massive slits in the skirt, nothing like the original look, and totally fetishize her.

It’s quite depressing.

One woman had a really long look around the exhibition in Arts at Trinity, and we had a lovely chat. Not realising it was me, she asked if this was a drag queen, which made my day.

#PrincessRealness

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Our Dreams Are Way Bigger Than These Dresses

Maria Spadafora (1)

Princesses: Simran Virdee, Zahabia Naveed, Harpreet Panesar, Kirtan Virdee
Location: Bracken Edge, Leeds

The sentiment here should be very clear. Girls are more than princesses, more than pretty, more than whatever limiting stereotype we throw at them.

Zahabia’s Mum, Kauser, wrote to her daughter’s school about this project, exclaiming: “I feel this event and project resonates with the schools ethos about girls achieving their potential and challenging stereotypes”.

#PrincessRealness

One Size Does Not Fit All

Maria Spadafora (17)

Princesses: Jenny Wilson and Natalie Davies
Location: Cartwright Hall, Bradford

Jenny: “We’ve all been brought up in a patriarchy, and our language is formed in that context, the words we have, the frames of reference we have, the very thoughts in our heads – those words are patriarchal words. Everything is so very gendered.”

Natalie: “The princesses do not reflect the everyday female. I never could quite relate to any of the Disney princesses – so I just settled for being Mowgli!”

#PrincessRealness

The Writers’ Block

Maria Spadafora (9)

Princesses: Caroline Mitchell, Aisha Khan, Zodwa Nyoni, Kirsty Taylor
Location: Shakespeare Avenue, Leeds

Caroline: “They (princesses) made me want to give them a good shake as a child. especially the one in The Princess and the Pea. Bruised because she was too tender! Oh please.”

Aisha: “This project made me giggle in a ‘ooh I’d like to do that’ kind of way!” 

Zodwa: “There is a westernized stereotype of what princesses look like, usually blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Certainly with fair hair and skin. I come from a culture with royalty that doesn’t look like that, but is never held up, celebrated and respected as royalty.”

Kirsty: “Should I bring like a tracksuit top and Nike air max to go with the dress? With me Pat Butcher earrings?! Is that the look or not really…?!” 

It is now! #PrincessRealness

I Don’t Need a Crown to Know That I’m a Queen

Maria Spadafora (15)Princess: Saireen Khanum
Location: West Yorkshire Playhouse costume hire, Leeds

“I felt like I could relate to Princess Diana, not in a physical way, but the experiences she had and her loving nature. She cared for others and I often get told I have that in me, I could relate to her in that way. She was a real woman. She was well known for being a people’s person, the people’s princess, because she cared about people and so do I.”
– Saireen

Saireen is awesome. In the late1990’s established one of the first helplines and support projects for people experiencing forced marriage, and successfully inspired other organisations on a local, national and international basis to create support services and education programmes to deal with the issues. Her awareness raising was also key in leading the home office to set up one of the first iterations of the Forced Marriage Unit.

Further note – the title of this picture was inspired by musician Lizzo.

#PrincessRealness