So here are some ace young women making stuff happen – for themselves and for others. Katie and Molly got in touch to say they’d taken some photos inspired by the Real Princess project. They run Bloomin’ Buds, a theatre company with a focus on creating opportunities for young people from working class backgrounds. They and I share the same passion for increasing access and representation of working class people (as well as other under-represented people) in the arts. They rock!
“We are two women from West Yorkshire, from estates, and the first in our family to go to university and study theatre. We want to improve confidence, self esteem and mental health and well being of working class young people with the power of drama.
The biggest barrier we face is that we’re two young women and some people don’t realise what we are capable of. We will keep on fighting for working class rights.”
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.
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”.
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!”
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…?!”