Recently, news broke that Disney would be featuring its first ever Jewish princess from a Latino kingdom in an episode of Elena of Avalor. Voiced by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, the princess will guest star in a special Hanukkah-themed episode. Alma Hernandez, a Mexican-Jewish millennial who made history herself when she was elected to Arizona’s third legislative district last November, reflects on what this means to her.
As a proud Mexican American Jewish woman, I felt seen and a sense of belonging after hearing the news of Disney featuring a visiting princess from a Latino Jewish kingdom. It’s truly personal to me, especially when I got the call from my father who wanted me to know that there was a Disney princess just like me.
I began to receive a flood of messages on social media from my friends and family who were thrilled to see this news. It wasn’t until then when I truly began to realize what a big deal this was to so many. Although diversity in media and movies has increased from years before, we know that cartoons and animated films are still predominately white. I was proud and excited to see the news of a princess visiting from the Latino Jewish kingdom, and I wanted to share it with the world.
I CANNOT EVEN y’all @Disney will now feature a Mexican Jewish princess👸🏽in a Hanukkah-themed episode of Elena of Avalor as a — wait for it — princess from a “Latino Jewish kingdom.” One day I’ll be able to show my daughters this 🤩Now this is representation, baby!Baruch HaShem! https://t.co/F0Wj5lMaRh
— (((Rep.Alma Hernandez))) (@almaforarizona) September 18, 2019
I can’t emphasize enough why the representation of minorities in the media and society at large is crucial to so many of us who didn’t experience it growing up. Knowing that you can look at someone, even a Disney character, and truly see yourself and your story in them is simply a fantastic feeling.
Diversity is critical not only for the development of younger children but even for adults who didn’t always see those who look like them in positions of power or influence. Not only does it show us that we are not alone in the world, it shows us that we matter and exist. When this came out, I began to see so many women on social media post things like, “There are more of us!” and, “This is my life story!” and I could relate!
Many times, being a double minority makes you feel invisible, although really, we are far from it. People will still question the possibility of a Mexican/Latina Jew existing, but in my world, it’s not uncommon. This Disney character represents something that I can see in the world, and I can playfully find her relatable. Young minorities need to see people who look like them even if it’s just a Disney character, as we know it doesn’t always happen. I commend Disney for thinking of bringing this into their show, as for years, I wished to see something like this.
When there’s no representation around us or role models to uplift us in the media, we begin to consume these thoughts. It’s debilitating and crippling to your sense of self-worth. I don’t expect others to understand why a Disney character is so important, but I want them to know that for some, it can be life-changing. Something so simple and small can mean so much to someone. Let us enjoy these small victories and these moments because not all of us grew up seeing them. Representation is vital, and we should never be ashamed of being excited over a Disney character.
I hope that one day, I’ll be able to show my future children this episode and explain to them why this was so significant to our Jewish community. I want them to know they can be anyone and anything they wish to be, even a Latina Jewish princess.
I am looking forward to sharing this special moment with my family and friends when it airs!