Sunday, July 20, 2014

B.A.P.S.: Black American Princess

There was a movie that came out in 1997 called B.A.P.S. which stands for 'Black American Princess'. The movie starred a very different Halle Berry, Natalie Deselle and veteran actor Martin Landau (He was in the very first 'Mission Impossible' television show from 1966 to 1973, yes young people there was a Mission Impossible before Tom Cruise was even in kindergarten). Although B.A.P.S. was directed by Black director Robert Townsend and the screenplay was written by Black actress and writer Troy Beyer, the movie, although having its funny moments and a sweet but corny story line, was criticized for using contemporary, negative stereotypes and didn't do well.

Today, Black American Princess still carries a negative connotation in that the term is now considered according to Wikipedia "a pejorative term that refers to Black women of upper and middle class background, who possess (or are perceived to possess) a spoiled or materialistic attitude." Anyone who saw the movie B.A.P.S. will remember that Halle Berry's character definitely did not fit that description.

As the grandmother of two gorgeous granddaughters Relena and Maya, who are princesses to me, they are only spoiled with love and only as materialistic as every other little girl of this time and generation. (This is what  all princesses look like on Sunday morning before breakfast).

I am so moved when I hear my sons call their daughters "my little princess" in that way that only fathers can do. My sons grew up without their dad, yet they have become phenomenal fathers. All little girls love and want to look like and be princesses no matter what color or nationality they are. It's part of that dreamy, happy fantasy world that all children should be able to live in for as long as they can. They grow up so fast, if we even blink, we can miss this so important part of their growing up.

As it is, my girls only have the Disney princesses as princess role models.

The media promotes, promotes, promotes their images. Some of the stories are from old traditional fairy tales that originated in Europe many centuries ago. Disney, over the years has attempted to add princesses 'of color' to its cast of characters, Tiana, Pocahontas, Mulan and Jasmine but the most popular princesses still remain the same. Even retailers who stock their shelves with the thousands of 'princess' related items during the holidays wind up having to drop or discount their prices for the merchandise collections for Tiana, Pocahontas, Mulan and Jasmine because of slow sales.

When any little girl is dreaming in her fairytale world and she imagines a princess that she would like to grow up to become, what does she envision, the princess that she could be or someone else?

There are wonderful stories for today's young Black American princesses. I picked up a book on a sale table at Borders about 15 years ago, before either of my little princesses were even born called The Princess Who Lost Her Hair, an Akamba legend about a vane princess.  Even though I didn't have any little girls in my life at the time I bought it for myself and it's still one of my favorite children's stories.

                      These are some other books about princesses of color to share with the little girls in your life. These are all available on Amazon.

         Product Details 


Sometimes we have to get out of the mall or out of Target or Walmart to find B.A.P.S. or other princesses of color but the reinforcement of a positive image for our daughters and granddaughters is worth the effort.

These are my B.A.P.S., Black American Princess dolls. They are contemporary with a little of that 1970's retro style. My B.A.P.S. are B beautiful, A ambitious, P proud and S smart. I was so inspired by another African American doll artist that I met on Facebook and it triggered a whole new creative energy for me. Her name is Cassandra Harrison of "I Am Dolls" and her website is: She also has a youtube video: Please, please, please follow these links and check out her work. She is more than a doll artist, her dolls are an expression of Black history, culture and tradition.

My doll costumes were inspired by a fashion site I found on the Internet of 1970's Harlem. I was actually researching Harlem Renaissance and as usual, I got side tracked 'again'. It reminded me of the Black actresses, heroines and Motown singers of that time. The female characters of so many of those somewhat violent and not  always good movies all had really dramatic names like Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones, so I gave my dolls similar 'dramatic' names. I was also reminded of strong female political activists like Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver.

My doll's very fashionable outfits were made from some really colorful socks I found in the 99 cent only store and for the first time, I used "hair" for their hair. That was one of the inspirations from "I Am Dolls" Cassandra Harrison. I raided  King's Wigs & Beauty Supply in Rancho Cordova one afternoon, thank you for your patience Holly and Precious, it opened a whole new side of doll making for me.

All of these elements stirred up in a doll makers head, shake well and this is what comes out.

Miss China Jones

Miss Sassy Brown

Miss Ebony Reese


  1. This is such a great post! Every girl needs their hero too and like they are!

  2. Hi Karen, I'm glad you liked this article. I've had some unusual responses to it. I also send out my blog posts in a monthly newsletter.

  3. Gloria, I love your blog but had no idea this TREASURE of an entry was here! My heart is full of joy and excitement. This is so rich with beautiful and important ideas and information. And you've shared gorgeous visuals. You've filled an empty space that the media and main stream have made deep and wide over the generations. Thank you! My 9-year old daughter will love this! Going to share this link to
    People who will deeply appreciate it.