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.
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.
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.
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: http://www.iam-dolls.com/. She also has a youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-jwY7i5hdc. 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