Editor’s Note: Babble is a part of The Walt Disney Company.
It’s not every day you wake up at the crack of dawn to watch a televised wedding happening halfway across the world, but that’s exactly what my children and I did this morning. And we did it precisely because of the couple walking down the aisle.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big celebrity-news kind of woman. With four kids at home, I hardly have time to shower and pee, much less keep up on celebrity gossip, shocking pregnancy announcements, or scandalous tweets. But as soon as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced their engagement, I was all in on the royal wedding — and my love for what it represents runs deep.
When I was growing up, I was transfixed by Disney princess movies. Sleeping Beauty was by far my favorite, but another mainstay was The Little Mermaid. I had the soundtrack memorized, and my little sister and I would spend hours in the pool every summer creating whirlpools like Ursula and rising above the waves like Ariel. Each time a new princess movie came out, we begged our parents to buy us the VHS tape so we could watch it on repeat, getting lost in the fairytale over and over.
Why are princesses so magical? Sure, some of it may have to do with the fact that living in a castle and wearing a tiara can seem pretty exciting, no matter what age you are. But I think it’s also because when we’re young, we can’t help but envision ourselves in that princess’ shoes. We can see ourselves dancing, fighting evil, slipping into that sparkly gown, and singing those famous songs. And we want nothing more than to one day find ourselves in a fairytale of our own.
When I became a mom 10 years ago, I fell head-over-heels for childhood all over again, and fully expected to introduce my own kids to the princesses I grew up with. But when I looked at the vast majority of royal ladies (both animated and real), I saw them in a new light. For the first time, I truly noticed their creamy, pale skin, flowing long hair, and blue or green eyes.
That is, until 2009, when Princess Tiana made her way to the big screen with The Princess and the Frog. Finally, the world had a black-haired, brown-eyed, brown-skinned princess with her own interesting storyline and beautiful dresses to boot. Like many parents with kids of color, I bought every Princess Tiana item I could find: shirts, toys, books, you name it. And of course, we got the DVD to play at home on repeat.
Even when my girls were as young as 2, they would point out others — animated or real — who looked like them.
“She has big hair like me,” my oldest would smile, seeing a fellow store shopper who had an afro hairstyle.
“She’s brown!” my middle would pipe up cheerfully.
Wanting to feel like you belong is simply human nature. And my children, just like every human on this earth, want that, too. They want to see themselves reflected in positions of power and greatness — whether that’s on TV, in the Oval office, or on the royal throne.
I know that technically, Meghan Markle won’t actually become a princess on her wedding day (the Palace has already announced she’ll be known as the Duchess of Sussex), but honestly, we don’t care. Watching a bi-racial American woman marry a white British prince is a pretty big deal in my home. Their interracial and cross-cultural relationship mirrors our own multiracial family, and their union nudges society just a little bit closer to realizing that love is love.
While we dined on tea and scones this morning (oh yes, we did!), we also watched on the edge of our seats as Meghan walked down the aisle toward Harry, who gazed at her adoringly. Our ears perked up when The Kingdom Choir sang its moving rendition of “Stand By Me” and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason strummed along. We saw famous faces throughout the church — faces that looked like ours! — including Serena Williams and Oprah Winfrey. And when the royal couple kissed on the front steps of St. George’s Chapel, before a crowd of thousands and millions more on TV, we couldn’t peel our eyes away.
But one of the most captivating moments came as the Bishop Michael Bruce Curry, who was invited to speak by Markle herself, delivered an impassioned sermon that encouraged attendees to “Love God, love your neighbors, and while you’re at it, love yourself.” Curry also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King when he said, “We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world.”
For my kids, it truly was just as spectacular as watching a brand-new princess movie for the very first time.
Watching the enamored gazes on my four children’s faces, I felt a sense of gratitude and joy all at once. Because we weren’t just watching an incredible moment in history play out on our TV. This wedding wasn’t just another “tale as old as time.” It was a glimpse into a hopeful future where diversity is not just normalized, but celebrated.
And that’s a future I can’t wait for my children to have.