"The Disney princesses basically embody the American dream, to the 10th power," body positive illustrator Jonquel Norwood tells Bustle in an interview. "If you can wish upon a star and you’re a good person, all your dreams will come true."
In just a few words, Norwood managed to sum up the allure of one of Disney's hottest commodities. For nearly 80 years, Disney princesses have appealed to girls (and kids of all genders) the world over, instilling lessons of friendship, bravery, and roads to success along the way (and, admittedly, reinforcing a few problematic lessons, too).
But despite their cultural gravitas and the (slowly) progressive evolution of the Disney princess to include a protagonist of color as well as princesses who've eschewed the need for a prince, the world has yet to be graced with a fuller-figured queen-to-be: The kind who might appeal to the 67 percent of women in the U.S. alone who are above a size 14.
Inspired by recent studies that not only reveal that over half of American women are plus size (as per industry standards, where "plus" begins at a size 14), but also that the "average" American woman is a size 16/18, Norwood took action to illustrate her own size 16/18-esque versions of the princesses: Ones whose visible curves and thicker thighs have long been missing from the princess-sphere. She dubbed her series Magic Has No Size.
Norwood isn't the first artist to reimagine iconic Disney princesses in plus sizes. From Eduardo Santos' big-eyed caricatures to The Nameless Doll's pudgy incarnations, the stardust-toting, animal-talking babes have undoubtedly had more than one life. What distinguishes Norwood's drawings from previous likenesses is her focus on glamour. After all, the glam life isn't one previously believed to be for plus size women. Instead, the fancy frocks of New York Fashion Week and beyond have long been assumed to be the kinds of things only straight size bodies can pull off; the kinds of things fuller-figured and fat women simply don't deserve.
"I believe glam has nothing to do with size and everyone has the right to it," Norwood tells Bustle. "I dressed [the princesses] in clothing from and inspired by great brands that cater to the plus community. Like Snow White, who is sporting a Lane Bryant bomber jacket and Society+ inspired cage top. Or Ariel’s dress that was directly inspired by a Courtney Noelle dress."
Watching Disney princess movies when growing up, Norwood says she didn't feel "left out because of [their lack of] size diversity, per se." But "feeling left out because of a lack of diversity in general is another thing." The similarities in the princesses' sizes may not have registered with the artist, who was more fixated on their beautiful clothing and overall badassery at the time. The similarities in the sizes of the women she was seeing in magazines, on television, and on billboards, however, became more and more inescapable as she got older and realized that her body, as a plus size woman of color, set her apart from many of theirs.
"I was body shammed most of my life and [...] like most, I believed I had to slim down in order to truly be a member of society," she says. It was moving from New Orleans to New York as an adult and being introduced to the body positive community and plus size style bloggers of the city that helped her distance herself from fat shaming ideologies. Even though she's been an artist for 15 years, this move also helped solidify her desire to add representation to the world of fashion illustration.
"I wanted to do my part to make sure no little girl felt the way I did about fashion," she says. "Fashion didn’t belong to me." Given that there's little to no representation of plus size women in fashion illustration (a field that Norwood believes "is all about making the model pencil thin") she took it upon herself to become "a disrupter with a sketchbook." And that's where illustrations like her curvy plus size princesses come into play.
Through illustrations such as these — reimaginings of iconic figures who embody the "ultimate 'started from the bottom, now we’re here'" narrative — she hopes to keep reminding people both inside and outside of body positive conversations that "whether someone is 'fat,' 'curvy,' or 'plus size' doesn’t matter. What matters is equal and respectful representation in the media" and beyond.
Norwood's glamorous take on the princesses is proof that nothing the princesses might stand for — be it beauty, success, elegance, romance, or fearlessness — comes with a required size tag. Instead, the characteristics they embody are anyone's for the taking. Including young plus size girls who may not yet see themselves in the lens of Disney princesses onscreen.
Images: Courtesy Jonquel Norwood (6)