Donna Gail sitting on newly paved asphalt wearing a Pixar Cars inspired outfit - a black and white plaid shirt tied up, a pair of high waisted red shorts, and Lightning McQueen shoes. Picture taking during mid-hair flip

Everyone Wants to Be an Influencer But No One Wants to Work for Free

Lately I have been reading some new material to try to better myself as a content creator. With over fifteen thousand followers on Instagram, most people would usually say I have reached micro-influencer success and that “you have it all figured out so why learn something new?” Well the simple answer being, just because my follower count says one thing, does not say anything about me as a creator, and so I have to go to influencer school on occasion. I have to track trends, find new spots to take pictures that aren’t clichรฉ or overdone or always a tourist spot. I have to plan my feed and work through when I post what and on which platform. I toss out content that I work hard on because it doesn’t fit with my theme or I just can’t edit it right. I have to research and read up on my niche’s news so I can be the one to put a foot forward before others. I do a lot of work, and guess how much I get paid? Next to nothing.

Working with Winner Winner Claw Game App inspired me to put together this post. I edited a giant game-play claw in the sky with puffy white clouds that are similar to what you see in the game, with featured prizes that you can win within the game itself floating in the sky!
One of my biggest accomplishments of 2020 was this sponsorship! I got paid a rate that I did not think possible.

Come off it, with that many followers you must get paid something. You probably just don’t think it’s a lot. Ok fine, let’s get in to it. In 2020, I made a total of around $700 as a content creator.

EXCUSE ME?!?

Absolutely. I am the biggest abuser of my time. I work myself very hard and I can’t pay myself anything. (No, this is not my full-time job, but I work hard so that it can maybe be a part-time job for me in the next year or so).

The reason I want to talk about this is because the influencer market is extremely saturated – everyone and their dog thinks they can be a content creator or influencer and the reality is that they can’t. Nowadays the word “influencer” is kind of a dirty word. The type of word that if you go into a job interview and they ask what you do for a living and you say “Oh I’m an influencer”, you might be met with an eye roll, a face scrunch of disapproval, or a very insincere “oh that’s nice..”. The fact is EVERYONE THINKS THEY ARE AN INFLUENCER which then makes the word itself into something that isn’t “a real job”. And what’s worse is that everyone who thinks that becoming an influencer is as easy as posting about what they had for breakfast that morning or a candid picture of them on a street corner, thinks that earning money as an influencer comes even easier than that.

Don’t get me wrong, some people truly have the intrepid spirit of successfully making it as an influencer, but others simply do not. Because what people do not understand is how long it takes to make this in to a full time job, and more importantly how much you will have to spend upfront to form a loyal following.

My most favorite Tron edit features me in a matching two-piece black workout set with white contrast stitching. In the background I edited in a landscape of the Grid in Tron Legacy.
I spent three hours editing this picture. Did I get paid? No, because I just wanted to make something cool. You have to put in time for your non-sponsored content to keep your following engaged with your page!

Well how much does it cost to get a following? Honestly, there’s no number and it really could depend on the niche you want to work in. And to be clear I don’t mean that you ‘ll be spending money on actually buying your following (that’s cheating and it will mean you are a fake). You will end up spending money on answering these kinds of things: Do you need to buy the hottest look, a nice camera for pictures, go on the fanciest trip, wear the newest clothes, drive to that cool location, purchase the most popular new Disney collectible? Now whatever you have to tangibly buy to keep your audience excited to see something new from you, it will be nothing compared to your most valuable resource – your time. And trust me, you will spend a lot of your time trying to curate the best page for yourself.

For me, I don’t even have an account with every social media platform because it’s just me doing this and I can’t afford to spend all my time doing work for free, which is why I have another job. At this point in time, I am active on this blog, my Instagram, Facebook, and my Pinterest, but Instagram is where I focus on. Per day working on all of those aspects of what makes Donna Gail Blog a reality is probably around six hours a day, but if I have a big project I am working on like a video or one of my insane edits, then I could be looking around ten hours out of the day. This is not time just actively creating content, mind you. It could be me learning something new, researching for a blog, engaging with my followers or with other pages on Instagram, or just brainstorming possible ideas for content. Thankfully I have had a lot of time on my hands with being furloughed and transitioning in to a new job role elsewhere, but for now this is what I have and this is what I am trying to make better for myself.

So let that sink in for a second. In one whole year, I made $700 creating sponsored content – just sponsored content. Not even the stuff I post on the regular. Around six hours a day with maybe one or two days off a week to do very minimal work and relax for $700 in the entire year.

This is what I and many other trying influencers are doing every single day to make this in to a livable wage for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people grow quickly and make those bank rolls and kudos for them for finding that right secret sauce to cause massive success!! But the majority of people that will try will not be so successful. And that’s not because I think the worst of their content, it’s because I know realistically a lot of people don’t know what they are getting themselves into when they say that influencing is not a real job and that any one can do it.

So before you jump in to this job role, you will need to understand that:

  • A paycheck is not guaranteed. You will be working for free far more than you will be working for that pay day.
  • You get out what you put in to it, and what you put in to it in the beginning (and quite possibly for a few years) will most likely be a lot of time and money to curate your content.
  • People will grow faster than you and it’s going to sting. I haven’t figured everything out, but sometimes it can feel as though others figure it out from the get-go and land all the deals I wish I could have had! It’s just how this job goes.
  • You are not entitled to free stuff or paid campaigns because you have X amount of followers. Work hard to make connections and good content and the sponsorships will come eventually.

Please take this entire blog with a grain of salt because it is not my intention to scare any prospects away from coming in to the world of influencing or content creating. Instead accept this challenge, understand the obstacles that you may have to overcome, and make this job role your own. By having an insight like this, my hope is that you will be better prepared for what you may encounter and hopefully you can have a leg up in making sure that you aren’t getting discouraged when things aren’t working as quickly as you may have thought they would.

And my biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to become an influencer or content creator is to always keep pushing yourself. Keep learning something new, keep trying your very hardest, and always believe in yourself! I know that sounds extremely cheesy, but if you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect others to?


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Free Ways to Support Your Favorite Content Creators

If you are like me, then you have some of your favorite Instagrammers, style gurus, insightful informants, and just all around amazing content creators! They help us find ways to save money while traveling, how to shop on a budget, or just get the word out about all the new things Disney is dropping. Whatever the case may be, content creators really are diamonds in the rough!

I cannot tell you how many hours that I have been spent just editing pictures or writing the perfect blog with top-notch information. And more often than not, I am editing these pictures and writing these blogs simply to get fun or useful content out there – not because I was being sponsored or getting paid to do so. I enjoy every second of editing and writing because I just love the results I end up making. And even better, I love seeing what you all think!

So let’s chat. You probably have your favorite Instagrammers and you can probably start imagining their most recent posts now. You might like them SO MUCH that you want to support them in some way! Well here are the easiest ways to help:

1. Engage with their posts! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป We live in a world now where creating content is 100% a career for some people and by doing that simple double tap or saving their post to show a friend, you are literally the fire behind helping someone make a living! You are helping them get noticed, you are helping them accept campaigns, you are helping them get paid for the incredible content they make for a company, and you are helping them pay their bills. You are doing so much more than simply liking a picture, I promise you.

A breakdown of the different ways to engage with someone who posts on Instagram and what the functions are called.

And now more than ever, content creators need help because Instagram changed the algorithm again. You may have gotten in the habit of liking the posts that you see, but now I urge you to like AND save their posts! The way this new algorithm is set up, saving a post carries the most amount of weight for helping content get seen. Instagram only shows your posts to about 8% of your total followers. What those 8% do with your post determines if they continue to push your content to the other 92%. If those 8% don’t like or comment or do anything with your post, that results in a post flopping. But if those 8% are liking, and ESPECIALLY saving, your post, then Instagram will slowly open the flood gates for your post to be seen by more of your followers. If you wanted to put a point system on it, liking a post is 1 point, commenting on a post is 4 points, sharing a post is 7 points, and saving a post is 10 points!

Now maybe you are a super fan! Your day lights up a little bit when you see this person post. You’re always liking, always commenting, and now you’re always saving their posts too. You even take the time to read their posts on their blog (like you’re doing now!). But what else can you do to jumpstart this person’s career or continue to foster their dream?

2. Shop their affiliate links! ๐Ÿ›๏ธ Affiliate links are a way for content creators to share some great merch and get a commission from the company for recommending it to others! But there are some myths surrounding affiliate links. The biggest myth is that the consumer has to pay extra in order for the content creator to get a commission. That is not true in the slightest!

A circular rotating graph of how affiliate links work. Step 1, a content creator posts merch with affiliate link. Step 2, consumer clicks the link and is directed to merchant website. Step 3, consumer makes a purchase. Step 4, merchant gives a portion of the sale to content creator, and consumer receives product.

To summarize what happens: A content creator shares a $20 mug from ShopDisney. You use their link to be directed to that listing on the ShopDisney website. You like it enough to buy it! You buy it for $20. ShopDisney then recognizes that the link that the content creator shared resulted in that mug sale from you, so to say thank you to the content creator for helping them make a sale, ShopDisney then gives the content creator a small commission, or a “tip”, from that sale.

Another myth of affiliate links is that by simply swiping up or clicking on an affiliate link that the content creator gets paid. That is not true! Content creators only get a commission once a sale is made using their link.

The last myth is that affiliate links are an easy way for content creators to make lots of money for doing nothing. This one is extremely loaded so let me break it down a little bit at a time. Yes, affiliate links are an easy tool for content creators to get paid. However, to be honest with how much I can expect to make with my links is that I can get maybe one commissionable sale per 100 link clicks. I may have 19.4k Instagram followers, but 100 link clicks is still A LOT of link clicks haha! So it’s definitely not “lots of money”. Lastly, content creators work their asses off to make fun content for others, often times spending hours working for free just so they can post something fun. These affiliate links allow content creators to “run ads” on their Stories or in their blogs by sharing fun merchandise that they know their followers will love just as much as they do and to make a little money doing it.

With all of that being said, I encourage you all to shop your favorite blogger’s and content creator’s affiliate links this holiday season. I promise you there will be plenty of opportunities since this is the biggest shopping season of the year! All content creators adore every time you like or share their content with others because that helps them to get noticed by companies who may want to work with them, so keep doing that! But if you did want to help that little extra this holiday season, definitely shop their links. And if for some reason you don’t see a link to a certain store you want to shop, just ask your favorite content creator if they have an affiliate link to that store and I’m 10,000% certain that they will LOVE helping you out with a link. Let those myths stay myths and keep encouraging those creators to keep living their dreams! Remember, you are helping someone with their career! And that’s insanely awesome.


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You, Me, and COVID-19

March 15. I was out bar hopping with two of my coworkers. We had just gotten done with our last day of work until April 1st. We were happy, we were cautious, we were a little bummed about two weeks off from work but we were thankful for the opportunity to take a break for a bit.

April 1. Well.. that sucks that we aren’t back to work yet but hey, at least we aren’t furloughed!

April 20. WELL WE’RE FURLOUGHED. Man, that really sucks. I really thought we would be back to work by now. Everything is closed, I have no motivation to stay positive or even look forward to anything because now it truly seems like this is going to be our normal for awhile.

May 1. Nothing new. Still doing nothing. I have grown into my couch potato life. I guess I will binge watch everything.

June 9. FINALLY A RAY OF HOPE! The Safari Park (where I work) is opening back up on June 20th! That must mean I am bound to go back to work soon.

June 10. I finally have motivation to work and make a difference in how I want my life to turn out going forward.

Since June 10th, it seems like more things are looking up (in terms of things opening or seeing some of my friends being able to go back to work!) and I wanted to do more with my time after having a few months of doing nothing and gaining weight. I really didn’t like feeling unproductive and I was hopeful that with the news of the Safari Park opening that I would be back to work in no time. However, it is now August 16th and I still have no start date for work, but I am still trying to be productive because I still want to feel purpose in my life!

Needless to say, these last few months have probably been the same roller coaster for you too. Nothing seems to be constant and as someone who used to live in a rather unknown future back in 2018, I’m not a fan of this new normal. It raises more unknowns for me and that makes me nervous.

Now, I’m not about to spend this whole blog complaining – that’s not really my cup of tea nor do I think you want to read someone whining! But I wanted to share a little bit of what I am doing to find more constants in my life while also fostering productivity versus wallowing in a pile of blankets, Doritos, and self pity on the couch. I’m hoping by sharing this with you that maybe you can start to find a sense of productivity and start living your best life – even if it is in quarantine.

The first and most important factor for me being productive has been this blog! It’s not exactly a secret that between March and June, I haven’t been writing a whole bunch. Maybe one or two here and there but definitely not enough to call myself a blogger and that bugged me. I have always talked about “ugh if only I had more time then I could really turn my blog into something special.” Well I was literally given all the time in the world with this quarantine and I did nothing with it! Early on, I tried working in my bedroom just on my bed, or at my dining room table next to my living room TV, but soon I found that both places seemed to encourage laziness as opposed to progress. I found myself spending more time napping or binge watching a show than actually working. And doing that for three months really took a toll on my physically and mentally because I truly felt like this would never end and I would be stuck inside for another three months doing NOTHING. However, after I got news of the Safari Park opening, I kicked myself in to high gear and told myself that it was time to make up for lost time. I mean with it opening back up that must mean I would be back at work soon, and that gave me a new spark of motivation and productivity! It helped me get out of my funk because it felt like things were looking up and it was something to look forward to each week to see if I would be scheduled for a shift.

So I told myself to dedicate at least three hours a day to work in my office and get work done. If you’re in a productive place then you are more likely to do something with your time there, right? That’s probably why a lot of people find that working from home is hard because there are so many opportunities to procrastinate. But one of my goals has been to find success in blogging and influencing and ever since I set my mind to it, I have been able to work with so many new companies and brands! In fact during this quarantine, I have been able to work with more companies on a sponsored level more than I have all of last year!! The results for which may be rather small but I am still really proud of myself because without making the initiative then this would have never happened. Every step forward, however small, is still a step forward. And if I can keep finding success, then soon the small steps will start getting bigger and bigger! For that reason, I am motivated more and more to keep working and working.

The second thing I have tried to incorporate more of is being physically active. Ya’ll I am not going to lie to you. From March 15th, I have gained TWELVE POUNDS!!! I’m not trying to get pity points here because again, that’s not my jam. But that SHOCKED me to look at myself in the mirror and not like what I see, and honestly I was NOT about to let the “Quarantine 15” take another victim. I have always looked at myself with kind eyes, but that was my first time looking at myself and understanding what it’s like to tear yourself down. I looked at my pudge, I looked at the cellulite that looked like it was getting worse, and clothes that used to fit no problem – well, now I was having a problem. So a change needed to happen.

Physical activity is not just good for your physical health, but also your mental health. And with my job at the Safari Park being as active as it was, I was never concerned about gaining anything but muscle. But here we are! I’ve lost muscle and gained weight. And I needed a little boost in my self confidence since I was really taking it out on myself for having gained weight to begin with. So I have started taking my dog on longer walks and runs, and I have committed my mindset to focus on getting up and moving as opposed to focusing on the scale that seems to be taunting me from under the sink. Although I am still recovering from a hamstring injury, I have also been able to do leg strengthening workouts too. But I would much rather put on my music and run – my mind gets distracted and before I know it, I’ve ran 2 miles and I’m sweating my butt off. But maybe that’s because it’s been super freaking hot in San Diego lately too.. I’m taking workouts slowly because I don’t want to get injured again but so far I am happy with myself in getting up and active more than I had been!

Lastly, and this one might be the most important of all, is keeping myself to a schedule! A lot of people have been joking lately that they are bummed that they wasted money on buying a 2020 planner this year. And I get it, because I mean, what are you going to write in it? But keeping a planner has made me HELLA productive. I wrote in a previous post about the importance of writing even the smallest things down in your planner, even if you write it down after you have already done it! There’s just a sense of accomplishment from checking something off your list! But because I am trying to be a better “influencer” and I am trying to do more with this blog and be better at posting for my page and small shop, I actually break EVERYTHING up to make it something I can easily cross off. Post on my small shop Instagram? Check. Post a look on Pinterest? Check. Post a Disney Bound on LikeToKnow.It? Check. Etc etc etc. I have around 8-10 different things that I want to post per day on all my social media platforms. Keeping myself fully accountable for what does and does not get done really pushes me every day to wake up and get to work that way I can have a whole list of things that got done as opposed to looking at a blank piece of calendar paper. I don’t know about you but seeing a blank page would make me feel like such a lazy lump.

I also don’t normally schedule anything too far in advance because I don’t really need to, but obviously for things like appointments and collaboration deadlines, yea I make note of those dates. I have also found that I really love looking up “International/World ‘whatever’ Days” well in advance that way I can make fun content that relates to that day! But keeping my planner next to me all day, I can easily add and check things off of my list and stay on top of being productive. Even if you don’t have a lot of social media posting to do like me, I still write down more mundane tasks like “clean the kitchen” and “do laundry” because I feel like sometimes when I get caught up with work or sucked in to binge watching, I forget to do the small things that are still very important to life. Giving yourself that sense of purpose to finish things REALLY helps get out of a funk!

I wish I could tell you that I am going back to work soon, but honestly I’m not hopeful that it will be any time in the near future. Especially with California having an increase in cases and places beginning to close again as a result of that. But I’m really trying my best to not focus on the things that I can’t control and to keep my productivity train chugging right along. I have plenty of things in my life that I can control and to keep me busy. I can work on making this blog better, I can work on gaining a better presence on social media, and who knows, maybe I can turn this into a full time job. I mean, it’s doubtful but that’s not going to stop me from trying! More realistically though, I just want to create a productive space for myself to read more, to run more, to stay on top of cleaning my office and room, and more normal everyday things like that.

So I encourage you to try. If you’re like me and you are either furloughed or out of a job – keep trying to live a life you want to live! Whether that be trying to get another job, creating a job for yourself, or just working on yourself for the better by taking time for you and your mental or physical health – TRY! Never settle for being okay with just watching TV or playing video games all day. Maybe you’re okay with doing that, and honestly maybe you need that right now for your mental health, so I am specifically talking to those who are having a really tough time with being happy or positive right now because they feel like tey have lost a sense of purpose. I promise you that you can turn it around for yourself. You can still have an amazing life even if you can’t go do a whole lot of things elsewhere. If you need to get a planner to keep you in check like mine does for me, then I highly recommend that too because mine has been a blessing to keep me hoping for more! Because it helps me keep on track with blogging and being physically active, as well as getting so much other stuff done! It also has helped me feel like I am doing more with my day than just binge watching TV. It continually keeps me wanting to write more in it and work harder to fill it up even more. Whether that be blogging, posting, running, or figuring out cool new pictures to take to edit into something amazing, I am trying to make the most of my time.

Don’t let this quarantine get the best of you, because YOU are better than THAT! And like Walt Disney used to say “Keep Moving Forward.”


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Failure is in the Eye of the Beholder

The news is in! After struggling to keep my page new, fresh, and creative, I, Donna Gail, have officially fallen back down to 19.9k followers.

Now before you think this is going to be a sob story, I have a completely different direction that I want to go in. Like my past blog, “How Losing 11,000+ Followers Made Me More Successful“, there will be the real side of this (which is what I have lost) and the optimistic side (which is what I have gained!).

Ten months ago, I had around 33,000 followers. But I also had my Instagram handle still under my small shop’s name. I had started to convert my small shop’s page to a more blogger/lifestyle page for some time so it didn’t feel right keeping it my small shop’s name which is why I changed it to @donnagail.bby. In an attempt to help my page and my business out, I had done A LOT of loop giveaways which left my page with a lot of fake, spam, ghost, and giveaway accounts. I had many followers who just weren’t there for the content – only for the free stuff. Because all these followers weren’t engaging with my account, it made my page look relatively fake so I made the hard decision to delete all of those accounts. I knew the repercussions would be that maybe I would lose even more followers because they didn’t view me as legitimate or I would never gain more followers because, again, my engagement made me look like a fake or uninteresting account.

And that’s exactly what happened. I willingly deleted about 11,000 followers from my page because they weren’t people that actually supported me. From there, my page’s back-end numbers seemed to be staying steady for someone who had a third less followers! But what I feared was going to happen kept happening. Week in and week out, hundreds of followers would continue to leave. Maybe they didn’t recognize my page’s name after I changed the name, maybe because they didn’t like the content I was posting because it wasn’t JUST Disney, who knows! But I liked the content so I kept posting.

Now almost a year later, I am finally under 20,000. Trust me I understand how superficial this all sounds! “Waaahhh, you ONLY have 19,900 followers… Woah is you..” Haha I get it! Which is exactly the point I’ll be making here. That overall this whole losing followers thing doesn’t really matter. But at the same time, people can gabble on and on about how numbers don’t matter, and they are right they don’t, BUT it still hurts to lose the number or have poor numbers. The reason it doesn’t feel great is because content creators like myself usually spend A LOT of time curating their content, editing pictures, finding things to discuss that will spark interest. So when people don’t really end up liking it, it’s like “Ok well what am I supposed to do then?”

And right there is where the comparing starts. I can tell myself repeatedly to not be like others, to stay in my lane and do what makes me happy to post and success will be sure to follow. But then I see so many other people posting grainy pictures, selfies with the caption “I woke up like this” and nothing more, and overall just thoughtless content and yet they are the ones that get the most likes, comments, and followers. It baffles me! Then I wonder that if that’s what is driving success, maybe I just need to learn to not try to post good things, but how does that make sense? It doesn’t.

However, even with all the strife that my page has caused me, I have actually been able to work with MORE companies and brands. Strange right? Almost like they like the authenticity that my page holds and the fact that I’m not afraid to post what I like, be a goof on my stories, and actually engage back with the people who take time out of their day to comment or DM me. It’s in those moments of being offered a new collaboration with someone that I feel really good about the content I provide people!

If you are out there right now beating yourself up about the same thing I am going through right now, then here is me telling you straight up that this is the PROOF that numbers don’t matter! And no, it will probably never not hurt to have people continue to leave my page just as you will probably never feel great about that happening to you either. But we have to keep reminding ourselves and each other that this whole number game thing does not determine your overall success. It truly, truly doesn’t.

So although it doesn’t feel great to have people continually tell me “I don’t like you or your page” by the simple act of unfollowing me, I still like to think that I provide fun content. And even though it might suck to think about eventually being under 10,000 followers, I would like to be more optimistic than that. I haven’t had a whole ton of success these last two years, and it seems like more often than not my hard work kind of just goes unnoticed or falls by the wayside, never to see any tangible benefits. But I still choose to continue to work hard.

Because just like beauty, success, and all other positive things are in the eye of the beholder, so is failure. So even though I look at myself and my page sometimes as being a failure, I know deep down that that isn’t true. And maybe someone is out there right there looking at my page as the best thing ever!

So here’s to the failure of continually losing followers, but also to all the successes I’ve had without those people around to see it!


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Real Life Princess Tiana’s

I have wanted to make a post for a while now about why Tiana is the best princess and my personal favorite. For months I have written this post in my head and wanted to find a way to not just make it sound like me talking about my favorite princess. Tiana is strong, independent, very hard working and has truly inspired me to keep working hard for my own dreams. She has taught me that even when I think I might be doing enough to accomplish my dreams, there is always something more I could be doing.

However, in light of everything that has been going on with the Black Lives Matter movement, I have found a new direction for this post. One that praises Tiana, but also supports some of the incredible and beautiful black women who truly embody all that Tiana is.


When you watch Princess and the Frog, you can’t help but notice the massive difference in possible opportunity that Lottie has versus Tiana. Lottie lives in a mansion while Tiana lives in a rather small and cramped house. Lottie is given things while Tiana has to earn things. You see where Tiana grew up, you see how she grew up, but you also see her trying her best to rise above that. In the first scenes alone, you see just how hard Tiana works to make her and her dad’s dream come true of opening a restaurant. And although she may be loved and accepted by Lottie, Lottie still seems rather oblivious to her best friend’s struggles because she is too focused on climbing the social ladder.

Not to mention that not everyone believes that Tiana can overcome her adversity. When Mr. Fenner and Mr. Fenner show up to Lottie’s ball with the original intention of giving Tiana paperwork to sign to finally get her restuarant, they tell her that she has been outbid. Further their response is to tell her that it was probably best that she was outbid because “a little woman with [her] background would have had her hands full running a big business like that.” I think it’s pretty clear as day that they don’t mean to say that she isn’t business savvy enough but rather that her being black somehow hinders her ability to succeed. Every time I watch that scene I can’t help but scowl.

But as we know, by the end of the movie she makes her dream happen. And it wasn’t because she married some prince that solved her problems. No – it’s because she put in the work. (And it might have helped that Louis helped with a more “persuasive” approach..)

Like all Disney princesses, Tiana is a role model to many but especially to the community she represents. That being said there are so many beautiful and hard working black women in the Disney community who are being real life Tiana’s and I wanted to share a few of their stories.


Cree Michelle Rogers

About her:

I am 28 years old and I live in Georgia! Follow me on Instagram (@Brown.Suga.Outlaw) and Facebook (@Brown.Suga.Outlaw). TikTok: @brown.suga.outlaw

Her story:

As a little girl, I didn’t have very much representation. While there were black characters, a majority of the time they had only one gender represent both parties. So I ended up identifying with the tan girl or the one that wasn’t blonde. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but I thought white was the default. I believed that white people could be anything and the only way I could live out my crazy daydreams was to be someone completely different than who I was. It inadvertently messed with my self-esteem. I’ve matured passed that to a certain point, but it hurts to look back and think about all the time I wasted wanting to be something that not only I would never be, but something that was so systemically ingrained into everyday life. Once I finally began to love my blackness, I decided to cosplay predominately black characters to bring awareness to what characters are out there for little girls that might be suffering like I did.  I believe it is hard enough being a person. Everyone has insecurities. But to add on to that with racists notions of what the ideal beauty should look like, is something that I personally want to end for girls and boys of color growing up now. 

What is your favorite part in Princess and the Frog that features Tiana and why?

My favorite part in the Princess in the Frog is when Tiana and Naveen are hungry in the swamp and she’s fighting her urge to eat a bug. Her line “There is no way I am kissing a frog and eating a bug, on the same day” ALWAYS cracks me up!


Elantrice

About her:

In the Disney community I am known as Diz Thru Brown Eyes.  I am a soon to be 48 year old from Georgia. I started my blog (www.dizthrubrowneyes.com) in 2011 upon realizing there were a limited number of Black voices in the Disney online community.  I wanted others to view Disney through my eyes.  I share my travels to Disney Parks and merchandise finds on Instagram (@dizthrubrowneyes) and Twitter (@DizThruBrwnEyes).

Her story:

I was asked to share my story, which is hard to know where to begin or what to include.  I grew up in a small town in Georgia that had its prejudiced people and ways.  My parents, who have been married for over fifty years, shielded my sister and I from some it.  My townโ€™s downtown area would close on Wednesdays at 12pm because hundreds of years before that is when slaves were sold. Proms were segregated until my senior year which made CNN headlines. Getting older, you notice racism more. I was asked to leave a temp position because I came to work one day with braids, followed around in a store, and hearing comments like โ€œyou talk like a white personโ€. Black Lives Matter is more than a fad. We are talking about life and death. I desire to feel safe, valued, and seen as an equal.  

What makes Tiana the perfect role model for girls, young adults, and grown women of the black community?

Every little girl deserves to see someone that looks like them in books, on television, and in movies.  Princess Tiana helped to fulfill that.  She was determined to be self-sufficient and achieve her goals.  Even when she was turned into a frog, Tiana kept going.  Tiana demonstrated strength, intelligence, resourcefulness, patience, and so much more.  As a huge fan of Princess Tiana, I want to see more of her on merchandise and at events.  In 2017, I attended Tiana’s Riverboat Party held in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  It was like an intimate party with her and Prince Naveen.  Princess Tiana deserves so much more and so do I.


Tala

About her:

My first name is Crystal, but I prefer to go by my middle name, Tala! I am 21 years of age and I currently live in Florida. My main social is @talalovesyou on Instagram. I also have an art account (@talalovesyouart).

Her story:

I was born in a mixed family. My mother is middle eastern and my father is African American. When it comes to my appearance, people see me as a black woman. But since my parents are divorced, most of my upbringing has been with my mother.

Because of this, I donโ€™t act entirely the same way as a person of color.

This has created an ongoing challenge for me. Since childhood, I had a hard time fitting in with my peers. White people would not accept me because of my skin color. And black people would not accept me because of my โ€œwhiteโ€ mannerisms. So, I have always felt like an outsider and have had to work hard to find my place. This has encouraged me to depend and rely on myself to achieve my goals.

What do you think is the best one-liner that Tiana has in the movie and why?

As Tiana learned from her father, โ€œFairytales can come true. You gotta make emโ€™ happen, it all depends on you.โ€ That is why I feel connected to Tiana. She believed that she could create her own happily ever after through her hard work. I hope that my story helps others to learn that is great to have help from others, but you cannot rely on anyone to hand you your dreams. You have to put in the work and forge their own path.

I am hoping for a future where everybody has equal opportunities, regardless of where they came from or the color of their skin. I am hoping to live in a society where we are not judged by our appearances, but accepted for who we are.


Lorraine (Princess Indigo)

About her:

My name is Princess Indigo and I am a fairy living in the human world. As a human, I am called Lorraine and I am 40 years young. I live in Los Angeles, CA and have lived here my entire human life. Follow me on Instagram (@PrincessIndigosPalace) and Facebook (Princess Indigo’s Palace).

Her story:

I have always loved fairy tales with โ€œhappily ever afterโ€ endings. They provided an escape for me when I needed it. I was a pretty happy child…at first. I went to a mostly white school until the 3rd grade. I was one of a handful of Black, Mexican, and Asian kids. I had friends, I had fun, and I donโ€™t remember experiencing any racism at that time. But then my mother was laid off from her well paying job. We had to move. I had to go to a different school. This school was full of black children. I was thrilled to see an entire playground with children that looked like me. But I soon found out, we spoke completely different languages. The children teased me for not sounding or acting like them. I cried. Nearly every day I begged my mom to change my school. While she wanted to, she could not. 4th grade turned me into a shy reclusive kid. I assumed something was wrong with me because I was so different and none of the other kids would talk to me. 

After that awful year, we moved again and my school changed. This school was about half black and half Mexican. While the teasing stopped, I still didnโ€™t have many friends. I stayed to myself, afraid that if I spoke too much, I would be โ€œfound outโ€. However, I do remember an incident in which I was invited to play with children and we were picking characters we would pretend to be. I announced I would be โ€œthe princessโ€. Another child told me I couldnโ€™t be a princess because โ€œprincesses arenโ€™t blackโ€. At the time, I was unfazed and I simply stated that my mom said I could be whatever I want to be and I wanted to be a princess! They didnโ€™t argue but I wasnโ€™t invited to play again after that. I remembered the incident years later and was saddened – not because they left me out after that, but because the child that believed princesses werenโ€™t black…..was another black child….. A beautiful black girl, truly believed, that as a black person you couldnโ€™t even PRETEND to be a princess. That still breaks my heart. 

By 7th grade I made friends, or rather a group of Mexican girls befriended me. I was SO happy to have friends I could totally be myself with and they didnโ€™t seem to think I was โ€œdifferentโ€ or โ€œweirdโ€. In High School I made more black friends but I always had more Mexican friends because I wasnโ€™t really into a lot of things that were considered โ€œblackโ€ – the more I look back though, it wasnโ€™t that I didnโ€™t like โ€œblackโ€ culture, I simply didnโ€™t bother to follow POPULAR culture. Even today I donโ€™t know who a lot of famous people are. I donโ€™t really listen to the latest music, or watch the latest TV shows. I donโ€™t even watch movies unless they are Disney movies! I stay close to my fairy tale things because thatโ€™s what make me happy.

As an adult, I have found my happiness in dressing up as a princess and other fairy tale characters for kid events and parties. Aside from the fact I love doing it, I feel it is my duty as a princess to be there for little brown girls and show them that there ARE magical beings that look just like them. I also remind all children that they possess the magic within them along with the power to make any and ALL of their dreams come true! I have been doing princess parties off and on for little girls on weekends for almost 14 years now. 

When Disney announced โ€œThe Princess and the Frogโ€ would feature their first black princess I was ecstatic! I have always loved Disney Princesses and now they had one that looked like me! I went on opening night to the midnight showing with friends. I loved the movie and I still do… despite Tiana being a frog for most of the for most of the film… After the movie came out I was booked nearly every weekend for a over a year. It is always so wonderful to see a little girlโ€™s eyes light up at the sight of a princes that looks just like her. Representation is SO important for black children. Black children often see the worst aspects of their community in the media. Things have changed a lot since I was young but the issue still remains.

Why is Tiana an inspiration to you?

I love Tiana as a character. Sheโ€™s sweet, hard-working, goal-oriented, driven, intelligent, beautiful and more. Sheโ€™s the kind of woman that even if she had not married a prince, she would still  have reached her goal. I have big dreams, too. I didnโ€™t find a prince. But I know if I continue to work toward my goals, I will reach them. Tiana has her resturant, and some day I will have a brick and mortar palace. I have come so far. And as Tiana, would sing: โ€œThere ainโ€™t nothing gonna stop me now! Iโ€™m almost there!โ€


Original design : Hannah Alexander Artwork
Photographer: @aoisenko

Maria (CocoaSugarCosplay)

About her:

Iโ€™m 31, and a resident of central Pennsylvania. The best place to find me is on Instagram (@CocoaSugarCosplay)!

Her story:

When I was 11, my family moved from our diverse Philadelphia suburb to a small town in rural Pennsylvania. It was (and is) a predominantly white town. I was one of six black students in my graduating high school class, pretty much guaranteed to be the only black person in a classroom at any given time. That includes staff (my mother was the second black person hired by the school district, and my aunt was the first). It was an adjustment for sure. The people in the town were so unused to diversity that I doubt they realized how they sounded – it was fairly commonplace to hear things like โ€œyou speak so wellโ€ or โ€œbut youโ€™re one of the good onesโ€ or โ€œoh, well I donโ€™t mean you – youโ€™re not ghettoโ€.

Iโ€™ve had kids ask me if I got warmer in the summertime because โ€œblack absorbs heatโ€, and a teacher declare to the class that โ€œblack people run faster because they have an extra bone in their feetโ€ (mind you, I am terrible at sports and run a 12 min mile). Thereโ€™s so much more I could say (and donโ€™t get me started on hair). This is just a little of what I experienced, but donโ€™t get me wrong – I had a happy upbringing. What a lot of white people donโ€™t realize is that this is just everyday for us. You learn to accept it and live your life accordingly. I am blessed to have people I can vent to and laugh with that understand. But not everyone has this. Thatโ€™s why I think itโ€™s important to talk about this type of experience – a million microaggressions across a lifetime.

These past weeks, Iโ€™ve attended local Black Lives Matter protests. I didnโ€™t expect much turnout in our small white town. Iโ€™ve never been so happy to be wrong. The community showed up in a way I hadnโ€™t anticipated, and the amount of white allies in the crowd was really heartening to see. This movement feels different – I feel like our country is prime for change. Weโ€™ve already seen real tangible gains from this movement and we canโ€™t stop. I urge people to continue this momentum. At my core, I am a hopeful person, and I truly believe that if we keep this up, keep this passion for justice, we can continue to make lasting change for the better for black lives in this country. 

What do you think Tiana would be doing to support the BLM movement if she was living in 2020?

With her work ethic and leadership ability, I see Tiana as a protest organizer. Sheโ€™d be there coordinating with volunteers, ensuring the safety of the protesters, making sure that people stay hydrated, and wear their masks.


I hope you all have found value in these ladies stories and keep encouraging them and others to make their dreams come true! The fight for equality isn’t over yet!


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