The true crown
by Mylo Freeman
The moment I started to develop the character for my black princess picture book, there was no doubt she would have to have natural hair. In fact I never even considered otherwise.
After hearing the story about a little black girl who didn’t think she could play the role of princess, because she didn’t think black princesses existed, I was determined to draw a dark-skinned princess with beautiful natural hair!
I created Arabella’s hair around a newspaper clipping I kept in a drawer for years – a portrait of a beautiful African girl with what I know now is called ‘helicopter’ hair.
The Arabella character that I created looked perfectly regal with her golden crown atop her lovely natural black hair.
When princess Arabella was first published she was an instant succes and the foreign rights were sold to many different countries. However selling the rights to the US seemed to be a problem. My publisher kept getting remarks that it had to do with princess Arabella’s hair which some readers might consider unacceptable. I was quite shocked to hear this.
How could her hair be offensive when I considered it to be so beautiful?
To answer this question I had to dive into African-American history.
This history is obviously marked by slavery, a time where women were not allowed to wear their hair loose or any way they preferred. Their hairstyle was imposed on them by white slave owners and later on by white beauty standards.
For generations after black hairstyles reflected the history of American race relations and the way black people wore their hair, straightened or combed, mirrored the dominant white culture. With a short uprising of the Black Power movement, black hairstyles have changed from afro’s, wet looks, braided hair, rasta’s and back to straightened. However natural hairstyle is back and here to stay and it seems that women are able to make more individual choices now. Hopefully we have come so far as to make our own choices and not be judged by our hairstyle.
Princess Arabella is a confident little princess.
She is loved and she knows it. Her books are sold in children bookshops, online and yes,even natural hair conventions. To me her true crown is not necessarily the golden one on top of her head but her own pretty natural hair!
Mylo Freeman is Dutch/American and grew up in The Hague, Holland. She attended the Art-Academy in Amsterdam and majored in illustration and painting. After a short career as a singer she started illustrating again after the birth of her son David. Her first book Potty! received the prize for best toddler book of the year.
Mylo has written and illustrated around 50 books. She is best known for her Princess Arabella series which has had global success. Princess Arabella’s Birthday and Princess Arabella Mixes Colours are published in the UK by Cassava Republic press with more titles to follow in 2017.
You can read Luna’s review of the Princess Arabella books by clicking on this link here