A (Much-Needed) Modern-Day Disney Princess

March 12, 2021

Tanisha a (much-needed) modern-day disney princess (This guest post is written by Tanisha Gupta, Commander-in-She winter 2020-2021 intern)

Throughout my childhood, I was enthralled by Disney Princesses.

Cinderella, Ariel, oh and of course, Jasmine, because she was Indian and “looked like me.” Whether it be my mom reading me a story from my heavy, pink book titled, Princess Collection, or my fourth birthday trip to Disney World with my complete collection of princess autographs, you could say I was a princess enthusiast. 

But, growing up, I have realized that in every single one of these tales, the princess was a damsel in distress, waiting for her knight in shining armor to sweep her off of her feet and free her from her evil stepmother or forever sleep.

I have come to realize that the female role models that girls as young as two years old look up to are complete manifestations of the expectation that women have been combatting for centuries: that a woman needs a man to be complete, happy, or successful.

Book 2 a (much-needed) modern-day disney princess

Tanisha’S Favorite Childhood Book

Why not encourage independence, courage, and power to young girls?

How might we Take Command of an updated storyline?

Therefore, I present to you, the new and improved… (insert drum roll, please)


For a little bit of context, with Princess Moderna, I take typical life challenges and reflect on them, drawing out the qualities I wish to see in a modern-day princess. 


Most princess fairytales are set in grandiose palaces, with golden spires and mile-long staircases. Where have you seen one of those? Disney World, I presume. 

Well, the story of Princess Moderna takes place in a small suburb in the state of Connecticut. Pretty relatable, I hope. Moderna lives with her happily married parents, younger sister, and very crazy puppy, Millie. (When it’s 20 degrees outside and Millie cannot find a suitable spot to pee, there’s unfortunately no magic wand to make her go or to boop her into a pumpkin.)

Moderna’s parents are from India, instantly placing her and her family in a separate sphere of society. This means sometimes receiving funny looks when they go to restaurants, or in school, being thought of as a “nerd” just because of the color of her skin.

Take what happened to Moderna in her Economics class, held online due to COVID. 


It was a Friday, the first day of the second semester of junior year. Weather uneventful as it was pretty much the same every day: clear white ceiling with a hint of recess light. Moderna was sitting at her desk, “attentively” listening to her Economics teacher talk about the syllabus, the get-to-know-you assignment, the usual first-day housekeeping, yadda yadda.

Halfway through the class, the teacher, we’ll call him Mr. Money (fitting, huh?), divided the class into several breakout groups. The task was to define the word ‘Economics.’ Not rocket science, right? Almost immediately, one of the three boys in her group put her on the spot. 

“Moderna,” he said. “You look like you’re smart, what do you think?” 

It’s as if he thought he could determine her intelligence through a computer screen. Ha, not quite. It was the color of her skin that made him perceive her like that. She is brown, of course she must be smart. 

Being smart is a good thing, but stereotyping someone is not. Moderna was not unhappy to be called smart, but she didn’t like the assumption made based on her race.

It is crucial that young girls’ role models are representative of cultural diversity and equality. Every girl and boy, despite their race, gender, or religion is unique and worthy in their own way. 

And that’s what young girls and boys should be taught. 


High school is a time when everyone is trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. While they’re doing this, they have to determine when to keep silent and when to stand up for themselves. 

When a friend began joking around online, teasing Moderna and calling her “a man,” soon others in the group started following. For a while, Moderna laughed with them. 

They’re joking, don’t be a Debbie Downer, just shrug it off.

However, it got to the point where Moderna began to question herself. She started to look at herself in the mirror, criticizing what she saw and wishing she looked different. 

So, Moderna had to prevail and stand up for herself. In a traditional fairy tale, she’d call upon her knight to wield his sword. This is modern-day though, and so she just blocked the guy. 

After all, Moderna’s mom had taught her that you will encounter many big, bad wolves in your life. However, if you rise above them and stand your ground, you will always hold more power. 

And that’s what young girls and boys should be taught. 


On a sunny day in May on the middle school tennis courts, one of the most defining moments of Moderna’s life took place. Moderna, her mom, and her sister had gone to play tennis under the sun cascading liquid gold. They had just finished practicing when Moderna’s mother got a call from Moderna’s father. He was mowing the lawn when he felt some pain in the left side of his chest. 

Family a (much-needed) modern-day disney princess

That day, Moderna’s father went under cardiac arrest. And the months that followed were not easy. There were plenty of moments of anxiousness, fear, grief. However, what this moment did provide was strength. And compassion. And love, so much love.

What this moment provided were valuable lessons to carry for the rest of her life. That no matter what obstacle one may face, it can be overcome with love and support. 

And that’s what young girls and boys should be taught. 


By the time she turned 16, it was clear that no knight and shining armor was coming to rescue Moderna. But something better was about to show up, under the guise of a family trip to Pennsylvania. That’s when Moderna learned they were there to choose their newest family member.  Her mom revealed a litter of puppies, all slouched on top of each other, happily dreaming away.  

And that’s when Moderna’s Goldendoodle sidekick, Millie, entered the story. 

*Cue Moderna’s waterworks. 

Millie a (much-needed) modern-day disney princess

Every Princess Needs A Sidekick. Meet Millie.

From that day on, Millie became Moderna’s best friend. A silly antic or hug from Millie could lighten any dark moment. And that’s when Moderna truly realized to enjoy the little moments. 

And that’s what young girls and boys should be taught. 


Now that I have told you a little bit about Princess Moderna, I want you to sit back and think about your own story and why those early fairy tales fall short.

Princesses aren’t only dainty girls in need of a knight in shining armor. Sometimes, they just need a loving family, a silly dog, and the belief that they can overcome any hardship through hard work and perseverance. 

And that’s what young girls and boys should be taught. 

Every single one of us has the ability to create our own modern-day fairy tale. 

It’s just a matter of finding her and realizing she is within you.

Liked this article? Check out submissions from past Commander-in-She interns. Read about Ellie’s approach to her senior year and Thy’s high school experience during Covid-19. 

Valerie gordon old headshot a (much-needed) modern-day disney princess Valerie Gordon, the founder of The Storytelling Strategist and the Commander-in-She blog, is a 10x Emmy-winning producer and communications strategist who pairs with corporations and speaks at conferences to train clients and audiences on finding the power in their own stories. 


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