A Cinderella with Blasian Love: Diverse 1997 Disney TV Movie Still Wins Hearts

Yes, Virginia, there’s a Cinderella with blasian love. And this diverse 1997 Disney TV version still wins hearts, and stands as a groundbreaking example of how to adapt fairy tales for modern audiences.

Known as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, the 1997 Disney musical film cast the R&B wonder Brandy, who had shot to stardom early in the decade, in the titular role, with Filipino-American actor Paolo Montalban as Prince Charming.

As we all know, representation matters, and this film exemplifies that idea. In playing Cinderella for this movie, Brandy also was the first-ever black Disney princess, a point hailed by many. You could surely say the same for Paolo Montalban, who had a truly crowning moment as Disney’s first Asian prince in a movie. In both cases, the movie gifted young people of color with actors that looked like them, finally riding off into the sunset on their own happily ever after.

Beyond being the first instance of a black woman playing Cinderella opposite an Asian Prince Charming, it also stands out as one of the first times (if not the very first) that Disney featured interracial love in a fairy tale. (Twice, actually, since Whoopi Goldberg plays the queen and Victor Garber the king.)

Did I mention this also stars Whitney Houston, who dazzles in every sense of the word as the fairy godmother?

I slipped into this movie for an hour and half during the weekend, and emerged feeling noticeably hopeful and lighter, as if that fairy godmother had touched me with some of her magical stardust.

If you love musicals and fairy tales, or perhaps could use a little time to dwell in an onscreen happily every after, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella makes for fine entertainment. You can watch the whole film in its entirety online.

What do you think about Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella?

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6 Replies to “A Cinderella with Blasian Love: Diverse 1997 Disney TV Movie Still Wins Hearts”

  1. I remember watching this as a child, and to be honest, i did not notice the different ethnicities of the cast. I was drawn into the story and ‘magic’ of the music, accepting this at face value – a musical version of Cinderella.

      1. what has made me sad since then is the obsession some people have about the ethnic origins of actors/actresses. for me the whole point about a good actor is their ability to make you forget anything distinctive about them (i.e. their skin colour) if you can believe in their portrayal of a character.

        1. Thanks for the comment. I think it’s not so much an obsession but rather merely a push to acknowledge and encourage better representation for people of color in the arts and entertainment world. Consider this article Why on-screen representation matters, which notes:

          Only two out of every 10 lead film actors (or 19.8 percent) were people of color in 2017, this year’s UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report found. Still, that’s a jump from the year before, when people of color accounted for 13.9 percent of lead roles. People of color have yet to reach proportional representation within the film industry, but there have been gains in specific areas, including film leads and overall cast diversity.

          The article goes on to point out that lack of representation for people of color can affect mental health, and impact identity. And when there is good represention, it can become inspiring.

  2. As a fellow Beijing expat and member of a WWAM/Blasian relationship, this article really made me happy to see. It’s rare for Black women and Asian men to be seen as desirable in the western media, let alone romantic interests for each other. As a kid, this movie just made me so happy to see someone who looked like me being represented and was a princess~

    1. Thanks Sammy — your comment exemplifies the power of representation, and why diverse casting really matters. Also, wonderful to know you live in Beijing too, and are in a WWAM relationship as well. 🙂

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