Power Princess Leaders

Princesses can't be damsels in distress all the time. One day, they will need to rule an entire kingdom. Though many princesses start out sheltered and powerless dreaming of freedom, some of our favorite animated princesses start out early and learn how to lead their companions in the fight against evil. Though these stories do give princesses more freedom than they would probably realistically have, they also open up the range of female-targeted entertainment to different types of girls. Magical Girl groups usually have a princess leading them, but it's becoming more common among Disney Princesses as well. This is a tribute to all the princesses who can wear pretty dresses and still be strong and powerful leaders at the same time.

For me, Princess Gwenevere from Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders was the first one to show me that a princess can be a great leader. Even though she loves dressing up and flirting, she aggressively refuses to wait around for a man to come find her, to the great frustration and confusion of Drake. Even though Gwen is the newest Jewel Rider, she immediately takes charge of the group when Merlin goes missing. Her training as the crown princess gives her enough leadership skills to make up for the experience she lacks as a Jewel Rider. Tamara and Fallon follow her every command not only because she is the princess, but also because she is their friend. Princess Gwenevere teaches girls that the key to being a great leader is to be a great friend first.

A similar lesson is taught by Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Before she became a princess, Twilight didn't know how to be a friend. By befriending all of the other ponies in the "mane six," Twilight also becomes a great leader and works with her new friends to use the Elements of Harmony to defeat evil. That is how she earns her crown and wings. Arkayna from Mysticons also has to learn to become friends with Zarya and Piper despite their many differences before she can lead them. These princesses teach girls that they can enhance their leadership skills through acts of kindness and trust and that these traits are not synonymous with passivity. Though the older more passive princesses of the past share these traits, we see from these inspiring leaders that it does not make them weak or incapable.

Disney started out late in the game when it comes to princesses demonstrating leadership abilities. Mulan came out in 1998, but she is not technically a princess even though she is a Disney Princess. What makes her so popular is that she leads the remainder of Shang's army in the final battle against Shan Yu and wins. This feat does not come easily to her. She must regain the army's trust after lying to them about being a man. Mulan shows us that a leader must remain true to who she is if she wants people to follow her. Moana, whose movie came out just last year, is closer to being a true princess than Mulan as the daughter of the chief. This demonstrates just how recently Disney began to see princesses as leaders. Moana also comes the closest to demonstrating her future responsibilities as queen by leading all of her people back to the sea instead of just an army or small group of magical girls.

Disney also demonstrates princess leadership abilities with Elena of Avalor, who leads the royal council as crown princess. I think Elena is more of a diplomat than a leader, though. She is practicing for her future position as queen by working with neighboring kingdoms to make trade deals and peace treaties, but her leadership skills are rather lacking. Elena often demonstrates favoritism by giving Naomi important jobs on the council in spite of her lack of experience because she feels closer to her due to being the same age. When it comes to ruling the kingdom of Avalor, she does successfully demonstrate the importance of earning trust and friendship. However, Elena is not the fearless warrior that the show's opening makes her out to be.

As future queens, princesses have the potential to be benevolent leaders and overthrow wicked monarchs. They show girls that being a great leader starts with being a great friend and that the classic princess traits of love and kindness do not have to mean remaining passive or waiting to be rescued. If you enjoy stories about princess leaders, check out the first book I've written, Elf Princess Roweena, about a princess who defies her father by going on a quest to save her kingdom from the wicked gremlins who are destroying the land.


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