CreativeSoul Photography rocketed to viral success by taking fairytale looks from beloved Disney Princess characters and re-envisioning them as children from the African diaspora. The gorgeous series, which features young Black girls as Rapunzel, Cinderella, Tiana, and Snow White, earned accolades that garnered the attention of Disney and has now inspired a new line of dolls available on shopDisney.
io9 recently caught up with CreativeSoul Photography’s Atlanta-based team, Kahran and Regis Bethencourt, to talk about the ShopDisney collection and the inspiration behind their work.
Sabina Graves, io9: I love starting out talking about where your love for pop culture started. Was Disney one of your first fandoms? If so, which movies really inspired you growing up, and how did that inform your path as artists?
Regis Bethencourt: The Lion King was one of our favorite Disney movies that inspired us and informed our paths as artists. The film’s themes of family, identity, and coming of age resonated with us and helped shape our artistic perspectives. In terms of pop culture, we are always inspired by a variety of sources such as comic books, anime, fashion, and hip-hop music.
io9: At what point during your career journey did your art help you find your current calling?
Regis Bethencourt: I’ve always been intrigued by art and would often draw and create my own characters as a kid. Now we get to do it in a different medium using photography, but I’m still inspired by some of the same things that inspired me as a child.
Kahran Bethencourt: After college I became our family’s historian/documentarian—I became fascinated with being able to tell our family’s stories through photos. When we decided to pursue photography, I knew that I wanted to do the same for our clients.
io9: The Disney Princess photo have created a dialogue around the evolution of the Disney heroine that we’re so happy to see. I’m curious to learn more about the inspiration behind conceptualizing the series, the cultural touchstones for the mashups with the iconic Princess looks, and your reaction to the series going viral.
Kahran Bethencourt: The inspiration behind the Disney Princess photo series was to challenge traditional beauty standards and to showcase a more diverse and inclusive representation. The cultural touchstones for the mashups came from a variety of sources, including traditional and contemporary Afrocentric fashion and culture along with inspiration from the traditional Princess characters. The series’ success is fulfilling for us and indicates a growing desire for diversity and inclusiveness in media. We’ve learned the impact art has on starting conversations and driving change through firsthand experience. We appreciate the chance to play a role in this larger movement towards equity.
io9: Sharing your work has deeply impacted families and little children, to be able to see themselves. What has been your favorite part of the journey?
Regis Bethencourt: Our favorite part of the journey has been seeing the impact that the series has had on people and the meaningful conversations it has sparked. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see how the series has resonated with audiences and to receive messages from people who have been inspired by the work. Knowing that the series is making a positive difference in kids’ lives and contributing to a larger conversation about representation and inclusivity is what makes it all worthwhile.
io9: How much of the doll-making process were you involved in?
Kahran Bethencourt: We were able to give input throughout the entire process—from hair textures, to fabrics, and even accessories to make sure our vision was executed throughout the project.
io9: What are you looking forward to as these dolls roll out and will there be more photo series in this vein?
Kahran Bethencourt: We cannot wait to see people’s reactions to the dolls. I think that will be the most rewarding part of this entire experience. As for future photo series in this vein, we are always open to new creative projects and opportunities that align with our values and mission, so we are definitely open to exploring more projects in this space.
Take a look at CreativeSoul’s incredible photos, and the dolls inspired by them, in the following images!