Julia Rizzo

Julia Rizzo

Disney princesses gave me unrealistic expectations about hair.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Disney movies. When I was little, I idolized Ariel. I watched "The Little Mermaid" over and over again. And to this day, I can still remember an embarrassingly large portion of the soundtrack.

While the movie taught me about taking risks, following your dreams, and the dangers of sea witches, it also taught me that teenage hair is smooth, straight, and flawless, especially underwater. Ariel’s bangs alone defy half a dozen laws of physics, and somehow I thought that was what my hair was supposed to look like. There were days when my bangs defied physics, but that generally had more to do with the humidity.

Ariel’s fellow royalty didn’t do much to alleviate my misconception; Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and Snow White all sported variations of the same perfect coif.

Disney Princesses

Even though the Disney Princesses never grew up, I did. In August of 2001, the month before I started seventh grade, "The Princess Diaries" was released in theaters. This movie deserves a spot front and center on any curly girl’s wall of shame. Anne Hathaway’s character is an unassuming high school student when she is told she is the princess of a small European country, Genovia. Her grandmother, the Queen, swoops in and gives her a makeover that will transform her from outcast to royalty.

The first change toward her new look? Going from curly to straight hair.

The generation that grew up with "Cinderella" and "The Little Mermaid" was rapidly growing out of them, so Disney provided us with a replacement; Mia Thermopolis, Princess of Genovia. At the time, I wore my hair almost exactly like Mia does in the beginning of the movie. When the film came out, some of my classmates saw her remarkable on-screen transformation and assumed I should do the same.

What they didn’t realize was that the character’s transformation didn’t come from the fact that her hair was now straight. As Mia gains confidence, poise and a sense of identity, she becomes more attractive to the viewer. I wish they would have avoided the flat iron, however, as they showed this transformation in her personality.

I’m not a princess, but I know that if I were to find out I was the heir (hair?) apparent to the throne of a small European country, I would wear my curls with as much enthusiasm as I wore my tiara.