Last week, I celebrated International Women’s Day with a post about six female characters I love and admire as positive role models for girls. While compiling that list, I had an overwhelming urge to include some of my favorite Disney princesses, but since the post was becoming too long, I instead decided to feature these awesome female characters in their own list! Of course, this also turned out to be a long list on its own, so I’ll have to split it yet again! Long live the Disney princesses!

So in no particular order, here is the first part of a list of my favorite Disney princesses and how they can be some of the best role models for young girls. Enjoy, and again, Happy Women’s History Month!

1) Fa Mulan (Mulan)

The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter. – Fa Zhou to Mulan

Ask me who my favorite Disney princess is and I’ll answer without hesitation: Mulan. Okay, technically she’s not a princess (even if she is in the Royal Court), but she’s still one of my favorite Disney heroines ever. From the beginning of her story, Mulan breaks the mold of her highly traditional culture by proving herself different from other young women and bravely taking on the guise of a man in the Emperor’s army. Though she isn’t the strongest or most skilled fighter, she is clever and resourceful enough to scrape through otherwise hopeless situations. Her selfless heart leads her to constantly rescue the people around her: her father, her captain, her army, and even the Emperor himself. Even when she loses her honor and respect simply for being a woman, Mulan gets back up and keeps fighting, continuing to use her intelligence and resourcefulness against the villain until she saves all of China. And she does it all by being herself. Strong in mind, heart, and spirit, Disney’s beloved warrior princess serves as a shining example of some of the best lessons for young girls: never let anyone make you believe you aren’t valuable, women are just as capable as men of saving the day, brains are more important than brawn, and you can be a hero just by being you. In her quirky, badass, and beautifully feminine way, Mulan certainly brings honor to us all!

2) Moana Waialiki (Moana)

I am Moana of Motunui. You will board my boat, sail across the sea, and restore the heart of Te Fiti! – Moana to Maui

My boyfriend and I watched Moana in theaters last December, and I admit I couldn’t stop smiling over how awesome this girl was throughout the entire movie. From learning how to lead her people to embarking on an epic journey to save the entire ocean, Moana is an action girl from start to finish, hardly stopping for one minute until her voyage is complete. Even in moments of doubt and fear, she summons the courage to keep going because she knows in her heart that her quest is about far more than herself. The best part is that she never gets a romantic interest; her relationship with Maui is purely mentor–protégé, and the only love driving her story is her unconditional love for her family and her people. With a brave spirit and a kind heart, Moana is a true heroine and the princess role model that girls today deserve!

3) Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)

The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work. – Tiana

As a longtime lover of Disney’s classic 2D animation, I had high expectations when The Princess and the Frog came out in 2009. I wasn’t disappointed, thanks especially to how much I admired the newest princess in the lineup. Tiana is ambitious, focused, and easily one of the most hard-working characters in Disney’s entire canon. Determined to run her own restaurant since she was a little girl, this goal-oriented woman lives up to her beloved father’s example and does whatever it takes to make her lifelong dream come true, always striving for success by her own means. What really drives the message of dedication and independence home is seeing how she finally accomplishes that goal: even when she snags the wealthy prince (or rather, wealthy in-laws) at the end of the story, she still buys her restaurant with her own hard-earned money and runs a successful business her way, inspiring him to live up to her standards! Turns out Tiana isn’t just a good role model for girls; she’s a great role model for everyone!

4) Merida of DunBroch (Brave)

There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own. But I know better. Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it. – Merida

I admire Disney princesses, I love Pixar movies, and I’m fascinated by archery. So to finally see all three rolled into one with the release of the 2012 film Brave was practically a dream come true for me. Princess Merida of DunBroch is a courageous and fiercely independent young woman – so independent, in fact, that she repeatedly clashes with her mother when it comes to “proper princess behavior”, especially on the issue of marriage. Headstrong and determined by nature, this sharp-shooting princess repeatedly proves she’s willing to do whatever it takes to change her fate, and ends up learning much about herself and her mother on the way. Whether it’s the bravery she shows in her prowess with weapons, the tenacity she shows by taking control of her life, or the intelligence she shows by finally learning from her mistakes, Merida has several positive qualities and a realistic personality that many young women can relate to. Besides, what little girl wouldn’t admire a princess who can shoot an arrow through another arrow?

5) Queen Elsa of Arendelle (Frozen)

Here I stand in the light of day! Let the storm rage on! The cold never bothered me anyway. – Queen Elsa singing Let It Go

And there’s your earworm for the day. Yes, I remember how ridiculously popular Frozen became shortly after its release. Who among us hasn’t heard Let It Go at least a hundred times, right? Though much of the film’s commercial success can easily be attributed to its soundtrack, it has also been praised for introducing a princess—excuse me, queen—who doesn’t get a romantic interest throughout her movie (while her sister, to compensate, gets two). Elsa is clearly independent and selfless, willingly condemning herself to a life of solitude in order to protect her people, yet her struggles with anxiety and fear also make her a well-rounded character to which many young women can easily relate. Her relationship with her sister, however strained for much of the film, is also a model of family love: Elsa distances herself to protect Anna, while Anna goes to astounding lengths to help Elsa. To any girl with siblings, this beloved ice queen and her clumsy yet lovable princess sister teach the valuable lesson of what true love really means!

Who are your favorite Disney princesses? What other Disney leading ladies would you add to this list?

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