Princess Tiana Isn’t a Magic Band-Aid: An Interview with Lisa Price, Founder of Carol’s Daughter

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

My best friend Timolin tipped me to Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, visiting the flagship store in Harlem.  I had to meet the woman who’s designed a special natural body product line for—and the only product tie-in to–Disney’s Princess and the Frog.*  Not McDonald’s (or any other fast-food chain, who are the usual companies hawking movie-related stuff to children), not Coca-Cola or any other junk-food company.  No clothing tie-ins (like Old Navy or Gap) or other stores.

What I thought was going to be a two-minute interview turned into twenty minutes of talking about the movie—and Precious.  And Color Purple.  And Chris Rock.  And magic band-aids.

Andrea Plaid: How did you get involved with Princess and the Frog?

Lisa Price: The opportunity presented itself for us to present our company to Disney as a potential partner with this film, with making products associated with the film.  And it was one of those situations where it was great to have the meeting and it was great to be in the room.  If something comes of it, great, but, wow, wasn’t it a great step to at least have the meeting.

My marketing team left the meeting with a deal in place.  Not all the details worked out, but [they had] an agreement to move forward.  It was amazing to have that opportunity and to be affiliated with something as the first African American princess.  It’s wonderful.

AP: Yes.

LP: To have the opportunity to make products that Mom doesn’t have to worry about, that perform …

…there are so many levels as to why I’m excited to be a part of this project:  the history of it, collaborating with a company like Disney, getting to make products for kids that are great that have a really nice fragrance.  I have a three-year-old daughter:  she tested everything, so she had a lot of fun.

AP: As it should be.  My follow-up question is, you thought you were pitching to Disney but, from what I heard, Disney only wanted you to be a tie-in for the movie.

LP:  I don’t know that they necessarily felt that [we] were the only brand to do it.  I don’t know they felt that way.  But I do know they were excited to meet with us, they knew our story, they feel it was some synergy between Tiana’s story and my story, and they felt it was a good fit.  But I won’t go so far as to say they thought we were the only one.  That would be nice, but I’m sure there were some other contenders.  It’s something that, when I first heard it, [I was] so excited but [I had to say to myself] “I can’t get too excited because this is a real long-shot and I’ll be really disappointed.  But I’m going to be positive, and we’ll see what happens.”  And when positive turned into “yes”—

AP: What could you say?

Would you mind giving me a small synopsis of your story and why Disney felt it very close to Tiana’s….

LP: Tiana is—

AP: –without ruining the plot because we’re going to see it.

LP: I haven’t seen the whole movie.  I’ve only seen snippets.  She is not a typical Disney princess: she’s not waiting for Prince Charming; she’s not waiting for someone to fix her problems for her.  She’s very pro-active, and she goes out and works hard to achieve her dream.  So, she sets a goal then works towards the goal.  Her father taught her how to cook.  He’s a chef, and she wants to take his recipes and have a restaurant of her own.

My father wasn’t a chef.  But I learned how to make products in the kitchen and learned how to cook from my grandmother and my mother.  I took their traditions and their way of cooking and incorporated [them] into the body-care products.  And family is very important to me.  My parents divorced but I was raised by both of my parents and my grandparents, aunts, and uncles.  And family is a very important plotline in Princess and the Frog.  [As well as] believing in yourself, dreaming big, working hard, and pursuing your passion with hard work, and having faith that what you put into it you’ll get back.

Those were some of the similarities [Disney] saw and we saw as well.

AP: Now Disney {creating] the first African American princess—I’ve heard a criticism: the movie, even though it visually has a Black princess, didn’t deal with the idea of race.  What are your feelings about that?

LP: I’m not sure how it deals with it.  It probably doesn’t; no Disney film does, which doesn’t surprise me.  Disney movies are more about the story, the message in the story, and how children relate to the story.  I look at it as (and again, I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know for certain) if it’s not denigrating us, as some old[er] cartoons have in the past—

AP: Oh yes—

LP: –then I’m OK with it not necessarily addressing race because I can’t think of a Disney film that did.  If you look at the Lion King…some comedian made a joke about it:  “The first time we have Black voices [and] everyone’s a lion or hippo or something.”  Kids focus on the story, and they focus on the message.  I remember my son was about one and a half, and he watched Lion King incessantly.  It was the soundtrack to his life.  All he knows is Mufasa and Simba and Nala.  He doesn’t see people; he just gets the story.  I think that’s been Disney’s way all along.

But for the princesses to have never been African American before, the void for the child watching [is not] recognize[ing] herself in them.  Now, they can.  So, it says it without saying it.

A friend of mine found the Princess Tiana costume for her daughter for Halloween. She said the best part of the costume is that Princess Tiana’s hair is up in a ponytail, whereas princesses always have their hair down and flowy.  And her daughter’s hair doesn’t do down-and-flowy.  So, if she ever dressed up as another princess before, they always had to have The Hair Conversation: “I want my hair to look like Jasmine’s or I want it to look like Belle’s.”  And she couldn’t make her hair look like that.  So this is the first time [the mom and the daughter] didn’t have to argue about the hair because she could do the ponytail.  So [again, Disney] didn’t address it that way, but somebody did their research to know to make a ponytail.

AP: [Timolin and I] were talking about [your tie-in], and we were saying the usual suspects who do tie-ins with Disney—McDonalds and other fast-food franchises—are not with this, at least we haven’t noticed it. And Carol’s Daughter is.  We found that fascinating.


LP: It’s us and Disney Store so far, [selling] t-shirts, bags, and dolls.  There’s a Barbie [that’s] very pretty. Anika Noni Rose was on Jimmy Kimmel last night, and he had the Barbie doll.

AP: Awwwww. Nice.

LP: And [Anika] is great.  And I’m going to do Mo’Nique next week, and [Anika] is supposed to be there.  I’m really looking forward to meeting her.

AP: Have you seen Precious?

LP: (quietly) Yeah.

AP:  Your look says everything.

LP: It was deep.  It’s not the kind of movie that you say, “Oh, I can’t wait to see that again.  It was so good.”  Because it takes so much out of you.  But it’s amazing.

It’s like Color Purple when it came out.  People felt like it was such a bad thing for us because [it’s] making Black men look so bad.  Now Color Purple is one of those films everyone has seen; we can all recite the dialogue.

AP: It’s canon.

LP: It becomes part of your conversation. [For example] in my house, when I [return] from business trips, and I have [folks to] pick up their socks or hang up their coats, [the kids] say, “Okay, Mom.” And I say, “That’s right! Sophia’s home now!”

(Laughter)

My boys don’t even know what that means.  But it’s so much a part of [us].  So I think we can get past [the feelings around Precious], and we’ll get past that the more we get to tell stories…

AP: Like Princess and the Frog.

LP: Right.  Even Princess and the Frog is probably not perfect—there are probably details that they missed or you can find a criticism with it—but it’s the only one we got!  It can’t be the magic band-aid.

People criticize my brand: “oh, you should do this, you should do that.”  But I can’t be everything to every African American person.  I can’t be the magic beauty brand that solves everything.  Revlon doesn’t have to be. MAC doesn’t have to be.  [Esteé] Lauder doesn’t have to be. L’Oréal doesn’t have to be. They all exist.  So, there’ll be a Carol’s Daughter and there’ll be something else.  We’ll all have our own spin, and we’ll all co-exist.

Chris Rock did that HBO special, Black Voices, [where] he said, “I want to have the opportunity to fail and come back.”

AP: I like that.

LP: Because [Black people] have to be perfect with everything that we do.  He said white people don’t have to be: they can make a horrible film and come back.  Rock said that’s what he wanted for African Americans: to fuck up really bad and come back. And I was like, “Yeah!”

So, that’s going to take time.

*In full disclosure, I’m a big fan Carol’s Daughter product and have been long before I met Ms. Price.  Dare I say it?  I swear by them.

(Image Credits: Timolin and Carol’s Daughter)