When Katie Ann was a little girl, all she wanted was to be a princess. She had big dreams of growing up, moving to Disney World, and becoming any one of the famed Disney princesses. Jasmine was her favorite, but she gladly would have been Cinderella or Snow White. For her, it was all about the makeup and the dresses. In her mind, being a Disney princess was the only way to guarantee that she could spend the rest of her life wearing fancy gowns and heavy makeup while making people happy. Thankfully, she grew out of that phase and is looking at more sustainable career choices. But who can blame her? I think almost every little girl goes through a princess phase of some sort. Luckily for my generation, we had two princesses to emulate who weren’t as superficial as the Disney variety.
There were two princesses in my life, two very different women, who taught me all I needed to know about what kind of princess I could be. One of them was real, a true royal, whose insecurities and endearing flaws made her loved by people in all nations, the world over. The other, a fictional princess, was brash, bold, and fearless. She could hold her own in a duel while wearing nothing but chains and a bikini. Both women defined the word “princess” for a whole generation, and both were lost to us at much too young an age.
At the age of seven, I sat in a movie theater for two hours, unable to breathe. A twenty-year-old Carrie Fisher portrayed a princess the likes of which the world had never seen. She was pretty (in spite of the doughnut hairstyle), witty, clever, and brave. Her aim with a lightsaber was dead-on, and it was her quick thinking and her bold ideas that led to the defeat of the Empire. She was a force to be reckoned with. She was the brains behind the rebellion, the one who never took no for an answer, the one who refused to let her circumstances dictate her attitude or her survival. Much like Princess Leia, Fisher fought her own battles but never let them get her down. She struggled, in those early years of fame, with substance abuse; but she overcame her addictions and became a spokesperson for overcoming such demons. She then let the world know about her battle with depression and bi-polar disorder while continuing to act, direct, produce, and become a best-selling author and screenwriter. She was an advocate for mental health while fighting an enemy as dark and fierce as Darth Vader. Judging by her success and how she was thought of by her peers, she was worthy of a medal around her neck in an intergalactic celebration. Sixty was much too soon for her to give up her crown.
I will never forget being snuggled up on the couch in the wee hours of the morning, at the age of eleven, to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. For years, we all watched her go through a torturous marriage and a devastating divorce. We witnessed her as she grew from a shy, unprepared-for-the-world pre-school teacher to an intelligent, revered advocate for human rights. She was the epitome of grace and charm and held her head up high whether she was representing the Crown or walking through a minefield. Perhaps she, too, had been a fan of Princess Leia. When she died at the age of thirty-six, she had proven to the world that she was strong, brave, outspoken, and willing to go far outside of her comfort zone in order to help those in need.
I know that Disney has started giving its princesses more personality and more admirable character traits than the ability to sew a ballgown or clean up after seven messy dwarves, but I don’t think they’ve come as far as they should have by now. Don’t get me wrong, being able to sew a ballgown is a huge accomplishment! The girls who attend the summer camp that I run can’t get enough of sewing, but they also revel in zip lining, wall climbing, and learning survival skills. It makes me wonder what we are teaching our girls today. Is there anyone out there to whom they can look as a role model who exudes charm, grace, and proper etiquette, but can shoot a hole in a garbage compartment door with a blaster and convince the rest of her party to take the plunge into the unknown realm of a trash compactor?
I think I’ll take off the rest of the day and spend it with my girls in front of the TV. I’ll be sipping my tea from my Princess Diana mug while watching Princess Leia choke Jabba the Hutt with the chains that bind her. Now if that isn’t a great metaphor for the way Carrie Fisher lived her life, I don’t know what is.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.