Madeline Stuart is an 18-year-old rising model from Brisbane, Australia. She's got gorgeous, long red tresses, a room-brightening smile, and twinkling blue eyes. She also has Down syndrome — as well as a mission to change the pattern of discrimination against people with disabilities. Madeline — or Maddy, as she's called on her personal website — happens to be the the star of a new piece of content from BuzzFeed. She's beaming in the two-minute video, during which she is "transformed" into six different Disney princesses. And no doubt about it: Maddy looks beautiful, confident, and happy in the center of all the twirling curling irons and makeup brushes. And yet. There's something about this video that didn't sit right with me. It has nothing to do with Maddy, who is absolutely lovely and deserving of the spotlight. But I bristled at the Disney-fication of this teenage girl, who shouldn't need a transformative makeover — much less six of them — to attract our attention.
I've written at length about Disney princess memes in the past, and — spoiler alert — I'm not a fan. I watched all the movies growing up, and I appreciate the nostalgia factor. But I struggle with the lessons that these characters taught us about standards of female beauty, and I wish that the narrow ideals they promote weren't so liberally applied across the internet these days. While all of the looks the stylist team created for Maddy turned out beautifully — each and every character-inspired shot is spot-on — I still can't help but wish we were simply looking at Maddy herself, not Maddy reimagined as someone else. Playing dress-up is undeniably fun, and from the sound of things, Maddy had a pretty terrific day in front of the camera. But she didn't need a Disney princess makeover — or any kind of makeover — to be worthy of the lens. The video could have just shown us Maddy herself, and that would have been more than enough.