I feel like I've had the shadow of Cinderella following me all of my life, a sort of existential Cinderella complex.
I read a meme on IG the other day that said something to the effect of:
Cinderella wasn't looking for a Prince, she just asked for a day off and a new dress.
Some clever, modern, girl boss type woman must have written this to make my day. Anyway, what speaks to me most is the concept that Cinderella was not born a princess. She worked hard, even under duress, and managed still to be kind and loving. Somewhere hidden underneath her rags and dirt was always a capable, worthy, beautiful woman who only needed to be dusted off and seen.
I reject any analysis that Cinderella was faking it, or a "social climber" even, who was concealing her class with costume and shiny trimmings. Instead, I like to think those gifts, as temporary as they might have seemed at first, were a reflection of her indisputable virtues. Sometimes the world outside needs a clue, a symbol, a sparkle before it takes notice. Most times it is difficult for people to see beyond the top layer. All of the time, an individual needs an ally, a support system, an investment.
I felt like Cinderella at the ball walking the blue carpet for the premiere of Footloose way back in 2011. Enchanted by the lights and photographers, radiant in a gold silk ensemble, beaming from the atmosphere and opportunity of a lifetime to be seen... afraid, that it would all disappear and my life as a surviving actress would resume, leaving no more than a distant memory never to be topped or repeated.
Regardless, I was on a high for several days after. Singing and dancing, and reminiscing about the amazing night I had, finally reflecting how I always felt: Golden, Radiant, Important. And in the weeks, months, years to follow, that night would become less of a distant memory... and more of a target to aim for again.
The fairytale (idealism) is that Cinderella was instantly prepared to thrive in a new reality. That from one day to another, she could transform her perception and behaviors to match the circumstantial transformation happening. In real life I like to think that Cinderella, having been rightly seen, validated and supported, still needed time to adjust. And that it didn't take too long, 10,000 hours or so, perhaps.
I didn't think I cared about the Royal Wedding...
I am a bit like Prince Harry... an iconoclast. I have never been obsessed with the monarch, nor terribly impressed with their grand gestures of opulence and influence. Why should I have been? I am an American. An African American. A woman who knows her history. The history of colonialism, imperialism, neocolonialism, and the slave trade... propagated on the content of my ancestry, in large part by the generations upon generations of the royal family over there in Buckingham Palace. Like most of us, I have felt justifiably detached and instinctually unmotivated to join the bandwagon of wde-eyed dreamers looking up at the castle. The headlines were sufficient. The Netflix show, The Crown, offered a new interest. But again, I am compelled by my DNA to give no more than polite acknowledgment of the main events and keep it moving.
When the news of Prince Harry dating the bi-racial American actress Meghan Markle began rolling in, however, my polite acknowledgment was accompanied by a raise of the eyebrows and one of those cocked head nods. Oh okay, Prince Harry. I see you. He suddenly seemed to be the realization and expansion of Princess Diana's global, humanistic perspective. He was breaking tradition in a bold and modern way, simply by courting Meghan. He defended her and his choice to be with her against the inevitable bigotry and vitriol that lines the underbelly of the west. I was becoming a fan.
I don't remember when I found out they were engaged. I don't recall ever knowing the date of the wedding until it was less than a week away. The Friday before the big event, I laughed as my hairdresser responded to a client under the dryer, "Why would I wake up at 4 a.m. to watch their wedding? They're not going to wake up to watch mine." I agreed. No extra effort would be made on my part either. I was certain I'd see the highlights the next day without even trying.
So before leaving to go bring some value to my community, I scrolled my Instagram, saw the dress, the reception dress, the tiara and the image of her pageboys and bridesmaids following her up the steps. I paused for a while on the image of her and her mom waving through the window on their way to the chapel. But all in all I was satisfied. The two of them looked radiant. I was happy for them both.
After teaching my drama workshops and absorbing all of the benefits of having been of service to the enthusiastic teens who attended, I found myself on the couch, deciding whether or not to press "Watch" under the picture of the glowing Megan and Harry on my streaming service. I had already received giddy texts form my aunt, grandmother and mother who had obviously watched. Why not. We'll have something to talk about.
3 1/2 hours later I am typing hearts and flowers on twitter for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex with stars in my eyes and a girlish grin.
It was Meghan, it was the Gospel Choir, it was Serena Williams and Oprah Winfrey, it was the cellist, Sheku Kanneh Mason. It was the passionate Bishop Curry quoting Dr. Martin Luther King that hooked me. And not just because they are American excellence, but let's just state the obvious. It was because they were black. And they were not bystanders, they were not wide-eyed dreamers. They were the story.
It was Doria Ragland. Gorgeous, proud, emotional mother of the bride, Doria. So familiar. She was my aunt, my mother, my professors from university, my mentors. She was me.
And let's just be real. The Royal Wedding was specular. I have a sense I am as feminist leaning as the Duchess herself, but what woman would deny such a grand affair for her day? None that I know personally. And as far as I am concerned, The Duchess of Sussex, like all women and especially all intersectional women, deserve to feel like a princess at least for a day.
Congratulations, Duke and Duchess! May your fairytale continue to bring the west ever closer to harmony.
enisha b jane
In my own words.