Northwestern alumna creates new coloring book to break princess stereotypes


Source: Kickstarter

A page from Northwestern alumna Laura Winters’ new coloring book, “Her Highness Builds Robots,” depicts a princess in two varying situations. The Kickstarter-funded project aims to redefine stereotypical princesses.

Emily Chin, Reporter

Every girl wants to be a princess at some point in her life.

But in reality, no one is like a traditional Disney princess. No one falls in love because the glass slipper fits and princely kisses do not wake women from a comatose state.

Instead, girls have different passions, skills and abilities that make them more than just a princesses, which Laura Winters (Communication ‘14) has set out to prove.

To spread this message to young girls, Laura Winters and her twin sister, Beth Winters, recently created the coloring book “Her Highness Builds Robots.”

In the coloring book, one side of a page shows the princess in a stereotypical situation, but the drawing on the other side “shoots it down,” Laura Winters said.

For example, one of the pages reads “After Priya won the Prince’s love … She also won their game of chess!”

Another says, “Princess Jae may not be a princess for much longer … Her dream is to become President Jae!”

The seven modern princesses the Winters describe in the coloring book are all of different ethnicities and have different goals in life. They are each princesses but have ambitions that make them more than just pretty faces, Laura Winters said.

Winters got the idea for the coloring book during the Waa-Mu Show, which she helped write last year. During the show, she found a coloring book backstage for the first time in many years and was upset with how the princesses were portrayed.

“What’s fun for girls to color? Long hair and poofy dresses,” she said. “The entire coloring book was about marriage, waiting for the prince to come home, picking out a wedding dress. Pretty much every page just really irked me.”

Winters took the books and colored them in, but then changed the captions for some of the photos to say something more realistic. For instance, on a drawing of Princess Jasmine, Winters changed the caption from “Jasmine is a perfect princess!” to “Jasmine is a complex human.”

She posted photos of her revisions to the coloring book on Instagram and got positive responses from her friends. She then told her sister about the idea and they created a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. More than 250 people donated about $6,500 for the book to be produced.

“We have a lot of ideas that we just talk about but we don’t actually act on, so it was just a great idea,” Beth Winters said. “We had both finished college last summer and we just wanted to do it. It was the right time.”

The coloring book took seven months to complete was printed for the first time about a month ago. It has since sold more than 900 copies.

But Laura Winters said she had been thinking about the way female characters are portrayed even before she began the project. As part of the team that wrote a retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night for the Waa-Mu show last year, she focused on creating the female characters, giving her the confidence she needed to get started on the coloring book.

When writing for Waa-Mu, she avoided many cliches about girls — the same ones she was looking to dispel when putting together the coloring book.

“In so many cartoons (there) is an old, ugly girl who wants a girl dead,” Winters said. “That’s a really depressing thing to say. You can either be young and beautiful and in your prime or you can be old and ugly. That’s something that I wish they could move away from a bit.”

After she had solidified her idea with her sister, Winters reached out to artist Tyler Feder (Communication ‘11) to do the drawings for the book. Feder said much of the artwork she has done is similar to the images that Winters wanted for her project.

“Every experience that I have with a project is different,” Feder said. “This one felt so in line with who I am as a person. I’m a big Disney fan and a feminist, and it was putting everything I like in one project.”

Winters hopes through the coloring book she can make an impact on how young girls view themselves.

“I want girls to be like ‘I’m a princess but also one who designs video games,’” she said. “Being a princess in the real world … doesn’t really reflect anything about your intelligence or your skills or your charisma.”

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