Guardian Princess Music Video Launched

UCR alumni and professor produce a girls’ empowerment rap

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A Guardian Princess is more than just a dress
She’s not self-obsessed or a damsel in distress
She is brave and kind, she uses her mind
A noble leader who is one of a kind

The princess culture is pervasive in American society, with its emphasis on beauty over character. Countering that image is the Guardian Princess Alliance, an educational media organization founded by Setsu Shigematsu, associate professor of media and cultural studies at UC Riverside.

The Guardian Princesses are the diverse superheroines of a rapidly growing series of children’s books. Shigematsu wrote the first Guardian Princess story as a birthday gift for her daughter’s 5th birthday. Princess Terra, who protects her people and land from a greedy invader, was so popular with the children and parents who attended the party that the scholar began working with other parents, UCR students and alumni to transform the traditional representation of princesses into superheroines who are agents of social justice.

Recently, the Guardian Princess Alliance expanded its message to a new platform by producing a music video that features the first three princesses of their book series.

The three-and-a-half-minute music video, “My Heart is True,” performed in the style of rap, was written by the co-founder of the Guardian Princess Alliance, Ashanti McMillon, a 2013 UCR graduate. She wrote the second and third princess stories as well as the song lyrics in all three books. She also appears in the video as Princess Vinnea, Guardian of Plant Life. McMillon, a substitute teacher in Fallbrook elementary schools, says that the Guardian Princess stories present an alternative to a pervasive princess culture.

“Our Guardian Princesses are not damsels in distress. Our stories move away from the typical emphasis on external beauty and emphasize inner beauty and character,” she said. “These princesses are superheroes and my students, including girls and boys, respond enthusiastically to the stories. The music video puts a positive spin on rap for kids, with an empowering message especially for girls.”

Al Dupont, a 2014 UCR alumnus and a freelance videographer, filmed and edited the music video. Dupont, who serves in the Air Force National Guard, got involved with the Guardian Princesses project while a UCR student.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I have cousins and nieces who are starting school. I was surprised that there aren’t princess role models aside from the Disney characters. We need more positive role models for everyone. Boys and girls can be on equal playing fields and can interact without saying, ‘I’m supposed to do this and you’re supposed to do that.’ We can switch roles.”

Dupont said he also supports the social justice and environmental messages of the Guardian Princess stories. “There is a constant, ongoing battle in the world in general over caring for the environment,” he said. “This is a good introduction.”

Princes Ten Ten

Ten Ten is the newest character in the Guardian Princess series.

The newest character in the Guardian Princess lineup, Princess TenTen, is the first gender-independent, East Asian super-heroine, Shigematsu said. She helps fight terrible air pollution in her city.

“Princess Ten Ten defies the norms of her culture: she won’t wear dresses, has messy short hair, and practices a martial art that has traditionally been exclusively for boys,” Shigematsu explained. “As a child she is bullied because she is ‘different.’ But she perseveres. Her story teaches readers about East Asian cultures, how to overcome bullying, and about the impact of air pollution.”

The Guardian Princess Alliance is committed to educating and empowering children to make a difference in the world, she said. UC Riverside alumni figure prominently among its members, who include a diverse group of parents, educators, students, artists and professionals.

The Guardian Princess books support the new Common Core State Standards for Language Arts, and include glossaries of scientific terms defined in child-friendly terms. The latest music video release represents the expansion of the Guardian Princess Alliance to multi-media platforms with positive uplifting messages through stories and songs, Shigematsu said.

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Setsu Shigematsu

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