On Feb. 8, 14 Disneybounders stole the spotlight from everyone, including Mickey Mouse himself, when they went as a group to the SoCal theme parks, dressed as Disney princesses in stunning, traditional African prints.
Not only did the “African PRINTcess” project attract a lot of attention from parkgoers and cast members, the dazzling group bound was featured in a variety of online outlets, blogs, and magazines.
It took many Disneybounders and influencers to put the African PRINTcess project together, but it was YouTube vlogger Audrey Lee Young who dreamed up the original idea. After being part of several memorable group bounds — including the Muses from Hercules and different variations on Princess Tiana — Audrey realized her tight-knit community of bounders had actually run out of black, female Disney characters to portray.
In 2017, she asked her sister, Clarrisa, to draw up some African print designs, but it wasn’t until three years later that her idea to put a diverse twist on animated Disney royalty became a reality. As you can tell from the photos below, the results were epic.
It’s hard to believe Audrey wasn’t obsessed with Disney until about five years ago when she bought an Annual Pass for the Anaheim parks. A professional singer, she adapted her existing YouTube channel into one specializing in fun, upbeat Disney content, including “character hunts,” trivia challenges, and a recurring segment titled “Singing at Disneyland.”
Audrey’s mission as a bounder and vlogger is to bring some much-needed positivity to the Internet. Her goal is to grow her YouTube channel. Her dream is to someday sing in a show at Disneyland.
This future Disney star was kind enough to chat with me about how the African PRINTcess project came together, her love of being “in the magic” at the Disney parks, and her participation in the March Disneybound challenge, a welcome source of cheer over the last month of grimness due to the developing coronavirus pandemic.
You’re a YouTuber and Disneybounder known for your videos featuring Disney content and the amazing group Disneybounds you’ve participated in and organized. I read that you grew up with Disney movies and characters but only got serious about the fandom about five years ago. Tell me about the evolution of your Disney obsession.
My Disney obsession really grew as I began attending the parks on a regular basis. I became an Annual Passholder shortly after discovering Disneybounding. The combination of those two things made my love of all things Disney grow.
You started your YouTube channel as a singing channel, but later switched to Disney content. What prompted that?
When I began doing YouTube and started putting out singing videos, I would feel very self-conscious about them. Putting something out there that could be judged made me nervous. I would re-record myself over and over again, never feeling like it was good enough and then still hate the finished product.
It’s strange because in front of a live audience I don’t get nervous at all. I live for an audience. Haha. I turned to Disney vlogs because I was there anyway and thought it might be fun. I fell in love with it right away.
What’s your background when it comes to singing?
I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. Even as a very young child, I would love all of the attention to be on me. I’m just a natural born performer. I didn’t start singing professionally until the military.
Your videos and vlogs showcase characters from the parks and “character hunts,” trivia challenges, singing at Disneyland, and other fun features. Where do you get the ideas and inspiration for your content?
I am always trying to come up with fun content for my channel. I just think of things that I think would be fun for me to watch and figure others might like it as well.
You don’t seem shy about interacting with characters or cast members or getting silly at the parks.
No, I love it. When I’m at the parks, I just love to be in the magic. It’s an escape from the real world and I get to be a big kid and have fun. In my opinion, I think it’s strange when people CAN’T be silly and let loose.
Your channel has more than 6,000 subscribers. Did you expect it to be such a success?
I always hoped my channel would be big and I still do. 6,000 is still relatively small when it comes to the platform (although I can acknowledge that it’s not small to some). I have a long way to go. To answer your question, no I didn’t expect it. It’s taken me over four years to even get that many. My goal is to reach 10,000 by the end of 2020.
What was your introduction to Disneybounding? Do you remember your first-ever Disneybound?
I always try to remember where I first saw it and I believe it was on Pinterest. I saw a few pictures and thought it might be fun to try on a family visit to the park (before I was an Annual Passholder). My first Disneybound was in 2014 and it was the Genie from Aladdin and it wasn’t very good.
You seem to Disneybound and/or participate in Disneybound challenges on an almost daily basis. What do you enjoy about it?
I only Disneybound daily in the month of March. The community, led by creator Leslie Kay, does this challenge every year in the month of March just to get through the last stretch of winter and to encourage and support one another. This year it really became many people’s only source of hope and joy. I enjoy Disneybounding because it’s a great way for creative outlet. It’s fun putting together cute outfits inspired by characters that we love.
About four years ago, you were asked to join a group bound at Disneyland, using the hashtag #blackgirlmagic. Tell me more about #blackgirlmagic and how that social media movement came to be.
#Blackgirlmagic was certainly not created by us/me. That is a movement that started in 2013 long before I met anyone in the Disney community. It actually has nothing to do with Disney or Disneybounding. If you want more info on that, there is plenty on the internet.
Now, we did use that hashtag in many of our pictures because it is a common hashtag used by many black women all over the world. The hashtags that we came up with are #disneymilaje, #africanprintcess, #wearetiana.
The one that we use in all of the group bounds featuring black women is #disneymilaje. It is a combination of being Disney fans and a play on the Dora Milaje, which are all the female warriors in the movie Black Panther. The hashtag was coined by my friend, Erika Kurzawa (@erikaenchanted), as a way to keep all of our ideas/pictures in one place on Instagram.
Your most recent group bound was a stunning project called African PRINTcess. It featured 14 women dressed as Disney princesses in traditional African prints and fabrics. I understand you’d been wanting to organize this since 2017. Where did the idea come from?
The idea for African PRINTcess came on the heels of another group bound we had just completed. In 2017, five of us got together to dress as Tiana in a few of her many different outfits in the movie The Princess and the Frog. This came one year after our first group Disneybound as the Muses from Hercules.
Tiffany Sutton (@followtheyellowbrickgirl) was the first one in the community to gather a group of black women for the Muses project. I wanted to do African Printcess because we had literally done all the black female Disney characters in only two projects. (This was before Black Panther was released.) I said, “Let’s make the Disney girls black.”
Tell me about the behind-the-scenes efforts and coordination that went into creating this epic bound.
The first step in the project was inspiration. I had my sister Clarrisa (@savesoulclothing) draw up some designs of women in African print attire. Then I colored the designs in as different Disney Princesses. This was still 2017, so after that the designs and the idea just sat for almost three years. I talked about doing it several times but could never really get it going.
In 2019, we ended up doing the Dora Milaje looks to celebrate the first anniversary of Black Panther, so the idea sat even longer. Throughout all this time, we were all meeting more and more people in the Disney online community, so by the time I was ready to revisit the African PRINTcess project, there were many more black women to recruit than our original five.
On Feb. 8, you and your fellow bounders took the African PRINTcess project to Disneyland. (You bounded as Ariel.) What was that day like? How did people react to your group bound?
What a day we had. The moment we walked into the parks (actually, even in line at the gate), we started receiving compliments. Many of the other guests were staring and asking us for photos. I’m sure were quite a sight and not something you’d see every day in the parks. Even the characters gave us special attention.
Photographer Madeline Barr captured your looks during this outing. The resulting photos are amazing! What was it like participating in those shoots?
Maddie (@madelinebarrphoto) is amazing. I had worked with her once before on another group project (soon to be released in book form by Disney) and I loved everything about her. She is not only an amazing photographer but a great hype women. She has a way of making you feel so beautiful while snapping your pictures.
The African PRINTcess project created a lot of buzz and has been featured by a variety of online outlets and blogs, including PopSugar, MSN.com, insidethemagic.net and Freeform. This project was about more than just fun. It was about representation. Was it gratifying to receive such an enthusiastic response? I know from past interviews that Disney influencers of color often struggle for representation within the fandom. Do you feel like this is changing at all?
I was actually shocked to get the response I did. I knew the project was going to be beautiful but I wasn’t sure that many people would take notice. The Disney community, for sure, would like it and I expected that. But it has really made the rounds. It is gratifying and humbling to have my project receive so much praise. The women I was privileged to spend the day with and be photographed with are all so beautiful. They are strong, confident, talented and just amazing.
Sometimes we don’t get to see ourselves on the big screen, sometimes we don’t even see ourselves represented in the Disney community. Whether it’s Disneybounding, cosplay, models for certain brands, seeing someone that looks like us is rare. Oh, things are certainly better than when I was a little girl, but we have more room to grow. I am so happy that this project made us be seen. In all our magical majesty.
You’ve done other memorable group bounds, including the Muses from Hercules, different variations on Tiana, the Dora Milaje from Black Panther, and Suit and Tie Princesses. What do you enjoy about group bounding?
Group bounds are so epic. There’s something so satisfying about coordinating with others and then coming together to show off your outfits. Group bounds certainly get more notice and attention and, boy, do I love attention. Haha.
Your Instagram and YouTube content looks like so much fun, but how much work we don’t see goes into maintaining these platforms?
I put a lot of work into YouTube and I don’t always get the reward from it. But at the end of the daym I still love it. It’s a great way for me to create and enjoy my time at Disneyland. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, I mean I wouldn’t mind if it paid the bills. As far as Instagram goes, it’s mostly just for fun. I started it to help support my YouTube channel.
Do you have any favorite fandoms besides Disney?
Not really. I’m obsessed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and can’t wait for the new Avengers Campus this summer.
How much time would you say you spend at Disneyland?
I go about three times a month for around five hours at a time.
Let’s talk about some of your Disney faves:
Enchanted/Pride and Prejudice.
Favorite Disney song?
I See the Light/Show Yourself.
Favorite Disney parks attraction?
Big Thunder Mountain.
Favorite photo spot?
Have you been to any of the parks outside Southern California?
Walt Disney World in 2018 (I was in a Disneybounder parade).
Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, “I don’t feel like going to Disneyland today?”
Rarely, but yes, it’s happened. More often, I’ll wake up and think, “I think I’ll go to Disneyland today.” It’s nice to have the option of spontaneity.
Would you mind offering a few tips for creating the perfect Disneybound?
Start with what you’ve got. Sometimes you might have a few characters already in your closet.
Thrifting is a great way to get colorful pieces that are otherwise hard to find.
Find inspiration on Instagram. The community has grown so much lately that you can find lots of ideas from other bounders.
Have fun. If you ever get too stressed about Disneybounding, you’re doing it wrong. The point is to have a good time and do it your way. It’s not about being perfect or competitive.
Can you give us any hints about future group bounds you may be involved in?
Honestly, there aren’t any in the pipeline right now.
What are your future goals, hopes, and dreams for your career as a Disney content creator?
One of my biggest goals as a content creator is for people to see my positive energy. I don’t do negative on my YouTube channel and I try to stay upbeat and optimistic. There’s enough negativity on the internet and I want my little corner to be a place for smiles. I want people to feel happier when they watch one of my videos or see one of my pictures.
What’s left on your Disney bucket list?
Well, it would be an absolute dream come true to sing/perform in one of the shows at Disneyland. I also want to visit every Disney park someday. Especially Shanghai and Tokyo. I also would love to go on a Disney cruise.
Cover photo by Madeline Barr.