The bestselling ‘Princess Diaries’ author explains why princesses can be feminists. (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
“The first princess I ever wrote fan fiction about was Princess Leia,” Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot tells Yahoo Beauty. The Star Wars heroine definitely made an impression on Cabot from an early age. “What impressed me about [Princess Leia] was that she didn’t have magical powers (only in later movies did we find out she had some use of the Force), but she was helping to lead a rebel army against a massive evil empire, while also ruling a planet,” Cabot says. “ When she was captured by the Imperial forces, she never gave up the secret information they wanted, even under torture. That’s impressive, especially since she suffered from PTSD. But she tried hard not to let it interfere with her important work saving the galaxy.” Since delving deep into the world of Princess Leia, Cabot has discovered many more brave female heroines — and created her own. Her main protagonist, Mia Thermopolis (also known as Her Royal Highness Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renald), runs a community center for at-risk youth and writes op-eds about political issues.
One of the reasons Princess Diaries is so successful is that Cabot understands the power of princesses in inspiring young girls. “Little girls are the most disempowered group in the world, and they’re constantly told that they can’t do anything, but then they see these princesses, who are ruling kingdoms and calling the shots — how is that not empowering? It’s an important part of female culture.” Cabot notes that even in olden days, princesses weren’t categorically assumed to be subservient and passive — and Thermopolis clearly wants to make this distinction, too. “Being a feminist is much more than putting on a t-shirt or sending out a tweet telling the world ‘I’m a feminist,’” Cabot says. It’s why she’s created a princess who sounds and writes like any other young American woman.
The latest book in Meg Cabot’s ‘Princess Diaries’ series. (Photo: Harper Collins)
The latest addition to the Princess Diaries series, Royal Wedding, is the first adult book installment, which features Thermopolis in the process of getting married to her high school sweetheart, Michael Moscovitz who — get this — is her best friend’s older brother and a wildly successful internet entrepreneur who proposes to her on private island getaway with a conflict-free diamond ring. A few pages into the book it already could be another rom-com fairy tale. But Cabot as a storyteller doesn’t let happily-ever-afters happen too smoothly. Cabot’s inspiration for the new book was actually the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William. It made her wonder how the Duchess has handled the constant speculation. “Seeing how women are torn apart in the press, and how women in the press are constantly criticized… It’s so admirable how they have to ignore what the press says,” Cabot says. The author also drew inspiration from Princess Diana, especially for her charity work. “ I don’t think Princess Diana ever declared herself a feminist, and yet she used her influence as one of the world’s most recognizable women to educate millions on what were then considered ‘taboo’ topics like HIV and bulimia,” she says. “She was a symbol of strength to many for not only for publicly discussing her eating disorder, but for her tireless work with domestic abuse, AIDS, and land mine charities — and for refusing to tolerate the unjust way she was treated by the press.”
When creating the series Cabot also felt strongly about also creating a mentor, proving that age is an asset and something to be admired. In the series, Thermopolis’ own grandmother, Clarisse Marie Grimaldi Renaldi, the Dowager Princess of Genovia, is far from senile: she has six to eight drinks a day, smokes a ton, has liaisons with powerful men, and has strong opinions about everything. “She’s based on all the little old ladies in my life,” Cabot says. “Older ladies who are enjoying their lives, and they really don’t give a s—, and I just hope I can be that way, too.”