By Katie McFadden
A local little girl can now call herself a real Disney Princess. Arverne resident Chloe Ali served as part of the inspiration behind a new line of reimagined Disney Princess dolls released just in time for Black History Month.
On a regular day, Chloe Ali is a fifth grader at Peninsula Prep Charter School who works extra hard to excel at those tough subjects like math to make the honor roll, plays the trumpet for the school’s music program and even does some theater work. But in between getting those good grades, you can often find Chloe in front of a camera, as a model and actress. Since she was four years old, the now 10-year-old has been a star of some big advertising campaigns. From print ads and posters for companies like Target, Gap, Nike, New Balance, Macy’s, Steve Madden and regularly for The Children’s Place, chances are you’ve seen Chloe’s beautiful face somewhere while shopping or browsing through circulars. Maybe you’ve even seen her on TV or in an online commercial for brands like Nike Jordans, NBC news, Claire’s and even a commercial for peanut-allergy medication, Palforzia. At just 10, it’s clear Chloe has an impressive modeling and acting portfolio.
But this week, she made her debut as something many 10-year-old girls may dream of being—a Disney princess. Since she was about six, Ali had started doing shoots for professional photography couple, Regis and Kahran of CreativeSoul Photography. CreativeSoul has also built an impressive portfolio, with much of their work focusing on children of color, and being featured on the Steve Harvey Show, Teen Vogue, Glamour magazine, the BBC and more. As a regular, CreativeSoul had Chloe in mind when they wanted to do a special project about two or three years ago.
With an idea for reimagined Disney princesses in mind, the couple set up a photoshoot in their studio in Atlanta, with four young girls of color modeling as their vision of Cinderella, Snow White, Princess Tiana and Rapunzel. “They wanted to show children that look like us that they can be princesses too,” Chloe’s mom, Sheba Ali, said. Using custom African fabrics and jewelry and highlighting their naturally textured hair, the girls would be transformed into classic Disney princesses seen in a new light. And when it came to their favorite princess, Cinderella, they knew just the girl for the job.
Chloe and her mom flew down to Atlanta for the fun photoshoot. They dressed her in an African-inspired Cinderella dress and spent an hour alone on her hair to get the look just right. “It was very fun,” Chloe Ali said. “I had that poofy dress and the hair and when they shined the light on me, I felt like I was on stage or something.” At the time, there were whispers of the fun photoshoot perhaps leading to a Hasbro doll, but the Alis didn’t know just how far it would go.
As CreativeSoul’s beautiful photos of their reimagined Disney princesses made the rounds, Disney themselves got word of it and decided to take it further, using the photos to create their own line of dolls as part of a CreativeSoul special edition series. On February 3, that line of dolls was officially launched at Epcot’s International Festival of Arts. Chloe and her mom were flown down to Orlando, FL for the event, where they got to first see the doll that was made in Chloe’s likeness from the CreativeSoul photoshoot a few years prior.
Not only did Chloe and Sheba get to see the doll that nailed every little detail of Chloe’s Cinderella look, they were surprised to find that Chloe’s real photos are featured on the doll’s packaging. The launch event also featured the outfits the girls wore during the photoshoot on mannequins. CreativeSoul was on hand to do doll signings and the girls got to meet some of Disney’s top executives. “I felt very proud of myself,” Chloe said about seeing her doll. “It made me feel really happy. My dad always calls me his little princess and now I actually am a princess.”
Chloe’s mom was impressed with the attention to detail of the doll made based on her daughter. “I’m still shocked. I didn’t expect it to look like this, with every aspect of the attire she had on during the shoot, down to the baby hairs on her head. Everything she had on that day is on the doll,” Sheba Ali said. “She’s been on toy boxes before but never like this. This is special. You would never expect someone that looks like us to be a Disney princess,” Sheba Ali said. “Rockaway has a princess now.”
Back home, Chloe’s teachers, bus staff and classmates at PPA are thrilled to personally know a Disney princess. While Chloe remains ever humble, those around her have been celebrating this unique opportunity. “Today one of my teachers and the woman who walks us to the bus said they were gonna get the doll and have me sign it,” Chloe Ali said. This came after one of Chloe’s teachers asked her mom if they could share the news. “Yesterday my teacher put the pictures on a TV and showed everyone and everyone was really happy for me. Maybe five or six of my friends said they’re gonna buy my doll,” Chloe Ali said.
Since February 3, everyone who visits a Disney Park can find the CreativeSoul dolls in stores, and the dolls are available for purchase online at: ShopDisney.com/CreativeSoul
In the meantime, while relishing in her newfound royalty, Chloe is focusing on what’s next, including a post-Valentine’s Day photoshoot for Target and a New Balance campaign for their spring and summer line, with some of the photos already popping up at DSW shoe stores. As far as the future goes, Ali has big dreams. “I hope I get very famous and do a fashion show. I want to be a fashion designer so I can make clothes for other models and model as well,” she said. Also, finding inspiration through another Far Rockaway native, “How to Get Away with Murder” actress Amirah Vann, Ali says she hopes to have her own TV show one day.
But for now, she’s most focused on smaller roles. As part of Black History Month, Chloe will be playing Dorothy in a school production of “The Wiz” and will be playing trumpet at an upcoming concert. And she’ll continue to focus on what’s important—spending time with family and doing well in school. “I love math and I love playing with my siblings,” she said.
For updates on Chloe’s work, follow her on Instagram at: chloe_ali.j