Anika Noni Rose: Perfection, Power & Playing Disney’s First Black Princess

anrThe Tony Award winning singer and actress Anika Noni Rose is pretty busy nowadays. She was star of  hit films like Dreamgirls and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, won a Tony on Broadway and can even be seen on the hit show, Power.

“I’m quite a perfectionist. I think I’ve over the years been able to release some of it … there are times when that really works in your favor,” she tells NPR.

After earning a Tony award for her work in the play Caroline, or Change, Rose drew critical acclaim for her portrayal of “Maggie the Cat” in the Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She was also thrilled to be the voice of Disney’s first black princess in the long-awaited animated film, The Princess and the Frog.

“I have always wanted to do a voice and it is a joy,” she says, adding that she is happy that black children will have a cartoon role model that looks like them.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing to not to have to throw the towel over your head to create some hair that matches the television screen.”

“I was a Disney kid,” she told Vanity Fair, “My first Disney film was Fantasia, which I thought was phenomenal. I just loved that world. The world of voices, and pretend.”

“I remember talking to my mother and seeing Snow White and wondering if there’d ever be ‘Chocolate Brown’ or something like that. But my parents were very good at making sure I had dolls that looked like me, and books with brown children in them, and birthday cards with brown children on them. They were very aware. When you discount a child from fantasy, it’s a very strong statement. You think, Wow, somebody made an entire movie with elves, and trees that talk, and things that fly, and there was no room for me.”

But Disney made room for her and it paid off with being critically acclaimed and one of the highest grossing princess movies in the last decade.

Now, the busy actress doesn’t let anything stop her – not even her asthma.

Rose joined the American Lung Association to share her story and speak out for those with asthma.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases among children, affecting some seven million kids in America. But it can also strike adults. Anika was one of them, and she remembers it well.

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“It was my last year in grad school. I couldn’t stop coughing, and couldn’t clear my chest. I had several courses of antibiotics, but to no avail,” Anika explained. “I had a performance where I sang a song that…