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The NAAHP Haitian American Leadership Award Scholarship application is open through April 26  Apply Now

Milania Maurice

Health Sciences Student, Howard University

Growing up, I used to always play dress-up. Playing dress-up was my escape as an only child and was a time where I would express myself. For me, it was more than just physically wearing a sparkly dress, chunky heels, and a plastic tiara. It was a time that allowed me to reflect my own personality as I role played while imitating my favorite princess’ mannerisms. However, looking in the mirror, I never “looked” like a princess. Between me, Aurora, Belle and Cinderella, there was a discrepancy. That was until I gazed upon Princess Tiana in her dazzling green dress, classy up-do, and diamond tiara fluttered across the screen, leaving me in awe; she looked like me.

I had fallen so in love with Princess Tiana’s essence that her physical appearance as a frog became an afterthought. Tiana was fierce, ambitious and never accepted “no” as an answer; these are the qualities I even saw in myself. She mirrored me because of how she stays connected to her desires and acts on them. By watching her, I learned the importance of empowerment and staying true to yourself throughout her journey of character development. Reflecting on the movie, her character continuously teaches me the significance of accepting and trusting the process. The subtle messages of strength, perseverance, drive, determination within the movie resonate with me until this day and are still applied in my life, 13 years later.

Tiana wasn’t just a movie character; she was a symbol. As an African-American girl at the young age of five, I felt valued. I was able to see “myself” on the big screen as a princess in the movies and it gave me hope. Tiana was my form of representation growing up, and that’s what I hope to be for the next generation in my career.

I aspire to be the representation for young girls and empower them to reach for the stars. In a predominately male-dominated field like dentistry, I want to be the Princess Tiana little girls can look up to. Unfortunately, the field of dentistry lacks diversity. Which, as a black woman, gives me a higher purpose to show the younger generation, especially minorities, that they can achieve what they set out their minds to do. These and several other positive reasons are why I choose dentistry. As a dentist one needs to be empathetic, have good leadership skills, and be culturally competent because society looks up to dentists. I can thank Tiana for these qualities that I have learned and intend to apply in my life. Now, years later, the lessons that The Princess in the Frog instilled in me at a very young age hold even more importance to me in my journey towards dentistry and in my life as I head into a new period of growth and change, transitioning into college.

Growing up, I used to play dress-up. Now that I am grown up, I stare into the mirror, however; I am not wearing a princess gown anymore. I see myself serving others in the healthcare field while enhancing one of the most important aspects of an individual – one’s smile.