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Top 9 Best Role Models for Girls in Disney Movies

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Poppy is the author of "A Bard's Lament" and the Black Diamond series. She lives in Enoshima, Japan, with her husband and young son.

Disney's Girl Characters

Female Disney characters have long been exciting for kids, fascinating for critics, and unforgettable by Disney fans. Perhaps depending on your age, you had those one or two characters who really stood out to you. For this generation, perhaps it will be Elsa or Anna from the famous Frozen, or perhaps Rapunzel from Tangled. Disney girls are in movies, on posters, and come as plush toys or dolls.

What effects do these Disney princesses and girls have on viewers, and who, from all of Disney's animated classics, is technically the best role model for our kids - not just our daughters, but anyone who enjoys these films? This article aims to explore the top nine female role models from Disney movies and why. Here they are:

  1. Moana (Moana)
  2. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
  3. Mrs. Incredible/Elastigirl/Helen Parr (The Incredibles)
  4. Nani (Lilo & Stitch)
  5. Merida (Brave)
  6. Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
  7. Pocahontas (Pocahontas)
  8. Mulan (Mulan)
  9. Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

1. Moana ("Moana")

Moana is a great Disney girl, brave and fearless without being over-the-top sassy. Though the ocean calls her name, she sticks to her responsibilities for as long as she can. When her destiny is revealed, she battles self-doubt and works hard to save her people.

Self-doubt and lack of confidence are huge issues with children and teens today, and Moana helps us find our own inner strength.

2. Belle ("Beauty and the Beast")

Belle loves books and spends all her free time reading. When she's not doing that, she's helping out her father. She isn't prancing around with butterflies or singing about getting married. She's a practical and headstrong young woman, who girls all ages can definitely relate to.

Even when the most handsome guy in town asks for her hand in marriage, she rejects it because she doesn't like his personality. Belle is sweet, very likable, and loves her father very much. Most definitely a Disney girl to look up to.

3. Mrs. Incredible / Elastigirl / Helen Parr ("The Incredibles")

Mrs. Incredible, or Helen Parr, isn't really a Disney "girl", but she is definitely worth a mention. Before marrying Mr. Incredible, her superhero identity, Elastigirl, explains how she loves being a hero.

Later on in the movie, she tells her husband how he doesn't have to be strong enough to protect their whole family on his own because he has her. Helen is fearless and believes in her strength, not only as a superhero, but as a wife and mother. Definitely something for viewers to imitate.

4. Nani ("Lilo & Stitch")

Nani is the older sister of the main female character, Lilo, in Lilo & Stitch. Although not much attention has been paid to her, she's still a great character in Disney and an excellent role model to not only girls, but boys too.

She cares about her family and does her best to provide for Lilo, even when Lilo makes life difficult for her with her mischief. Nani is probably around twenty years old, and is she off partying? No, she's at home taking care of the only family member she has left. Definitely worth a mention on this list.

5. Merida ("Brave")

A headstrong and free-spirited young princess, Merida is a great role model for girls. She very much has her own brain, and even rejects the prospect of marriage by taking on several warriors (and winning). Another Disney film that focuses on the importance of family, and easily made this list.

6. Tiana ("The Princess and the Frog")

Tiana is a hard-working young lady who wants to use her talents to make it on her own. Tiana may possibly be one of the best role models for girls and young women today.

She sings about living her dream of building her own restaurant and succeeding with her own strength.



7. Pocahontas ("Pocahontas")

Pocahontas is a Native American princess who is strong, adventurous and will do anything to protect her family and her people, even after falling in love with the enemy.

What is really amazing about Pocahontas is what when John Smith is badly hurt and asks her to travel to England with him, she chooses to stay with her family and her people. This hardly ever happens in Disney movies, and it's a powerful testament to how strong her character is.

8. Mulan ("Mulan")

This ancient Chinese myth was brought to life by Disney, introducing a strong and determined young woman who risks her life to save not only her father, but her entire country. More than once she disregards her own safety and bravely works to defend her people.

Mulan's personality is also a little clumsy, she's sometimes a little late, and her 'good ideas' sometimes don't really work out. This shows that she isn't perfect - something everyone in the world can relate to.



9. Esmeralda ("The Hunchback of Notre Dame")

Esmeralda is a gypsy girl in Paris, outcast by 'normal' townsfolk and despised by the justice system.

She dances on the streets to put bread on the table, can entertain an audience, and, best of all, isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She'll speak her mind and stand up for the less fortunate even if it means certain death. Even when Justice Frolo is about to command her execution, she doesn't waver. Such strength and determination should surely be noticed and imitated by viewers.

Closing Thoughts

Disney continues to bring us likable characters, many of which are girls who we hope real children can look up to! Who is your favourite Disney character?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Poppy


Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on July 03, 2020:

Meg is awesome, if a little cynical!

ali on July 03, 2020:

i chose Esmeralda but my role model growing up was meg

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 25, 2019:

I think I wrote this article before Moana came out!

Caitlin on December 23, 2019:

I vote for Moana

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on August 09, 2019:

Thank you for commenting and for your vote!

SomeOneInThisWorld on August 09, 2019:

I voted for Esmeralda. Thx for the list

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on January 05, 2019:

Thank you for commenting, Rajan! It’s so important to have good role models for children since they might, consciously or subconsciously, imitating their behaviour.

Rajan Singh Jolly on January 05, 2019:

Kids' minds are easily impressed with what they see. Great Disney role models, the who and why?

Robert A. Avila, PE, MCE from Kiev, Ukraine on May 11, 2015:

Real strength, for men and women both, comes from looking deeply and honestly into one's own heart and asking, "What do I really want?" Then, disregarding naysayers, and considering all wise advice, advancing according to the heart. For some, this is a simple life with kith and kin. For others, it is transforming the global society.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 03, 2014:

I like Meg a lot! I loved Ariel when I was kid but I realised that leaving your family to be with a bloke you've known for ten minutes probably isn't the grounds for a good role model..

Sarah Anderson on December 03, 2014:

Tough choice there, but I had to go with Belle. I totally had a Meg T-shirt when I was a kid, though.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on December 02, 2014:

Thank you for your comment Sally Rose :D

Sally from Fort Worth, Texas on December 02, 2014:

Great list of Disney Role models. I think it is really important for young girls to have good role models to look up too. I love your list it's hard to choose from. I chose Milan because she is so brave even when things didn't go her way. Great article!