This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, tv shows and movies being covered here wouldn’t exist. We stand with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA.
Live-action remakes are fiercely debated amongst audiences. Some believe in traditionalism and that they should be word-for-word copies of the original animation. Others believe in changes and subtle nuances to increase a live-action remake’s realism.
There’s also the fact that most of the original Disney animated classics feature white protagonists. We’ve seen changes in live-action remakes that pave the way for diversity and inclusion, with white people getting all bent out of shape *insert cries of white fragility*.
Growing up, I didn’t have a Disney protagonist that looked like me, and seeing the changes being made now gives me hope that the next generation of young minorities might not have to wonder why heroes don’t look like them. I’m glad changes are being made, but we still have a long way to go.
Speaking of changes, let’s talk about a live-action Tangled. A LOT of people have ideas about who could play Rapunzel, and no surprise, but they are mostly all white people with green eyes and blonde hair. Seriously? Does nobody have vision? A woman of colour would be perfect for this role.
I said what I said, reread it, stay pressed, moving on. It’s canon that women of colour have thick, gorgeous, long hair. Not only genetically but also through our lifestyle and cultural practices. We have oiling routines, deep conditioning treatments, specific tools, and practices that aid in the care and growth of our hair.
Rapunzel’s luscious locks stem from the sun drop flower and the belief in its healing powers. Many minority cultures believe in plant-based and natural treatments for hair growth. We mean, the length, the thickness, and the practices to care for the hair comes from practices that minorities are accustomed to.
Not to mention, Mother Gothel being OBSESSED with her “daughter” hair is something many cultures can relate to. Yes, I know it’s for an ulterior motive, but Mother Gothel believes that the hair impacts her, and under some pretense, that is very cultural. My grandmother has felt personally offended if my hair is not taken care of.
Anyway, here are six actresses who could play Rapunzel in a live-action remake of Tangled:
Known for playing Inej Ghafa on Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, Amita Suman is currently a popular choice for Rapunzel. We mean, we don’t need to say much. Look. At. Her. Born in Nepal, Suman is very vocal about her cultural beliefs and practices. She has spoken up about moving to the UK as a child and the culture shock she experienced.
However, she has always stayed true to her roots, and being South Asian, we know she cares about her hair (if her Insta is any proof). Suman has also spoken about changing the narrative around depressing and stereotypical storylines for brown girlies, and what better way to do that than to channel the bubbly Rapunzel?
Amita is lovely and energetic, with the perfect bubbly energy to play Rapunzel. Also, if playing Inej has taught her anything, it would be that she can absolutely wield a frying pan and hold her own. Seriously, look at her hair. Her hair + her personality = perfect Rapunzel.
Auli’i is also another potential fan cast. She can sing and dance and has experience as a Disney princess, especially one so bold and fearless. Furthermore, her Hawaiian roots, which focus on natural and herbal haircare, realistically align with the results of long hair.
Not only is hair adequately cared for and revered in Hawaiian culture, but it is also widespread for most women to have hair past their waist. Also, the types of flowers that Rapunzel has put in her hair match common and practiced traditions in Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian identity holds hair very close to its heart.
She is also well prepared as a former Disney princess. Her previous work in Moana allowed her to showcase a tenacious and relentless character focused on the journey. Having played the character unafraid to take risks, it would be no surprise that she is well-prepared to play Rapunzel, who sets out on her own journey.
Young actress Marsai Martin is known for her role in Blackish and is also a singer and producer. Marsai embodies young excellence that deserves a shot on the big screen. She is very vocal in her expression; from her looks to her thoughts, Marsai has always shined.
She has been very vocal about her hair care journey, noting she no longer relaxes her hair on the discussion panel The Hair Tales on Hulu. The bottom line, she calls the shots, and natural is where she stands. Speaking with another author from our site, she notes:
“And if you think wearing your hair natural is easy, it’s not. It actually requires a lot of love and maintenance. First off, you have to know your hair texture before you can even begin to go natural. Are you a 4a (texture is a tight curl pattern) or a 4c (coarse texture that requires the most TLC)? See what we mean? That ultimately helps in deciding what hair care products will work best.
And if you’re like Martin, instead of using a relaxer we’ve got a lot of ways to style our hair like doing a silk press which involves washing and deep conditioning the hair. Once the hair is pressed it straightens it so well, it appears relaxed. When we say Black women take their hair care seriously, believe us.”
She doesn’t believe in conforming to beauty standards and has taken control of the narrative. That is precisely the type of Rapunzel we need because, in the end, she takes control of her narrative and ensures nobody can ever make her conform.
She also has the PERFECT personality for Rapunzel, aka fierce yet adorable. Every single one of Martin’s previous characters, especially Diane Johnson, has showcased incredible kindness and tenacity, which means she’s ready for Rapunzel.
Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs
Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs is a rising Indigenous actress and writer from Canada. Devery is outspoken about her Indigenous roots and continues to push for the inclusion of Indigenous peoples in television. She is of Mohawk descent and has used her acting roles to stay true and bring light to her Native roots.
Indigenous peoples are known for revering and protecting land, people, and customs. Hair and other aspects of beauty are crucial in identity, traditions, tribe, and community. All things are linked back to the earth and the creator. If anything, Rapunzel reveres and protects the earth and cares for her hair, as it has healing elements from a sacred flower.
Indigenous peoples practice many herbal and natural remedies, believing that all healing powers come from the earth themselves. This lines up clearly with the townspeople’s beliefs, especially considering the flower was used to heal the Queen of a severe illness. They revere the flower and embrace it every year, to the point where it transcends identity and community to become culture.
Kawennáhere has played characters that vary greatly in emotion and depth; she has played it all, from the main character in Reservation Dogs to dabbling in animation on Spirit Rangers. One thing remains certain: she has never played a character that isn’t true to her roots. She is unapologetic and more than willing to change the status quo, all aspects of Rapunzel’s personality.
The woman who started the discussion and another South Asian actress who has been vocal about her culture, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. Again, look at her hair. We know from her fierce advocacy of her South Asian heritage on NHIE and her unyielding care for others that Maitreyi’s looks and personality would be the perfect live-action Rapunzel.
South Asian hair practices range from herbal remedies to intense oiling sessions (massage), ultimately creating long, luscious locks that grow exponentially. At this point, for us South Asian girlies, it’s just a part of our routine, and we don’t need to show you the routine; look at the results. I can assure you that we take natural, healthy care of our hair, and sometimes the genetics are a plus.
Also, please take a minute to think about Devi’s personality from NHIE and how Rapunzel coded it. Making risky moves, disobeying your mom, and always having an answer for everything. Also, the unbounded fearlessness and care for the people she loves. We mean, Maitreyi already has the experience and the looks, so sign her up.
Paulina played a literal fairy in the Winx saga. She played Flora, who was akin to nature and revered natural remedies. Her experience playing Flora could ease her ability to play Rapunzel, as they are both very artistic, down-to-earth, and bubbly.
Chavez has also played a brainiac young scientist with similar bubbly energy to Rapunzel. Ashley Garcia also managed to greatly deliberate the pros cons of many decisions, which reminds me of the scene Rapunzel is deciding to leave the tower. Not to mention, Paulina has GORGEOUS hair and a whimsical beauty that is naturally present in Rapunzel.
If anything, Flora and Rapunzel embrace their resourceful ability and purity, and Paulina has already mastered playing one, so we’re sure she would knock it out of the park. As for the hair, Paulina has thick hair that wouldn’t break if Mother Gothel decided to climb it, and the work it takes to care for thick, curly hair is definitely similar to a routine that Rapunzel would need.