A Real Life Cinderella


"I've never been to New Zealand before.  But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there." - Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

I am a princess, but I don’t dress in pink and rarely wear frilly gowns.  My bedroom is not full of glitter.  I am a successful digital strategy consultant with a Masters in Education and, yes, I happen to be married to an Italian prince. 

Being a real-life Cinderella was the last thing on my mind as I applied for a scholarship to Pepperdine University when I was twenty-one.  I wanted to be a business-woman.  International business.  Entrepreneur, lawyer, something like that – where I would be my own woman.  I come from modest means.  I had been working since I was fourteen and understood the golden key to my dreams was an education, not Prince Charming. 

So how did I become a princess?  First off, I got the scholarship.  And that’s where I met my prince—at the university.  He is now my husband of 13 years.  We have two amazing children, ages 2 years and 10 months.

There is a lot of discussion about princesses these days, and whether they are good role models for our daughters.

As a little girl, I loved Cinderella for her wise and gentle spirit, the way she could talk to birds, and endure the hardships she faced without a trace of meanness.  I loved her so much, one Christmas I asked for my Cinderella present:  a broom and dustpan. 

In contrast to her greedy step-sisters who wanted a royal title, Cinderella never connived to be somebody great.  She simply was somebody great.

With all the glam princess dresses little girls want parents to buy, we forget that Cinderella’s original gown was made from an old dress that used to be her mother’s.  The birds and mice added a few fancy touches from things they found around the house.  Then the magic came and transformed dreams into reality.

What’s wrong with that?  The beloved fairytale teaches resilience, hope, imagination, and transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary.  That’s what stories are supposed to do, and what kids do best in the role playing games that build their inner worlds. 

Imagination can take you and your child anywhere.  Dressing up is a natural part of growing up - especially from 3 to 6 years old, when imagination and brain development are most closely linked. 

Whether your sons and daughters want to play pirates, princesses, Batman or Xena, parents should encourage creativity, not dictate it.  Play is a free space for children to explore lives beyond themselves, including practicing decision-making and values in a variety of situations.  It’s practice for the real world, allowing children to step into someone else’s shoes. 

Who is your child’s most powerful role model?  You. 

If your child is confused about what being a princess means, take the time to talk with her.  Read the fairytale together, and stop to discuss more than Cinderella’s wardrobe.  Talk about the qualities that make her a powerful person.

For me,  princesses are  superheroes for little girls.  Why?  They are attuned with nature and have a true heart.  They triumph over tribulations, are courageous and don’t give up.  They are both strong and feminine.  They win in the end.


Princess Ivana