Belle, from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, has become a main figure in my life. I never asked for it, but she became me-I become her. Although she is not my favorite Disney Princess (because I love my Celtic baby, Merida), she has influenced me as if she is.
Let’s start from the beginning. Like WAY FAR BACK. In middle school, we were given an assignment to create a parody of a well-known/ serious film. Everyone in my group elected me as leader because I have an extensive past with writing and acting, so we had to come up with a movie and quick. One of the girls in the group suggested Beauty and the Beast, and we all agreed. Then it came down to casting. The same girl who came up with the idea thought that I should be Belle. I was taken back because usually I am not seen as a princess- I am seen as the tomboy sidekick. It was a change for me. I had to become Belle just for a while to do this project, and I was excited. My mom made me the 1991 blue dress and we filmed at a local park. Although my writing was terrible (I mean eighth grade is awful- have you seen Bo Burnham’s movie? accurate), we finally had our semi-controversial parody: Beauty and the NOT SO Beastly, a retelling of the story where the Beast is flamboyant and rejects Belle in the end. Middle school comedy was jank.
From then on I never really thought of being Belle until I got Musical.ly (now known as TikTok). I posted a few videos of me in my Belle “cosplay”, and they blew up! So many people thought that I looked like Emma Watson from the 2017 remake (which I have gotten numerous times before) that it made me go viral within a few weeks! My views and followers skyrocketed! Soon, I was known as the TikTok girl who looks like Emma Watson.
Now, when I tell you that the pressure was ON when it came to SYAA having auditions for B&B, it was ON. I had so many emotions, but the number one was fear. Will I be good enough for Belle? I’ve never played a princess before. I can’t be soft-spoken or vulnerable. What if I let all 1.1 million of my fans down by not getting this role? All of these thoughts ran though my head for three days during the audition process. The pressure consumed me- it still does. When people expect you to be something, you don’t want to let them down. What if I am not how they imagined me playing Belle would be?
And then, like the song, there was a change in me.
I was not Belle. I was Kate PLAYING Belle at a local theater, and I played her how I NEEDED BELLE to be played when I was younger. Growing up, yes, I did look up to Belle (primarily because she is the only brunette princess and I have brown hair). I loved that she wouldn’t take any crap from Gaston and willingly gave herself up for her father. She was selfless and educated, and I really wanted to be her- until I got TikTok famous. Every two seconds, someone says I look like Emma Watson or that I “look like Belle” (AKA Emma Watson in the 2017 remake), and it infuriates me. I feel degraded as a personality, and calling me “Belle” or “Emma Watson” immediately forces me into a role I don’t want. Belle became my second favorite primarily because of how much I am told to be like/ be her. Because of this, people always assume my favorite Disney movie is Beauty and the Beast (when it is CoCo), and they get disinterested once I say it isn’t that. It got so annoying, so I just started to hate the character. Then, I played Belle.
Belle is much more than a pretty girl who reads books. She is an ambitious seventeen year old girl who wants more from the world that thinks she is weird and wants the best for her father. She is intelligent, but she never did anything too big or extravagant. Belle may be the daughter of an incredible inventor, but she doesn’t build anything. She displays her intelligence with her decisions. That is how I connected with the character. She is smart, but other than the fact she reads book, we see her intelligence through her decision to deny Gaston’s affections (she could’ve married him to keep her father out of the maison de lunes), to take her father’s place in The Beast’s dungeon, and to return to the The Beast even though he was in danger. It takes a strong will and incredible mental health to willingly put yourself through trials like these, and she did not think long to know what she wanted to do. She is brave through these trials as well. Belle deliberately wants to make the situation she is in better, even though she risks everything to do so. After I studied Belle and her character, the more I got PROUD to perform as the princess.
I made sure to make Belle more than her dainty, girly self. Belle became strong. Belle became loud. Belle became a fighter. Not only was she a fighter, but she fought IN A DRESS. After every show, little girls came up to me and told me how they loved Belle. I felt proud to know that these young girls saw a powerful portrayal of their favorite princess. I like to think that they would go into the world with an “If Belle can stand up for herself, then I can!” point-of-view.
I miss playing Belle. She has become such a large part of my life, and I literally would be nothing without the character. I want to be as much as a “Belle” as I can be. During this show, I finally reached a point where I was grateful to be the quirky, zany actress I am, and I did not just act like Belle.
I became Belle.