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Photographers' take on Disney princesses empowers young black girls

These photos are magical.
/ Source: TODAY

What would Rapunzel look like if her long hair was not golden blonde? What if Snow White was not white at all?

Kahran and Regis Bethencourt, an Atlanta husband and wife team of professional photographers who operate under the name CreativeSoul Photography, could imagine the answers.

Collaborating with several vendors and hair stylist LaChanda Gatson, the two held photo shoots in Atlanta and Los Angeles to recreate the iconic princesses in a way that young black girls could see themselves as the stars of the fairy tales.

The Bethencourts' take on Ariel from "The Little Mermaid" features differences from the traditional vision but still rocks the famous red hair. CreativeSoul Photography

The photos went viral on Facebook, racking up 12,000 likes each, and Kahran told TODAY Parents they heard from a lot of black parents afterward. "They said, 'Gosh, we didn't know that we needed this, but we did.'

"Traditionally, little girls want to be the princesses, but they didn't see themselves represented," she said, noting that "after all these years, there's just one black Disney princess" — Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog."

The Bethencourts' version of "Snow White" is not white at all. She has iconic apple accessories and a twist on the traditional puff-sleeve dress.CreativeSoul Photography

Other photographers have reimagined Disney princesses using identical costumes to the traditional versions, but the Bethencourts took creative freedom with wardrobe and hair that "really kind of made them our own," she said.

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The Bethencourts have been in the photography business together for 11 years. At first, they worked out of her mother's garage, photographing their nieces and nephews and children around the neighborhood and "a little bit of everything," Kahran said.

"Around 2013, we decided that we wanted to build a business that we loved, and we decided to focus on kids and the children's fashion industry," she said.

Kahran and Regis Bethencourt wanted CreativeSoul Photography to focus on showcasing "under-celebrated beauty," especially in black children. CreativeSoul Photography

But the Bethencourts quickly noticed two things: first, that there was a lack of diversity in the children's fashion industry, and two, that when the child models with natural hair would show up to take headshots, their hair would be straightened.

"They thought that's what their hair needed to look like to get into the fashion industry," Kahran said.

The Bethencourts made it CreativeSoul Photography's mission to "showcase under-celebrated beauty," particularly in black children. Their work, which features children of all skin shades and natural hair in empowering poses, has gone viral on social media several times.

When the children see themselves in pictures from the camera's point of view, it transforms them, Kahran said.

"They are often super shocked. You can see their confidence growing, which is my favorite part," she said. "They often come in a little shy or nervous, and once they see themselves, a lightbulb goes off."

CreativeSoul Photography's work might be more important now than ever before.

"It's important for kids to be able to see themselves accurately represented in the media and in a different way than some of the stereotypes that have been hanging around in the media for years," Kahran said.

"They need to feel empowered, to see themselves represented in ways that look strong and powerful so they can imagine themselves as what they want to be in the future."

This fall CreativeSoul Photography will release "Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty," a coffee table book of images and stories about children from the United States, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom and France. It is available for pre-order now.

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