Snow White’s Rachel Zegler Explains How It Feels To Be A Latina Actress Cast As A Disney Princess

Rachel Zegler as Maria in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story remake
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Rachel Zegler’s life has to feel a bit like a fairy tale these days. She began 2021 as a relatively unknown actress but kicked off 2022 as a Golden Globe winner and a Disney princess. What’s especially exciting for the West Side Story star is that her latest role, Snow White, gives her a chance to represent her Latina heritage in an unprecedented way. 

It looks like Rachel Zegler has a knack for taking iconic roles and making them her own. As West Side Story’s Maria, she injected a whole new life into a long-beloved Broadway and film character. Now, many are interested to see what she'll bring to one of the most unforgettable fairy tale princesses to life with Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s a huge career move, but it’s also one that holds a lot of significance for her. In a Variety Actors on Actors segment, she spoke to Andrew Garfield about what it means for her to be Snow White: 

Never in a million years did I imagine that this would be a possibility for me. You don’t normally see Snow Whites that are of Latin descent. Even though Snow White is really a big deal in Spanish-speaking countries. Blanca Nieves is a huge icon whether you’re talking about the Disney cartoon or just different iterations and the Grimm fairy tale and all the stories that come with it. But you don’t particularly see people who look like me or are me playing roles like that.

The actress is right that it’s uncommon to see Latina princesses in modern fairy tale adaptations, despite there being no shortage of source material to draw from. Though she acknowledges there was backlash to her casting, she told Andrew Garfield that she is still excited and focused on the job she has to do. 

In addition to playing Snow White, Rachel Zegler was also able to help push the needle toward better Latin representation in Hollywood with her role in West Side Story. When casting the film, Steven Spielberg specifically sought Spanish-speaking actors and actresses to play the Puerto Rican characters in order to make the cast more authentic for the story. The director was also praised for choosing not to use subtitles for the film’s Spanish dialogue

It’s not clear how the new Snow White film will incorporate Rachel Zegler’s Latina roots. And while the movie hasn’t yet begun production, that hasn’t stopped Zegler from doing some significant (and fun) research into her role. When the cameras do start rolling, she’ll join the ranks of some pretty amazing modern-day Disney princesses, including Lily James and Emma Watson and The Little Mermaid’s Halle Bailey, who's also breaking barriers with her casting.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of many upcoming Disney movies to keep an eye on. West Side Story is currently playing in theaters. 

Katherine Webb