Unpacking the Princess Packs

By Oluyemisi Bolonduro ‘23

My freshman year of high school, there were a few upperclassmen that had themed backpacks. A few had turtle shells; the rest had princess backpacks. I thought it was a fun idea and resolved to do the same by my senior year.

Oluyemisi with a Princess backpackThe Princess Pack: 1st Edition was the backpack I used my senior year of high school. It had Mulan, Jasmine, Belle, Ariel, and Snow White under a statement that said “EXPLORE YOUR WORLD” in sparkly pink letters. It also came with a lunchbox (that featured Tiana), water bottle, drawstring bag, and pencil pouch.



Oluyemisi holding up Princess Pack 2I got the Princess Pack: 2nd Edition my freshman year of college and still use it. This one has Tiana, Jasmine, Merida, Belle, Rapunzel, Ariel, Cinderella, and Snow White… no Mulan 🙁 (lookatmyforcedposeandsmilehaha).

Why do I bring up my Princess Packs? ‘Cuz I luv em. And because I’m gonna turn my fellow royals into an extended metaphor of my college experience!


  • Physical: I think I did that coming to California for college. All of my friends stayed in the greater Seattle area, so I was scared having to navigate a new space without my typical forms of support right next to me. Clearly, I’m biased ‘cuz I’m me, but I think I did okay soooo… check check on the deck :).
  • Mental: Things I had in mind that could take form I brought into motion. This is most evident through how I dressed. My headwrap and durag game definitely increased. And I tried various color combinations with outfits to see what I liked on me.
  • Emotional/Social: I’m gonna group these two into one because they influenced each other. At first, I kept lotsa things bottled in to maintain a façade. Fresh starts and freshman year vibes of not knowing anybody had me putting up a guard. As I got to know more people, the façade fell awaaayyyy!

Now to connect to my rooyaalllssss, listed in my fave order!

  • Tiana: Melanated and educated. Apart from the fact that she’s a frog for 94.7% of the movie and there’s little to no acknowledgement of the bootstrap theory (s/o Gender and Women Studies for this whole discussion) … Tiana was the first representation I saw of me in Disney. Translating that in the context of Claremont… Black is beautiful (u should know!!!), but Claremont is the first place I’ve been where people were actively telling me that and lifting me up.
  • Mulan: Of the many things I admire about Mulan, one of them is the way she challenges gender roles. I think I did more of that in college than I did in high school, just because I didn’t feel as restricted by social scripts. Also, I’ll Make a Man Out of You reminds me of running track (one of my main activities) because of the determination one needs to train and improve in competitions.
  • Jasmine: I feel like Jasmine’s up for a lil’ shenanigans every now and then. She can take things seriously while adding a slice of excitement to it. I think that parallels the fun, on-the-spot, impulsive activities I did that may’ve been disgusting–like the homemade hot chocolate in Frary dining hall or telling a boi he was beautiful during a trip in L.A.!
  • Merida: The name of her movie is ‘Brave’. I don’t have a cute lil’ denotation of the word, but in my mind that translates to,”take a chance.” I entered college thinking I’d be a Molecular Biology or Neuroscience major; now I’m thinking something in the humanities that’s focused on the social sciences. IT WAS SCARY TO MAKE THIS CHANGE! I’ve only viewed my future with a limited STEM scope, but I’m liking this new world (s/o Jasmine).
  • Belle: Belle reminds me of Matilda, two bookworms who enjoy the company of themselves. At first, I was just lonely on campus, then I was alone, but not lonely. I learned to be content with me. In high school I was always dependent on the company of others, and college forced me (in a good way) to become independent.
  • Rapunzel: Honestly, coming to college and living with more independence and freedom is I See the Light on REPEAT. My lil’ city of Shoreline is a bubble where you kinda know who lives in what general area and how long they’ve been around (my high school is a lil’ smaller than Pomona btw). Sometimes something new happens, but it’s the same routine of simplicity. College opened up my eyes and gave me opportunities to see things in a different light (ahaha).
  • Ariel: My Qollecting Queen! I thought I’d take lotsa pictures in college the way I did in high school. Sometimes I was documenting a lot… lotsa photos, lotsa videos. But compared to high school, waaayyyyy less was in my camera roll. I think part of this change is because I was collecting memories and storing them in my mind instead of on Snapchat. Not every flashback has a snap, story, or post attached to it. Sometimes it makes me sad that I don’t have tangible evidence of these moments, but then I smile because they must mean so much to me if I haven’t forgotten!
  • Cinderella: My Qleaning Queen! I don’t think Cinderella ever anticipates an end to her stepsister cycle, but she winds up being rewarded in life with her castle and Charming. I don’t anticipate a castle (well I guess a Sontag suite would be nice) or a Charming (I came for a Bachelor’s in the Arts not a bachelor). But I do anticipate rewards (known and unknown) during my four years of college. I think the unknown ones are best or, at least, the ones that take a lil’ more thought to notice. I guess the most obvious one is: study and dedicate time to classes and expect certain grades or whatever. The less obvious ones are things like: open up to those around you by being your genuine self and develop healthy, meaningful, and encouraging relationships!
  • Snow White: I don’t like substances; the smell of weed gives me a terrible headache and alcohol sounds far from appealing. When I think of Snow White I think, “don’t do drugz and don’t accept them from strangers.” That’s not to say I wasn’t around them (like, c’mon it’s college). But I was able to maintain my boundaries and levels of comfort. It wasn’t that hard though. If I was ever offered something and refused it, the responses I got were always something along the lines of, “hey, I respect that!” and we’d carry on with the night.

Oluyemisi in Teacup rideMm well… I guess that’s the tea from Oluyemisi (did I really spill any though…?? I just wanted to rhyme haha).