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Birmingham Teen Who Created Princess Tiana-Inspired Prom Dress Invited to Showcase at Disney/Photo Credit: @LaylaMarie_445/Instagram
Veracity Savant
Published: 19 June 2024

A real-life princess story!

Birmingham teen Layla Hildreth, a recent graduate from Shades Valley High School, embarked on a unique journey to mark the end of her high school career, NBC Los Angeles reports. Like most seniors, her end-of-year festivities were filled with pride as family and friends gathered to celebrate her hard work and accomplishments. Still, Layla was determined to leave a mark and activate her creativity, the budding sewist setting out to handmake her own prom dress.

“If I make something for prom, I want it to be memorable. I want people to look at it and think about where it came from,” Layla told reporters, describing her motivations behind designing the dress. 

She had previously made jackets and other items herself, but she wanted this to be special, something that inspired her and had a deeper meaning. That’s when Layla decided to make a dress inspired by Disney’s first Black princess.

A modern-day fairytale, Princess Tiana isn’t a product of some fictional universe. She’s from New Orleans, another southern city just five hours away from Layla’s beloved Birmingham. The story behind the first Black princess is also as American as it gets, inspired by the real-life Leah Chase. Chase was a hard worker with big dreams and a sincere passion for her community. Like Tiana, the late Chase matriarch became a legendary NOLA restaurateur, a story that Layla couldn’t help but be inspired by. 

“I love to see the entrepreneurship; you see more Black women and young men becoming entrepreneurs nowadays, and [Princess Tiana] is a good example to look at. She didn’t give up, no matter what. She became a whole frog and put in the work to become a human again. She just never stopped working,” Layla told Because Of Them We Can. 

With $300 worth of satin and tulle, Layla meticulously sewed her Tiana-inspired dress, a labor of love that would soon captivate her community. As she made her grand entrance at prom, she was met with an outpouring of love and support.

“People were shocked. All the kids [in the neighborhood] were running around me saying, ‘Oh my goodness, Princess Tiana is here.’ Then I went to prom, and kids I’ve gone to school with, but I’ve never talked to wanted a picture,” she explained.

tiana prom dress midBirmingham Teen Who Created Princess Tiana-Inspired Prom Dress Invited to Showcase at Disney/Dress designed by 18-year-old Layla Hildreth, Walt Disney World, June 2024/Photo Credit: Veracity Savant/Because Of Them We Can

Disney caught wind of what Layla had done, inviting the eighteen-year-old to Walt Disney World for a special preview of the new “Tiana’s Bayou Adventure” attraction. There, Layla got to meet the Chase family that inspired the Disney princess, interact with original cast members, and show off her prom design. Showcased on a beautiful mannequin, the dress wowed everyone who viewed it. It was a near replica of the one Princess Tiana wore in the animated film. 

“I really wanted to bring Tiana back to my age group… and people always find it odd that I saw them being frogs is what really inspired me, but I don’t think people really look at it the same way that I do. Because when I see the frogs, I see Tiana going to her hardest point, where it’s easier to give up than to keep going and try to become a human. But she worked through it; she became who she wanted to be. She kept going, became an entrepreneur…and that inspired me,” Layla told BOTWC.

tiana prom dress mid2Birmingham Teen Who Created Princess Tiana-Inspired Prom Dress Invited to Showcase at Disney/18-year-old Layla Hildreth, Walt Disney World, June 2024/Photo Credit: Veracity Savant/Because Of Them We Can

The teen’s family was there to cheer her on as Layla was spotlighted at the attraction’s preview showcase. The moment was emotional for the budding designer as she reflected on what it meant and thought about those who had inspired her along the journey. While thinking of the princess’ story of resilience, determination, and the power of dreams, Layla identified her own Princess Tiana, noting her older sister Raven, who she said always motivates her to keep going. 

“Anytime I’m told to write about my role model, I’d always write about Raven. She makes her own cakes, does hair, does whatever she wants to do, and sometimes she’ll be like, I’m tired of this, but she always keeps going. I just love that she is my sister,” Layla told BOTWC.

Now that she’s created her own magic and showcased her talent on one of the world’s biggest stages, Layla’s looking forward to making her own fairytale. She has now graduated from high school and plans to head to Georgia State in the fall. There, Layla will major in human development and learning. As for sewing, it’s a passion she’s excited to continue pursuing as she tries to “dig a little deeper” like Princess Tiana and see where all of her talents will take her. 

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