“If you don’t like something, change it.” That’s what poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou wrote and preached throughout her life. And, it’s exactly what Lowri Moore has done – fuelled by the lack of representation for glasses-wearing characters in Disney films, the eleven-year-old has collaborated with our very own designer, Natalie Owen on their new children’s book, Princess Rose and the Golden Glasses…
The LeftLion office phone rings approximately ten times a day. We get robo-marketing calls, advertisers checking the dimensions for a quarter page, promoters after a spot in our listings for their upcoming rave and, on the odd occasion, readers wishing to pass on their praise (or to lambast us for missing an apostrophe). On a regular morning in January 2019, our Editor-at-Large Bridie picked up a call. It was from BBC Radio Nottingham – they were hoping we could help them find an illustrator to draw a picture for one of their upcoming guests. They told Bridie the story of Lowri Moore, a nine-year-old girl who had written a letter to Disney asking why none of their princesses wore glasses. They were hoping someone could create an image of Lowri as a princess herself, specs included. Bridie glanced over at our Head Designer, Natalie, sitting at her desk in a Lilo and Stitch t-shirt, sipping tea out of a Winnie the Pooh mug next to her Thumper rabbit teddy and replied, “We might have the perfect person for you.”
“I felt shocked when I first saw the illustration, it was so cool to see me as a cartoon princess,” says Lowri, now eleven. Lowri felt inspired to pen her letter to Robert Iger, Disney’s CEO, after growing up watching Disney’s classic fairytales, and noticing a glaring problem. In her letter, she wrote: “I've grown up watching Disney princesses and I've always admired them and thought they were beautiful. Unfortunately none of the princesses wear glasses and that made me feel like I wasn't beautiful enough." Taking off her glasses to play dress-up became a regular occurrence, and Lowri felt it was unfair that characters with specs in cartoons and kids films were always depicted as the ‘geek’. She hoped Mr Iger would reconsider, as she wanted other little girls out there to know that they are beautiful too.
Unfortunately, Lowri never received a response from Disney. But, as it turns out, this was just the beginning of her campaigning. “When I was speaking to BBC Nottingham on the phone, they told me that Lowri had come up with the idea for a story too,” says Natalie. “I thought it was really sad that nobody responded to her, so I said to her ‘If you’ve got the idea, let’s just make it!’ Originally I had planned on just printing one copy for her, but now it’s turned into something bigger than that – which is amazing, as now hopefully lots of kids will benefit from this story.”
Over the past eighteen months, Natalie and Lowri have collaborated to create Princess Rose and the Golden Glasses, their picture book which went to print at the end of June. The story follows Princess Rose, who struggles to feel like she’s a real princess because of her spectacles. She embarks upon a journey of self-love, while grappling with the demons inside of her. “We had a phone conversation where Lowri told me the entire plot line and all the names of characters she wanted, so I wrote it all down for her. I’ve been speaking to her mum, going back and forth with the storyline, so we’ve really worked as a team on this,” says Natalie. “It’s not just for children with glasses though – it’s got a lot to do with anxiety too. Until I met Lowri I never thought that children at age ten have those sort of negative feelings about themselves.”
I just want to get the message around and help people, so they can see they don’t have to hide or take their glasses off to be beautiful
“There has been a bad voice in my head saying that I’m not beautiful,” admits Lowri. “But I actually have a fun fact! The name of the bad character is Angusina – the start of which sounds like the word anxiety, which describes her well as she is a very stressed and anxious character. I didn’t even realise that, so I think that’s very cool.” Lowri’s excitement for the project shines through, and it’s clear to anyone who has watched her journey progress that she’s determined to help other people overcome their own self-doubt. After the story of her letter went viral, featuring in media outlets across the world, Lowri has launched a campaign to spread her message of positivity far and wide. As her role as an ambassador for the charity Clearly, she’s spoken at a conference at London’s Science Museum and featured on CBBC’s Newsround. “Just before lockdown I was invited to St James’ Palace to meet the Countess of Wessex. I took some illustrations from the book to show her, and she told me that she’s actually a real life princess who has to wear glasses!” Throughout our conversation, there is one thing Lowri kept coming back to: “I’m nervous and excited for the book to come out, but mostly excited because I just want to get the message around and help people, so they can see they don’t have to hide or take their glasses off to be beautiful.”
And, by the response the announcement of the book received, Lowri and Natalie are encouraged that their story is one which needs to be heard. “We made the website for Lowri to be able to catch people’s details if they were interested in buying a book, and we had so many emails from parents of children who wear glasses who are in the exact same position,” says Lowri’s mum, Cyrilyn. “All these parents are so glad to have a tool that they can use to help the little ones because there is a gap in the market. I'm not a glasses wearer so I didn’t realise it myself, but as soon as Lowri highlighted it, her story went viral – I think that's because there are so many people who could actually relate. I told the man at the printers about the project and it brought him to tears – he’s a thirty-plus year-old man who has worn glasses his whole life and felt the same way. He resonated with the project so much he gave us a discount on our first edition print!”
As for Natalie, she has spent the past eighteen months working on the illustrations for the book in her spare time, thinking up beautiful scenescapes and princess dresses while still smashing out illustrations and designs for us at LeftLion. “I watched so many Disney films while I was doing this! I loved it. I used them for inspiration, to help me come up with ideas of things to put in the backgrounds of pages, and how to make things look bright and sparkly,” she laughs. “I never really thought I'd release a children's book. I think it's exciting, it'll be really nice to get it back from the printers and have it in my hand.
“I’m a little nervous for the reaction, but I’m hopeful it will be positive. Working with Lowri and her family has been really nice, they were so welcoming. Once the books have started selling, me and Lowri’s mum have talked about making some prints too. Just like I turned Lowri into a princess, I’d love to do it for other children – turn them into princes and princesses, or superheroes.”
Princess Rose and the Golden Glasses is available to buy now on Lowri’s website, and 30% of all profits will be going to charity, with the aim of helping provide eyecare, glasses and eye tests to people who cannot currently access them. As for any upcoming plans, Lowri says: “I just want to get the message around and help as many people as possible. If any opportunities come up I will gladly take them.” You may also be wondering how she feels about her glasses now. “I actually got some new ones yesterday! They’ve got clear frames. I think they’re really cool.”
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