Luisa Madrigal, from Encanto, is the antithesis of a Disney princess, and that’s exactly why everyone loves her so much.
The latest Disney animation, Encanto, which was released on Disney+ on 24 December, has received a lot of press about its groundbreaking depictions of dysfunctional families. But there’s also a standout character who’s being celebrated by fans, and that’s Luisa Madrigal.
For those not up to date with Disney, Luisa is the sister of the show’s two main characters, Isabela and Mirabel. Isabela is a traditional Disney princess, in both appearance and manner – the petite golden child of the family. Mirabela is the cute, quirky underdog.
Luisa, on the other hand, is a bodybuilder. In the film, she’s shown lifting pianos and wagons over her head. She’s described as the “rock” of the family. She has physical and emotional strength – but most importantly, she’s in a body that also looks strong and powerful, something Disney (and most other studios) has never celebrated before in their female characters.
The reactions on social media suggest that means a lot to women who feel an affiliation with Luisa. On Instagram, fitness influencer and ex-swimmer Lucy Davis dedicated a post to the character, writing: “When I was younger, I always thought the Disney princesses all looked the same physique wise, with a tiny waist and being overall very thin, quite superficial.
“I have had a muscly athletic physique since being a little girl and would have absolutely loved to see the character Luisa when I was growing up! The artists for Encanto had to push hard for Luisa to have big muscles. AND, from this, so many girls find her completely relatable! She looks f*cking awesome… There is just something so refreshing about someone who can bench press you in a Disney film; who looks happy and comfortable in her own skin, and who is a woman with muscle.”
A fan on Twitter wrote: “It’s so nice to finally [see] a literally strong female characters without the body of a princess. No, this girl is BUFF, tall, and doesn’t have the traditional curvy body Disney uses. And it makes women like me feel seen FINALLY!!!”
While users @Shakespeare_Tan wrote, “Disney’s Encanto character Luisa is the FIRST character I can relate to. Those are my shoulders and my SUPER WOMAN mentality. Just, wow. Kudos, Disney! So happy.”
This level of fandom wasn’t the reaction expected by Disney. Movie news sites including SlamFish and The Mary Sue reported that those working on the project had to fight for her to have the physique that she did. And while Luisa is a minor character in the film compared with her sisters, the lack of merch dedicated to her has led to people complaining on Twitter after their children warmed to Luisa over the other people in the film.
It goes to show that audiences are wanting – desperately – more depictions of strong women on screen. And positive ones at that. Up until now, Miss Trunchbull was one of the only women who were shown lifting weights and having muscular bodies, and she was terrifying. But Luisa is proof that physical strength and larger bodies are something to be celebrated – and we hope that won’t be shocking to producers and audiences in future.
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).