Is Disney's Newest Female Hero Gay? Actor Says Yes

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday March 8, 2021

Kelly Marie Tran, the actor who voices the heroine in Disney's latest animated film, "Raya and the Last Dragon," told Vanity Fair that she put a little extra spin on a line of dialogue because she feels that the character is gay - and the female villain she's fighting was once something other than a nemesis.

In the film, Raya - a princess, naturally, though one unafraid to get rough and tumble in defense of her kingdom - faces off with a foe called Namaari (Gemma Chan). As the two prepare to do battle, Raya lets fly with a sardonic comment: "Hey there, Princess Undercut. Fancy meeting you here."

Asked by Vanity Fair about that specific line, Tran answered with enthusiasm, saying that her reading of the line suggested "some romantic feelings going on there".

"I'm obsessed with Namaari, and I'm obsessed with Gemma Chan. So I'm really excited you brought this up," Tran said

But was the character Raya similarly obsessed with the film's big bad?

"I think if you're a person watching this movie, and you see representation in a way that feels really real and authentic to you, then it is real and authentic," Tran told the publication, going on to add: "I think it might get me in trouble for saying that, but whatever."

Vanity Fair took note of Disney's supposedly more LGTBQ-friendly content in recent years - nods that seem more like quick winks designed to be overlooked, like "the 'exclusively gay' millisecond of 'Beauty and the Beast,' a fleeting background kiss in 'The Rise of Skywalker,' 'Thor: Ragnarok''s allegedly bisexual Valkyrie, 'Onward''s brief mention of a female cop's girlfriend, or Elsa's totally platonic friend Honeymaren in 'Frozen II.' "

Still, Vanity Fair reckoned, "for the company that started touting its 'exclusively gay moments' a few years back, and whose characters have long been embraced by queer communities, Raya has felt for many like one step closer to the surface."

However, the article cautioned, "Tran was eager to add that just because she interpreted the Namaari and Raya relationship as something more than platonic, that wasn't the official Disney line."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.