The Stars of ‘Sneakerella’ Dish on the Modern Retelling of the Disney Classic

Chosen Jacobs as El in Disney's "Sneakerella," a modern retelling of "Cinderella." Image: Disney/Ben Mark Holzberg.

Sneakerella, the latest remake of Disney’s Cinderella, is an innovative reinterpretation of the classic fairy tale. The latest version is set as musical in the avant-garde street-sneaker subculture of New York City, and gives a modern spin on the classic told through the lens of two Black families.

El (Chosen Jacobs) is a gifted sneaker designer from Queens who works as a stock boy in the shoe store that once belonged to his late mother. He hides his talent from his stressed-out stepfather, who is raising 3 boys on his own, and his mean stepbrothers who don’t treat him well. When El meets Kira King (Lexi Underwood), the daughter of the legendary basketball star and sneaker tycoon Darius King (John Salley), the two fall for each other and they share a love of sneakers. After being pushed by his best friend Sami (Devyn Nekoda) and his Fairy Godfather, El sets out on a path to pursue his dream of becoming a sneaker designer.

EBONY caught up with Jacobs and Salley and chopped it up with them on their love of sneakers, the importance of family and how following your passion can change your life.

Jacobs, a self-proclaimed “sneakerhead” who loves vintage Air Force Ones, spoke about reimagining the Cinderella story for a new audience and how our sneakers represent to the world who we are.

“Once I heard about how the film was being remade, I was excited that it would focus on sneaker culture because even in the original Cinderella, the shoe is a character in itself,” shares Jacobs,” So we dove into it and put a modern spin on it and because my sneakers represent who I am.”

Salley, a four-time NBA champion whose favorite kicks are the Puma Clyde Court’s, says it was a “no brainer” for him when it came to appearing in the movie as it was an opportunity to be in a Disney film.

“A friend of mine called me and said they’re looking for me to do this movie,” recalls the former pro-baller. “I said, ‘What movie?’ He said, ‘It’s called Sneakerella and Disney’s doing it.” I said, ‘I’m down.’ After I auditioned for the movie, they didn’t tell me I had the part. I was having meetings and talking with the execs. When they finally told me that I got the role. I was like, ‘Cool.’ When I got off the phone, I was yelling through the house telling everybody I got a Disney movie and it’s a musical where I get to battle rap.”

Salley also explains that he was immediately drawn to the role when he discovered that it dealt with the challenges of Black fatherhood. As a father of three children, it was important for him to be a part of a film that portrays the multifaceted dimensions of Black manhood.

“I love the Black excellence that shows up in the film,” says Salley. “I love the fairy tale and I loved the way it wasn’t about a wicked mother-in-law. It was about a guy who was overwhelmed with the stress of raising three boys on his own and trying to run a business in a new city.”

Jacobs also noted that one of the themes of Sneakerella is the power of friendship and discovering true love. He shares that his character El’s journey to finding his true passion is similar to his own path as an actor.

“Iron sharpens iron. And there will always come a time where we all battle with self-doubt,” explains Jacobs. “Thankfully, as you cultivate your friend group and your family and different people come into your life, they’ll help push you into being your best self. I feel like that’s really what a friend is. A friend is not just for your comfort but also pushes you out of your comfort because they see your potential. You see that with Sammy in the movie. You see that with my very Fairy-Godfather. Also, you see it with my love interest Kyra and I feel like they all play a part in the story of developing El’s dream and making it a reality.”

“I want those who watch the film to know the most important love story is the one where you learned to love yourself,” continues the Disney star. “ I feel like this movie is a romance movie between El and Kira. But even deeper than that, every character is discovering themselves and learning to accept themselves. Learning to love where you’re from, but also learning to love where you’re going and learning to accept each other for the differences and admire those. I feel like if we’re able to take that in, even just a little bit, our world can become a better place.”

Sneakerella transforms the Cinderella story into a celebration of Black love. The story is about romantic love but how to love who you are, the love of family, the love of friends, and of course the love of sneakers. Jacobs wants viewers to leave the film believing that the theme of the story is the gift of love.

Sneakerella is available to stream on Disney +.

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