A Cinderella story
By SHERRI WINSTON Lifestyle columnist

For a few hours on Sunday, I transformed into something special. Something precious. A fairytale. I became Cinderella, all over again.

In a re-creation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's original Cinderella, Disney presented the age-old fantasy with a provocative '90s twist -- a mutlicultural cast, with Moesha star Brandy in the title role.

Brandy is black. Like me. Like millions of other girls who fantasize about being the center of a fairytale. The platinum-selling singer known for her doe-eyed expressions and waist-length micro braids sparkled as the beleagured housemaid destined to steal the heart of the prince, fabulously portrayed by Phillipine-born Paolo Montalban. 

I remember as a child I would watch the TV production of Cinderella, starring Lesley Ann Warren, or read the book, and repeat the lines. 
And dream about Prince Charming. Back then, there weren't nearly as many black celebrities as now. I always identified with the dark-haired heroines like Mary Ann (Gilligan's Island), Ann Marie (That Girl) and Mary Richards
(Mary Tyler Moore) more than the rest. (I just about drove my mother nuts with my That Girl hair flip.)

But Cinderella? Wasn't that out of my league? I got my first volume of Cinderella at age 4. And I'll let you in on a deep, dark family secret: 

As a child, I used to talk to myself. Make up whole conversations and entertain crowds of invisible people -- all of whom had assembled for the purpose of watching me perform gymnastics or ''ice'' skate or sing or deliver a moving oratory. I was stunning, and even as a child, in my visions, the hair was fabulous. 

My mother found my behavior enchanting; my grandparents, however, thought I was nutty. Because they were afraid I'd grow up to be a nutty person who talked to lamp posts, they began buying me books when I was 3. By the time I was 4, I had a Disney encyclopedia set as well as several top fairytales.
Including Miss Thing in the glass slippers. Alas, the seed was sewn. (Nevermind how the improbable tale convinced me and legions of others that Prince Charming really exists. Oh, don't get me started on Prince Charming!)

The overnight ratings showed that about 60 million viewers tuned in to see the colorful extravaganza, giving ABC its highest ratings for the 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday slot in 14 years. Now maybe when little girls, black and white, meet in back yards for some make believe, they will believe that anyone can play the star. And isn't that what Cinderella is all about? Convincing a
regular field mouse it can be a trusty steed. Convincing a plain yellow pumpkin that it's a regal, horse-drawn carriage. Convincing an ordinary girl that she can be anything. 

I really liked the fact that although the production stuck closely to the original version, it did sharpen the message of ''you have to work to get what you want.'' 

Get off your duff Cinderella! Stop dreaming and move on with your life! 
As the fairy godmother, Whitney Houston helped deck out the budding princess, but she instucted her, ''The rest is up to you, Cinderella.'' 
What illustrated the story better than anything was the song Impossible. Impossible, indeed. Because when I was growing up, to think of a black girl starring in the role of Cinderella ... well, it seemed plain impossible. 
Even so, I'm glad I held on to the dream.