Becca* works part-time as a Disney princess at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The following interview was told to Alix Tunell and edited for length and clarity.
I've been working at Disney for several years. A year before I got the job, I vacationed with my family at Disneyland and my little sister was so excited to meet Tiana. I remember thinking then how cool would it be to have that job, so when I got home, I googled what it takes to be a Disney princess. I read all about the hiring process and found the site where they post the character auditions. I knew that the next fall I'd be moving to Orange County for school, and it just so happened there was an audition my first weekend there.
At the audition, they had everyone line up in rows and introduce themselves, so the casting directors could see — and, apparently, judge — us. I made it past that round to the next, where they took my measurements and sent me to a waiting room with a number. There was a lot of waiting around that day. Next, they took pictures of my face (if you had tattoos and piercings, they took photos of those, too) and had me fill out a generic resume. For the final round, I was given a character name and some scripted lines to read in front of the directors. At the end of it, about 30 people out of 600 made it and were asked to come to Disney the next day and do the same line readings before finding out if we got the role.
We didn't have a say in the characters we were given. Ariel was my favourite and I thought they would ask us, but nope. I was handed an Elsa monologue at the audition and that’s how I found out that's who they were considering me for. Once you’re officially hired, they say you’re always in consideration for other roles, though. I work part-time and typically average 20 hours a week; a normal weekly paycheck for me is between $250 and $350 (£180 and £250).
Every day starts the same. We come to work in our own clothes, because our costumes stay on the property at all times. We clock in, collect all the costume pieces we’ll need for the day, do our stretch and flex workout that trainers have us follow to warm up our bodies, and then it’s time to get ready. We’re given an hour and a half before our first meet-and-greet to get into our wig, costume, and makeup.
Disney has a ‘Disney Look’ that they want cast members to follow. Hair is supposed to appear natural, which means no crazy colours or ombré, but since my hair isn’t being seen by guests, I feel like I can push the limits on how long I can go between salon appointments. Nails have to be natural-looking, too, which means short length and a nude-ish, pink-ish colour or French tips. Most of the time, I just keep my nails polish-free, but some girls religiously get their nails done, even if it’s acrylic. Managers can come in at any time and tell us we aren’t up to 'Disney Look,' which means they can even potentially take us out of shifts until we fix the problem. In other words, we need to really be on top of keeping our maintenance in check. You can’t help but be judgmental about your looks when it comes to this job — honestly, it's pretty sad. We all constantly compare ourselves and try to copy each other. I have a gym membership because I feel like I'm supposed to maintain the look I was hired in with.
We have cosmetologists in the break room that mostly tend to the wigs, since we’re taught how to do the makeup for the character during our training. They also provide us with blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, lipstick, glitter, and powder, all by Ben Nye, because the pigmentation stands out better and they want us to look consistent. I use my own Smashbox foundation and concealer, Ciaté bronzer, and Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara. I try to use my best products so I feel as though my face is as flawless as can be, since every day is pretty much a photoshoot.
Once you're ready, you have a set location where guests can come meet you. We get people who have obsessions with our character, people who don’t know who we are but just want a picture, overbearing parents who won’t stop talking over their little tots, international travellers who are a little more challenging to make conversation with when English isn’t their primary language, people who go all out with a Disney outfit... any type of person you can think of, we've met. I think every one of us would say that talking with the little ones makes our day. There are also guests that share stories about why they’ve come to see you and they break down in front of you. That really just makes me feel like what I'm doing is truly something special and keeps me going.
*Names have been changed.