So at the end of last year, I was in a fix. I had been a comics
artist for six years, straight out of college. My graphic novel
series had just ended and I was having trouble selling a new
series. I took a retail job to make ends meet, but it didn't pay
much. I was talking with a friend of mine who lives in another
state, when she told me about how she was a party princess. She
made a great living at it and loved her job.
"You should look around in your area," she said. "There's tons of
party services that hire princesses. If you get an interview, ask
for 50 bucks an hour to start with."
So I googled princess parties and found an outfit near me. I
wrote them an email, offering my services as either an entertainer or a
costumer (I'm a cosplayer, but I also have actual legit experience
costuming for large shows). The woman who owned the service
agreed to meet me halfway between our locations, at a Starbucks.
So I put myself together, and brought a recording of myself singing to
Disney karaoke songs on my iPod (yes, there is singing involved in this
job. Lots of singing.)
After a mix-up with locations and godawful traffic, I arrived and
talked to the owner, who said I was perfect. She was very happy I
did costumes, because up til now she had very little help in that
respect (she has a little old lady who makes the costumes, VERY good
job but didn't understand "this needs to be worn by several people and
changed out of quickly". She was an old-school seamstress who
insisted on fitting everything to a specific girl). She agreed to
my price and we set up a time to meet at the place where the costumes
are stored and the girls get changed.
Princesses are usually hired between the ages of 16-22. I'm an
outlier, because I'm in my 30's. I'm the oldest princess my boss
employs, but clients and most of the other girls think I'm around
24-25. This is because I look a lot younger than I am (mostly
from getting lots of sleep, religiously using sunscreen/staying inside,
never drinking or smoking and just having good skin run in the
family). But I don't know how unusual it is to be this old and
have the job. The majority of the other princesses are about half
my age. Makes me feel like a cane-shaking old lady sometimes.
:) I think my boss employs around 50 girls, but that's because of
the age group...many are in college or busy with high school, so she
has to keep a lot of girls on the books to make sure someone is always
available for a party. She has a core set of around 10 or 15
girls who do most jobs. Because I'm out of school, I get more
jobs from her during school months when other girls aren't available.
Costumes are supplied by the company itself. I have made a few
outfits and props for my boss since I was hired and also do stylings
for wigs and things, and give advice on how to store and take care of
wigs, which are a big pet peeve for me. You have to keep styled
wigs on foam heads, not lying flat on shelves! Don't brush
synthetic wigs anymore than you absolutely must! Etc.
My boss has a specific place where she stores costumes, wigs, makeup,
accessories, etc and the girls come there to get changed, do their hair
and makeup and pick up any party supplies, storybooks or props they
needed. Almost all the girls play multiple characters (we also
have a girl who just does our Frog Princess). I've played Belle,
Snow White, Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping
Beauty and Cinderella thus far, as well as a few non-princess
characters when the job requires it (Supergirl is WAY fun to play).
There are multiple copies of each costume, because many times my boss
will have two or three Sleeping Beautys lined up for different parties
during a busy Saturday. Often on weekends a girl will change into
Snow White, do the party, come back, change into Cinderella and go out
to another party. So many days there's a steady stream of girls
going in and out, doing multiple parties and characters. The
costumes are sort of one size fits all, but then the girls are usually
of a very similar thin build, so the costumes still look pretty fitted.
I have an unusual set-up with my boss...since I live further from her
than the other girls, and because I have all my own costumes (thanks to
cosplaying Disney stuff many times), instead of going out to her
storage/changing place, I use my own stuff. I also have my own
personal duplicates of the props she requires (storybooks, party game
props, etc). Cuts down on travel time for me and wear and tear on
her costumes. So even though I have the same job as the other
princesses, I use all my own props and costumes and identical games and
books, so she can dispatch me to further away parties than the other
girls, who must drive from their house to her costuming location, then
to the party, then back to change. I'm much more
independent. Of course that means I have to spend all my own
money on costumes, but I prefer that too because I know only I will be
wearing them, so I can fit them to myself better and wash them myself.
"Come On Girls, Get Your Princess
I have a husky voice. Like, for a woman. Some people tell
me it's sexy or sophisticated, but these people are my friends so I'd
hardly expect them to tell me I sound like a dude. But it's not a
princess voice, that's for sure. Go back and watch Disney movies,
especially Snow White, and take in the ear-splitting high notes they
hit in song. Sleeping Beauty has one of the deepest singing
voices of the princesses, and she's still super femmy sounding.
My singing range is right there with Megara from Hercules. Middle
of the scale, maybe a few high notes if I practice. So I
practice, a LOT. At home, in the shower and with a special CD on
my way to every party. My boss told me once that she was initially
worried at our first interview when I started talking, because she
thought I couldn't do the ear-splitting "princess voice". But I
switched it on before the first party and she was very relieved.
It's not hard for me to adopt a high-pitched falsetto talking voice,
without sounding too fake or strained. It's just the singing
that's hard for me, so I try to choose songs where I can exploit the
lower tones, but still hit enough high notes for it to be "princessy".
My boss has very strict guidelines for our behavior. We must
smile ALWAYS, every minute of the party (hard to do until you get the
hang of it), we must be always entertaining, we must act as if we know
the birthday girl (we're told her name and age before we arrive) and
are good friends, if they tell us they 'saw us at Disneyworld', we
agree and pretend to remember them. We have to be graceful, walk
with good posture, always polite, and apparently always talking.
I have a set number of filler comments to use if I can't think of
anything to say, including *girlish giggle*, "Oh my!" and the old
stand-by, "how wonderful!"
(This has become an embarrassment to me lately because it carries over
to my regular life...I caught myself doing the "fill the silence with
adorable laughter" thing with friends once. It's kind of awful.)
We do not say NO to children, or ask or order them to do things, even
in games. Instead we say, "Can you...", as in "Can you all line
up for the next game?" or "Can you put your hands on your head for this
part of the song?" or "Can you sit there while we get the pizza
cut?" We do not ask for water, ask to use the bathroom or ask for
tissues or things from the parents. We don't eat or drink while
driving to and from parties, in case we spill on the dress. No
nail polish unless it's pink or clear-coat, and has no chips or
cracks. No earrings unless they match the dress.
We must not be seen arriving, getting in or out of a car.
Distractions can and will be deployed, like princess smoke bombs, to
avoid ruining the illusion of our "carriage" that supposedly picks us
up. When I was in a car accident on the way to a party (that
thankfully had another princess booked too, so the kids' day wasn't
totally ruined), my boss told the parent that Cinderella's carriage
horse threw a shoe.
And yes, we must be in character 100% OF THE TIME. Even to the
parents. If we call to get directions from them, we will say,
"Hi, this is Cinderella! I want to let you know I'm almost to
your party, but I'm having trouble finding..." We are in
character to the point of pretending not to always understand stuff
that doesn't exist in our world, like TVs and phones. Even if we
bring our own stereos and CDs for party/game music. Kids usually
don't notice this. We park our cars down the street and out of
sight and always approach/leave the house on foot.
If my boss has to refer to us by name in front of clients for the
benefit of figuring out who is who, then it's Princess Emily or
Princess Carla or Princess Katie. This is a pretty typical thing
with most companies...the girls are referred to as "Princess (real
first name)", both on the website and in business. It's funny
because my name is deceptively masculine, so it's like if she had a
Princess Robert on her payroll or something. XD
It's a fact that when parents want a princess for a party, they mean
they want a DISNEY princess. I don't think other princesses even
exist for little girls anymore. Because Disney doesn't officially
allow us to use their name or characters, all princess party companies
walk a fine line of "visually close to but legally distinct from"
Disney stuff. Luckily most princesses have no copyrights on their
names (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella) and as long as we don't use Disney
words or props, we're good. I personally think Disney is happy to
look the other way because
a) They know they can't enforce it, and
b) They get HUGE boosts to their party supply sales when kids have
princess parties. If you hire Rapunzel for your party, then your
kid has to have Rapunzel plates, Rapunzel napkins, Rapunzel
decorations, a Rapunzel cake, not to mention tons of Rapunzel toys as
gifts AND an expensive Rapunzel gown and shoes and crown from the
Disney store (and a princess dress for all the little girls attending
the party as well). It's a weird saturation-effect thing.
Happens at every party I do.
It's a funny thing that if you're a party princess, Disney cosplayers
look up to you (don't know why, it's a hard job and you can't just
leave when you get tired or hot) and actual Disney park face characters
look down on you (again, don't know why, we make more in an hour then
they do in two days and we stay inside in the a/c...plus there are no
restrictions on our heights or ages).
QUESTIONS FROM FORUM MEMBERS:
1. Do you only do solo appearances,
or sometimes do you bring a prince
or other princesses or something?
2. Have you ever done a boy's party?
3. Do little kids ever want you to
eat some birthday cake? If so, how
much do you worry about your clothes getting stained? (if I had a
costumed gig, I know I would be paranoid as hell about this)
4. How superficial are people about
your role? As in, how made up are
you expected to get, and do people seem to care more about how you look
or how fun you are?
5. What's the oldest group you have
ever done a party for? Youngest?
6. Everyone I know whose job involves
going to strangers' houses
(delivery people, plumbers, w/e) has been offered drugs as a tip
(generally weed). Has that ever happened to you? I only ask because a
little girl's birthday party is the last place I would think you would
haul out the drugs...
1. We often do solo, but many parents will hire two or three princesses
at once so sometimes we do group stuff.
2. I haven't done a boy's party yet because they usually don't want
princesses. We have
superhero/Batman/Spiderman/pirate characters to do their parties, but
obv. the men get sent to do those, not me. But little brothers
and other boys are often invited to princess parties, so it's rare if
at least one little boy isn't present. Sometimes they're turned
off by the cooties, sometimes they're fascinated by the "celebrity"
princess appearance. Once or twice they seem to get little kid
crushes on the princesses. That's always funny :)
3. We're almost always offered cake/cookies/snacks, but my boss will
not allow us to accept it, because it ruins our makeup to eat it and
also we may spill on the dress. I usually say, "Oh my! No
thank you, I had yummy cake for breakfast in my castle!"
*sparklesparkle* But we can accept bottles of water if they offer
it. Just can't ask for them. I'm glad when they offer, cuz
I'm usually dying of thirst after dancing, singing, talking non-stop.
4. Parents expect you to get into it. They generally expect
you to be as into it as a Disney Park character would be. Mostly
they want to know that you are happy and sunny and have a routine set
up to entertain the kids, not just show up and smile at people and do
nothing. We have set routines and games we do, story and singing
games alternated with physical activities like dancing, balloon toss,
etc. Mostly parents prefer you to be genuinely fun and engaging
as opposed to being model-perfect in looks, but my boss has a very high
standard for all her girls so we must meet her makeup and deportment
criteria (perfect posture, ALWAYS smiling, always say the right thing
and use your "princess voice"). She has a very successful
business that relies on word-of-mouth, so she insists on us giving 110%
for every job.
5. The oldest group was maybe like 7-8. That's our absolute
limit, after that age they're just not as into princesses or they tend
to think you're fake. Youngest was 2 years old.
6. I have never been offered drugs, lol. I think because
most parties we do involved middle to upper middle class. Grown
ups get weird around princesses, like they don't want to offend
them. And they try to keep the "magical" atmosphere going for
their kids, so they defer to you and call you princess and treat you
nicely...for the most part. Some upper class people view you as
'the help" and are just awful. More on that later.
To sum up this first post, I'd be lying if I didn't say I took this job
cuz I needed the money and times were tough to find another one.
But there are days when I really enjoy this job, which is odd because I
really don't like kids. I certainly don't plan on HAVING
any. But they say really hilarious stuff and they do really love
them some princesses.
But there are days where the alarm goes off, I roll over and squint at
it and I think, "Shit, wish I could get five more minutes. I
really don't want to go to work. Oh well, better get my ballgown