When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be one of two things– a Disney princess or a dog. Being a somewhat intelligent child, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to morph into a canine and instead set my sights on becoming Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast. That career goal never went anywhere, but a few months ago a close friend of mine asked me to take pictures of her. She was applying to become a princess performer. After taking a few pictures of her, my interest was rekindled.
Face characters are actresses and actors who are cast to dress up in character costumes that do not cover their faces, like the Disney princesses. I once read an online article that listed the requirements to become an official Disney princess, but when I turned to the internet to find an official source, I couldn’t find anything directly affiliated with Disney. There are dozens of blog posts on the subject, however, and there seems to be a general consensus on a several princess requirements.
The most discussed requirements are the physical ones, as physical requirements for work can be pretty controversial. The most popular opinion seems to be that princess performers at Disney are supposed to be between 5-foot-3 and 5-foot-7 with a dress size between four and ten. For the local organizations, such as Dream Parties, the requirements are similar but not as strict. One princess face character says that her company only has one dress for each princess and since the dresses are in various sizes, you play the princess whose dress fits you. That is, if you are chosen to wear a dress. There are more potential princesses than there are dresses, so in order to be given a dress, the performer has to prove that she can be truly convincing as a princess.
There is a considerable amount of pressure to give a convincing performance. Samantha Olson, ’18 Elementary Education major, who regularly works as a face character for Dream Parties, says “One of the toughest situations is when a “non-believing” kid announces that I’m not a “real” princess, because I hate to have the magic ruined for another child who does believe he or she is really meeting the character!”
When Olson is entertaining at parties, she has to be a kind, beautiful, perfect princess who can convince a child that she represents real-life magic. All the while, she does this wearing an uncomfortable dress and a heavy wig with jabbing bobby pins, sometimes even needing to color in her eyebrows with red lipstick for the Little Mermaid costume. If any of these uncomfortable things cause her, or any of the other performers, to break character, then they will risk being passed up for the next party or could provoke some very unhappy children.
Despite all the discomfort and pressure, the benefits outweigh the costs for most of the face character performers. They give out hugs and smiles without hesitation, receiving the same from their audience. The children go home completely overjoyed and full of memories that they will hold onto, all because of the young people dedicated to spreading the magic of Disney.