They bring our favorite childhood classics to life as Belle, Ariel, and Cinderella every day of the week. It’s even possible that one of your cherished mementos is a picture you’ve taken with one of them. But behind the beaming smile, floor-length gown, and perfect makeup of each princess at a Disney park is a real-life person. These late teens and early twenty-somethings who smile and wave all over the park, sit atop floats, and perform in shows are having fun, but they’re also on the clock. And adhering to park policies and standards, maintaining the “Disney look,” and serving as brand ambassadors is equally important to their world-renowned performances.
Real Simple sat down with one of the Disney royals to hear about the makeup routine, job security, and behind-the-scenes happenings at The Happiest Place on Earth. Asking to remain anonymous, one princess tells us what it’s like to be a character at Disneyland.
1. Job Security Is Not Guaranteed.
“You just have to audition for everything that’s coming out. Normally, there’s auditions that just cast members can go to and then there’s the open call for everybody, and we have to audition every year to keep our jobs. We all re-audition, so you’re never safe. That makes it sound really ominous—but it kind of is! They keep you on your toes.”
2. The Princesses Are Anything But.
“We get such a bad rap as Disney princesses. I feel like a lot of people assume that it’s a lot of stuck-up girls that think they’re really pretty and want to be real-life princesses—it’s none of that. My friends who I’ve met through Disney are some of the most down-to-earth, kind, just warmest, some of the most intelligent people that I’ve ever met. One of my coworkers just graduated with a degree in forensic criminology.”
3. Every Princess Must Look the Same, From Crown to Slippers.
“We have a makeup chart so that everything is the same park-wide. That’s for every possible spot in a parade or in a show or at the resort. As a cast member, there are certain qualifications or things you have to do to maintain the ‘Disney look.’ Like we’re not allowed to have any crazy hair colors and our nails have to be either French or a light pink or clear. We have to dress appropriately—on and off the clock—because their mentality is you represent the park, and it’s our job to promote the kind of atmosphere that we would like at Disney. We have to be almost brand ambassadors undercover to promote a positive, healthy lifestyle and look to fit the Disney brand, because the Disney brand is so specific. As soon as you start working for the company, they want to make sure you’re holding yourself to their high standards.”
4. Your Voice Matters.
“You go through a lot of voice training. We meet with a dialect coach. For those of us that use dialect, you get a packet and they teach you the different vowel placements. The thing for most of these characters is you’re not just learning an accent—you’re learning how the person that recorded the voice spoke. You have to learn the cadences of these specific human beings’ voices. It’s a cool, kind of tricky thing to do. And we’re supposed to watch the movie like a million times basically to try to get as close to it as we can.”
5. Part of the Job Is Improv.
“It gets hard, because you have to be thinking so much on your feet. If people are talking to you or yelling things, you have to come up with a response right away. It just takes a lot of practice outside so that you’re comfortable. You have to watch the movies and you have to pull out things that they talk about or that are brought up in a movie that you know you can kind of work things back to.”
6. Fur characters (“Fuzzies”) and Face Characters Get Along.
“No, no, no, no, no. That’s a myth. Maybe back before I started working for the company that was a thing. Or maybe at Disney World, but, at our park, some of my closest friends that I have met at Disney are fuzzies.”jobs.
7. The Lifespan of a Disney Princess Varies—Greatly.
“Normally when they age people out, they age them into a spot, like they don’t normally age someone out and fire them. They’re not going to fire someone just because—everyone grows up and everyone grows up at different rates—physically, mentally, emotionally. But they’re not gonna just kick you out because you grew up.”
This story originally appeared on Real Simple.