A four-year-old girl is waiting patiently by her front door with a single rose in her hands. It’s her birthday party and all her guests are dressed up in gowns and tiaras. Only one guest is missing. Stephanie Young is on her way to the east-end Ottawa party to make a dream come true for the birthday girl.
The University of Ottawa student, 18, dresses up as Princess Belle on the weekends for her part-time job. She is one of many students throughout Ottawa who chose a non-conventional way to pay the bills.
Young started princessing this past June when a spot opened up at Official Princess Parties where she worked as a spa host. “I love Disney princess movies,” she said. She usually portrays Rapunzel and Cinderella.
Young works with many other students. Another princess is Zineb Cherkaoui, 22, and she typically portrays Jasmine, Tiana and Pocahontas – the non-white princesses.
“I’ve done Belle once,” she said. “I didn’t feel like her.”
To act like the princess you dress up as, one must feel like them, said Cherkaoui, a fourth-year University of Ottawa student in psychology.
Kathryn McCrae, 17, agrees. “You get a feel for it and the stress level goes down,” she said.
McCrae, a high school student, became a princess when she was 15 years old.
“It’s a tiring job,” she said. “But, you’re making dreams come true.”
The birthday parties last on average an hour where the princess entertains the kids with games, sing-alongs and sparkling temporary tattoos. However, the preparation for the parties is time consuming, said McCrae. Before each party, the princesses must prepare the gift bags, find the books they will read to the children, prepare the sparkling tattoos and, of course, dress up.
Between the makeup – blush, lipstick and fake eyelashes – and positioning the wig with tons of bobby pins, the preparation last longer than the party itself.
Alexandra McKendry, an Algonquin College early childhood education student, supports McCrae.
“You have to wear a crazy amount of blush,” she said. The girls learnt how to make their own princess makeup. “You have to look perfect because you go in as this full fledge character,” said McKendry.
Being all smiles can also take tire a princess out.
“After a long day, you don’t really want to smile too much,” she said. “Because your face starts to twitch, your muscles get really, really sore.”
“There’s some bad side to it, it’s not all glamorous,” she added.
Every princess is required to have her own means of transportation to go from one party to the next on the weekends. “You can’t imagine how hard it is to drive with a hoop skirt,” said MCKendry. “It’s ridiculous.”
While driving in full costume, the princesses get some confused looks from other drivers. And, on some occasions, they experience problems with their magic carpets.
Cherkaoui was driving on a country road outside of Ottawa in the winter when she got her first ever flat tire. Not knowing what to do, she waited by the car. A van pulled behind her and two men came out.
“They were confused to see Jasmine crying by the road,” said Cherkaoui. The men helped her and she made it to the birthday party she was heading to.
McKendry has had a similar situation where people stared. “When you stop to put gas in your car, people stare at you and take pictures,” she said.
“If you care about what people think, don’t do this,” she said.
McCrae agrees. “Don’t be scared of judgement,” she said.
Another difficult part of being a princess is to remain in character at all times. With older kids, they don’t believe as much that you are the real deal, said Young.
“You just adapt,” said Cherkaoui.
Even if they follow specific activities during the parties, they must improvise a lot.
While portraying Merida, McKendry once rolled around on a carpet during a party because the Brave princess has no manners, she said. “The parents laugh along with you,” she added.
Making dreams come true has its benefits.
“It’s so rewarding to give a birthday party where all the girls are excited,” said Young.
“Younger girls love you so much,” said Zineb. “They just want to hug you.”
Official Princess Parties started in 2008 and has a specific goal, regardless of superheroes and princesses.
“Your goal when you’re there is to make their birthday party the best birthday party,” said McKendry.