A Candid Look Into the Magical Job of Being a Disney Theme Park Princess

A rare conversation with one of Disney’s greatest princesses, on screen and off.

With the upcoming release of Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast movie, I set out to see if I could get in touch with Princess Belle herself. No, not Emma Watson. I wanted to speak with someone who lives the character of Belle day in and day out. I recently had the rare opportunity to sit down with one of Disney’s theme park Belle actors for a candid conversation about her unique line of work, her favorite non-Beast Disney prince, and the new movie of course. And now, we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair, as the dining room—er, this budding journalist proudly presents… an interview with one of Disney’s greatest princesses.

What has been your favorite part of playing Belle at a Disney theme park?

“The best part about portraying such an iconic character is the amount of ‘magic’ I have had the privilege of witnessing. These characters mean so much to so many people, especially children. As a princess, I have the opportunity, to single-handedly be the highlight of someone’s trip and that’s pretty amazing. Also, since Disney partners with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I have had many opportunities to make a real difference in the lives of the children and families who truly need it the most. When a child’s one wish is to meet you, it’s a very humbling experience.”

What are some of the unique challenges you face that readers might find surprising?

“While I’m not sure if this will be all that surprising, some unique challenges are simply that kids will say and ask anything. And it’s my job to stay in character and answer those questions—no matter what. For example, children have asked me how I go to the bathroom in such a big dress. It’s kind of a challenge to direct the conversation away from ‘potty’ talk but it keeps me on my toes, that’s for sure.”

To so many children, meeting Princess Belle is a dream come true. What is the cutest thing a little girl has said to you?

“I once had a little girl who was completely over the moon excited to meet me. She ran up to me, jumped in my lap and would not stop hugging me. I try to let those moments last as long as possible so while her family was telling her to turn around and smile for a picture, I just let her stay there and cuddle me. After a couple minutes, she looked up at me and said, ‘Belle, I love you so much,’ and went back to hugging me. In those moments, I just want to cry with how sweet kids can be. I get to go home every night reminded of why I love my job so much.”

What about cheesy pickup lines from guys?

“Sometimes men have no shame… and sometimes it’s the grandpas you really have to look out for. They have asked for kisses, hugs, even my phone number. Occasionally, I have run into a genuine guy truly interested in asking me out. Those are always hard because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, but it’s simply not the time or place to be meeting guys.”

Are there any kids or moments over the years that have stood out to you?

“Meeting famous people always stands out because it’s incredible how frequently, they are equally as excited to meet me as I am them. I’m just some girl in a pretty dress but to them, we are the celebrity.”

What is the hardest part about staying in character?

“The hardest part about staying in character for me is the fact that I’m human. I have days where I’m not feeling great, or someone I know is in the hospital and I’m stressed out or worried. You must leave all the stress behind and simply be a happy princess who makes children feel like there isn’t a care in the world. Whether I’m in the middle of finals week at school or just got dumped by my boyfriend, it’s an absolute necessity to leave it all behind while I’m on set.

So you’re not allowed to break character under any circumstances?

“Not at all. In fact, one time some people I knew back in high school recognized me. I had to stay in character even though they were talking to me about high school. It was so awkward because they kept looking at me like I was so weird. I don’t think they understood that I couldn’t break character.”

What all goes into getting dressed and made up for the role each time?

“We get about an hour or so to get our makeup and everything on. We do our own makeup using makeup provided by Disney. Belle has three dresses, her classic yellow gown which is what we usually wear. Then she has her blue and white village dress which is the dress she wears throughout most of her movie. This dress is worn for some meet and greets and shows. Finally, she has her beautiful, red Christmas dress which only comes out once in a blue moon for a few lucky girls.”

Do you see your portrayal of Belle as a role model for young girls, and what do you hope their takeaway is after meeting you or getting a picture with you?

“Absolutely! Portraying Belle is a privilege that I take very seriously and being a good role model is important to me. Belle is kind, adventurous, smart, and doesn’t judge a book by its cover. These are traits I try to bring with me every day and help people believe that I’m real. Sometimes we have guests who want to take a million pictures on everybody’s individual cell phones. I want to yell, ‘take one photo and text it to all twenty of you!’ But, instead I try to smile and be gracious knowing that for me this is just another meet and greet moment, but for them, this is the moment they have saved money for, stood in line an hour for, and maybe even waited a lifetime for. I hope when families leave, they remember meeting Belle and that I made an impression on them. We have a place guests can go to compliment a character and some of the best compliments I’ve received come from families who say, Belle literally made their child’s whole trip. If I’ve done that for even one family a day I know I’m making a positive impact.”

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Let’s talk about the live action movie coming out this week. Have you given much thought to how it may affect your demand with kids, and do you think you will make any changes to your Belle persona after seeing the film?

“I’m so excited for this movie and the fact that it will hopefully re-ignite people’s love for this iconic story, but I still want to be true to the original cartoon that made Belle so famous. For example, Emma Watson has an accent in the new live action film, but for me, I would like to stay true to the original and sound as much like Paige O’Hara as possible. In my eyes, she will always be the voice of Belle.”

Ok—kind of a random question, but if Belle could have ended up with any other prince from another Disney movie, who would your choice for her be and why?

“Wow, great question! I’ve never, ever had to think about that before. If I had my choice for Belle, and the Beast wasn’t an option, I would like to see her with someone like Flynn Rider. He’s adventurous like Belle and he’s got a great sense of humor, which is a must. He’s also selfless—at least at the end of his movie—which is a great quality in a man. But honestly, I think the Beast is the perfect match for Belle.”

So, have you screened the movie yet or will you be seeing it with everyone else for the first time?

“I have not seen the movie yet, and I’m so excited to get to see it with the rest of the world on March 17th. I’m excited to see what these amazing actors will bring to these iconic characters and while I’m excited to see the new aspects of this story, I’m even more excited to see the beloved tale as old as time, told in a new live-action way.”

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me! I’m sure everyone will look forward to seeing you next time they visit a Disney theme park!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this exclusive behind-the-scenes peek into the magical world of a real-life Disney Princess. Do you think you have what it takes to be a Disney character performer for a living? What do you think the biggest challenge would be for you? Share your thoughts in the comments—and make sure and tag that one friend in need of a dramatic career change!

Cover photo by mydisneyadventures (Flickr: Belle) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Written by Jaime Drew

Jaime is a coffee aficionado, avid reader, and wannabe craft queen. When she's not freelance writing, she enjoys traveling, theatre, and the occasional game of hide and go seek.