By Joyce Slaton
Here’s another fun post from our friends at Baby Center!
You don’t know M. Alice LeGrow. But if you give her $100, she’ll come to your house for an hour in a big poofy dress and carefully styled wig to sing songs, dance, and play party games with a houseful of kids.
M. Alice is a party princess. On the weekends, she gets dressed up as Cinderella or Snow White, drives to the suburbs of Philadelphia, and convinces parties of three- and four-year-olds that there’s really magic in the world. She loves her job. What she doesn’t love? Smiling for an entire hour, hostesses that serve cake with green frosting, and driving in hoop skirts.
You wear wigs and big costumes at parties — how how uncomfortable are they to wear?
My boss arranges with every party to put on the AC where we’re performing, even in the dead of winter, because it’s so hot under that giant poofy gown and hoops and a big wig and makeup. If they don’t turn on the AC, I sweat and then the pictures come out sweaty and people call my boss and complain. Incidentally, we don’t wear any glitter, and neither do the Disney park characters, because glitter comes out in pictures looking like sweat.
What’s the hardest part about being a party princess?
Smiling for an hour straight. I literally come out with dents in my makeup at the end of a party. I smile all the way through the party, even when I’m singing, and then I say goodbye to each guest, smiling, and smile as the host is paying me, and say “Have a magical day!” and turn away and then my face just sags down.
That voice you just used…
That’s the princess voice. It’s up high. If you watch the Disney princess movies, you’ll notice that they had high voices, particularly the earlier ones. I don’t like playing Snow White as much for that reason. She’s ear-splitting. Rapunzel has an easier speech pattern and I can speak more naturally and say “Oh gosh!” or “Wow!” instead of [princess voice] “How wonderful!” Also, Rapunzel wears flat shoes and doesn’t have hoops in her skirts.
You say that a lot? How wonderful?
We have these things to say that are like princess static. Half the time you can’t hear what a child is saying to you in a roomful of people all talking, and so you say something like “How wonderful!” or “Oh my!”
How long does it take you to get ready for a party?
Oh, maybe an hour — you put on your moisturizer and let it soak in, they you put on your primer and let that soak in…Snow White has darker brows than the other princesses, and redder lipstick, but most of the others are just generic, it’s heavy stage makeup because with a big costume and a big wig, if you don’t have lots of makeup on you look weird. The wig is already styled, you do that after each party, so you put it on like a hat. You put on your hoop skirt; you can’t exactly show up at a party and ask to change, so then I have to drive in it. If you stuff it under the wheel, it’s okay.
You mentioned there was a cutoff age for parties?
At age 7, the kids are long beyond princesses. I really like to do parties for children who are 3 or 4; even at 5 some of the girls will be more mature and will stand around at the edges, making comments. Managing older siblings can be hard too.
Why? What do they do?
They’ll say things to try to trip you up: “I don’t think you’re the real Snow White.” So I say back, [princess voice] “What’s your name? I don’t think you’re the real Melissa.” They have no answer for that, and the parents laugh. Then I move on to a game. The kids ask you a lot of questions like “How did you get here, Cinderella?” and you say “Oh, I rode in a carriage. Have you ever been in a carriage?” It’s all about deflecting back.
What do the girls who are into having you there do?
They hug me, they kiss me; I love how happy they get, but I also can’t let them smudge their pizza and cake-covered faces up against the costume; I have to clean it after wearing it each time anyway, and getting food on it doesn’t help. So what you do is you hold them by the wrists and dance around with them, la la la, and they get so excited to be dancing with you that they don’t rub against you. Green frosting is the worst; there’s something in green frosting that makes it really hard to get out. And grass stains. One time I was Cinderella at an outdoors party and I got so many grass stains on my skirt that it was easier to cut it off and make a new skirt for the costume than to clean it. We don’t eat or drink in the costumes before or during the party for fear of getting things on it.
You mentioned Disney before — what do you have to do to avoid Disney getting on you for infringing on their copyrights?
Several princess firms that I know of has gotten cease and desist letters, especially in Florida and California. We can’t sing the Disney songs from the movies; we do have these party princess mixes Disney licensed that we can sing along with. Some people are surprised to learn that Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are in the public domain, they were fairytales long before Disney came along. But we can’t call someone Tinkerbell, she is Fairy Bell; our Belle is Rose Beauty. Aurora and Briar Rose are both copyrighted, so we have to use only Sleeping Beauty. And we can’t do the movie costumes exactly, but Disney has color-coded its princesses so well that if you’re blue you’re Cinderella, if you’re yellow, Belle.
What do little girls do when they see you?
Well, it helps if we come in the right way, that is, maintaining the illusion by showing up at the door, rather than the kids standing outside and watching me walk up the block. We park far away so the kids won’t see us getting out of our car and arranging our skirts — it’s really ideal to knock on the door and have little Skyler Eva open it up. She pretty much goes nuts, and then starts listing off every princess item she has with your face on it. Which people say, ‘Oh, that’s so materialistic!’ But really, what is she expected to have in common with a princess who she just met? They can’t say, ‘I have a horse and castle just like yours!’ Also, if you notice, this is what adults do when they meet celebrities. “Oh, I saw all your movies, I have all your boxed sets.” You just want to prove you’re a fan.
Last question, and it’s one I’m uncomfortable asking: Do the dads ever hit on you?
Thankfully, no. Most of the other princesses who work for my boss are in high school; the clients know that. I’m older, but they aren’t really sure how old, so they don’t want to risk it. Also, their wives are there, little kids are around. Sometimes an old grandpa will be like ‘Let me get a picture with this little honey, I was in World War Dos and so I can call everyone honey.’ But that’s usually the worst of it.