How to Become a Disney Princess

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Photo Source: Disney World Resort

Have you ever watched a Disney movie such as “Frozen,” “Cinderella,” or “Moana” and wished you could be just like the films’ protagonists? Well, you can. When you play a princess at one of Disney’s 12 theme parks, you get to enjoy all the pageantry of fictional royalty while delighting park-goers. But it’s not all fantasy; being a real-life Disney princess comes with unique challenges. This guide explores the reality of becoming royalty and how you can join the magic.

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How to become a Disney princess

Encanto on Ice

“Disney on Ice” Courtesy Disney

Applying to be a cast member is a relatively simple process. You can start by going to Disney’s official auditions website, which lists where and when auditions are held, physical requirements, and contract details. Some of these listings are general auditions, while others mention specific characters. From there, all you have to do is sign up and submit an application. 

How to audition to be a Disney princess 

On its FAQ page, Disney offers general advice for its auditions: 

  • Be confident in who you are. It will shine through at an audition.
  • If you are nervous, take long, slow breaths. Breathing with intention can help calm your nerves.
  • Remind yourself that the casting director wants you to do well and is rooting for you.
  • Be in the moment and connect with the material you are presenting.
  • Be open to direction in a callback and have a positive attitude.
  • Have fun! Our goal is to make magic, after all.

Actor Helen Planchet, who played Disney princess Elena from “Elena of Avalor” at Disney’s California Adventure, recommends doing some homework to check out what casting is looking for.

“If you’re auditioning for a specific show, you can go and watch that show on YouTube. There’s a million theme park channels that have it,” she says. “You can see, what are the character’s characteristics? What are they singing? How high do I have to sing? Do they have to dance?” 

She also suggests you know why you want to perform for Disney. Casting directors want to see that you’re bringing that Disney magic, so have your motivation ready! Once you get past the first round—that is, seeing if you look like one of Disney’s cast of princesses—the next step will be to take some dialogue and physical acting for a spin. 

If your audition requires a song, Darla Hayward, a former casting director for the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts main stage, suggests thinking outside the box. 

“It’s always great if you see that we’re looking for a pop tenor and you pick something that’s in the pop genre; but I think when you get down to individual songs, it doesn’t really matter so much,” she says. “If you’re coming in for Ariel [from ‘The Little Mermaid’], it’s probably a good idea not to sing her song, because you don’t want us to make that comparison right off the bat.”

If you want to play a princess, or any face character—a role where you show your face in the park—you’ll have to first play a “fur character,” which requires a mask. It’s a rite of passage for any Disney performer. Still, you should be direct with the characters you want to play.

“If you’re only interested in face characters, I would say the best audition to go to is actually just a regular base character audition or face character audition submission,” says Planchet. 

If you really want to become a princess, chances are you’ll need to be patient. Planchet auditioned dozens of times over a period of seven years before landing her role. Disney itself recommends anyone who didn’t make it through the audition they wanted “let it go and consider attending the next one that interests you!” 

Getting your foot in the door with the Disney College Program

You can have a shot at an audition through Disney’s college program. However, it’s not the same as if you were directly auditioning as an independent performer. Rather than try out for specific parts, auditions in college programs are more open-ended. “For the college program, they’ll travel around the country and have those auditions. So those are multipurpose auditions,” says Planchet.

“They had a very simple movement routine,” Planchet says of her experience auditioning while a part of the Disney College Program. “And they wanted you to incorporate some character acting into it.… They would tell you to pick a fur character. They’d be like, don’t pick a princess because we don’t want to see you just wave. We want you to pick someone like Mickey or Goofy.

“If you went to a dedicated face character audition at Walt Disney World, they would probably fit you in the costume and see how you looked,” she continues.

Requirements to be a Disney princess

Asha from “Wish”

Credit: Abigail Nilsson

The main requirement to be a Disney princess is airtight: If you want to play a face character, you must look like them. “It is all based on your face. You can be a great performer, [but] you will not get to showcase that unless they think you look the part,” says Planchet. In addition to being the same ethnicity as the onscreen character, you’ll have to also be of a similar build and height. (The majority of princess roles are between 4’11” and 5’8”.) 

“They’re very particular about keeping not just the integrity of the original character, but also with all the performers looking like each other,” says Jessica Thompson, who played Lady Tremaine (as well as Pluto, Eeyore, Buzz Lightyear, Rafiki, and Flik) at Disney World in Florida. “I’m actually quite tall. I’m 5-foot-10. So that pretty much kicks me out of any princess role, at least at Disney.” 

Once you get the role, you’ll need to maintain your appearance to keep it—a pressure that Thompson says can take a toll on the mental health of performers. In April of 2023, actor Hunter Haag—who portrayed princesses Rapunzel and Belle for four years at Walt Disney World—echoed that sentiment in a TikTok video

“Every eight months, we would get checked to make sure that we still fit the character profile,” Haag said, “meaning that we still look young enough to be the character that we’re portraying and that we still have the same silhouette we did when we were hired.”

How much do Disney princesses make?

Disney World

Courtesy Disney

Disney princesses can expect a wide variety of pay—between $10.82 and $27.16 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter, with an average of $20.26 an hour. That rate can go up if you’re a member of the Actors’ Equity Association. However, union jobs are typically higher-grade work that involves elaborate performances and showings. 

Some princesses work full-time, but it’s also common to be part-time. Lots of face character roles are seasonal or limited to specific shows, which have inconsistent shifts. If you’re working full-time as a face character, you can expect to work at least five days and 40 hours per week. It’s more likely that you’ll be working six or even seven days a week for up to 70 hours.

What is it like to be a Disney princess?

Ariel on ice

ToskanaINC/Shutterstock

Now that we’ve gone over how to become a Disney princess, let’s take a look at what it’ll actually be like once you have the crown.

A day as a Disney princess

As a Disney princess, you’ll arrive at hair and makeup about an hour before your shift to get ready. You’ll put on your costume and be whisked away to your schedule of meet-and-greets, shows, or any place you’ll need to be seen. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time—like if Elsa from “Frozen” is walking around Galaxy’s Edge, the “Star Wars”–themed section of Walt Disney World—is a big taboo, so don’t wander off! Once you get to your destination, you’ll be locked in for your shift, which can be as long as 10 hours.

Is being a Disney princess fulfilling?

Many aspiring cast members were inspired by Disney productions and dreamt of what it would be like to be in one. So does the gig measure up to the hype?

“My first trip to Disney, I saw the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios,” remembers Planchet. “That’s what started my love of performing. So to combine my two loves of Disney and performing was the ultimate dream for me.” 

When you finally land your princess role, the performances themselves can be everything you thought they would be. “Actually performing and being in that big princess dress and getting to see the looks on the little kids’ faces and singing directly to them and seeing that I’d made their day... That was everything I dreamed of,” says Planchet.

Thompson echoes this sentiment, saying: “Those interactions and Make-A-Wish children and families who are just so kind and so fun to interact with, that’s what kept me coming back,” she says. “For every bad interaction that I felt unsupported in, there were amazing interactions that I could hold on to, to keep me going. 

“I would not give back my time at Disney for anything. I learned so much about the entertainment business. I learned so much about myself and I truly made lifelong friends,” Thompson says. 

Is being a Disney princess difficult?

According to Thompson, being a Disney princess can be both physically and creatively exhausting. “It does affect your mental health because it kind of forces you to go Method,” she says. “It’s all improvised. There’s nothing scripted. So, a lot of times you are kind of forced to take on a lot of the mentalities of [your] character.”

“It was kind of like performing improv, because you never knew what you were gonna get,” Katie McBroom, who played Snow White and Princess Leia, told Buzzfeed. “I had some dads or older brothers that would not be excited to see Snow White, but excited at the idea of having her break character. People would mention Nintendo or something, but of course Snow White wouldn’t know about that because she lives in Germany in a castle on the clouds or whatever—so I would just kind of deflect and say, ‘Oh I don’t know what you mean.’ ”

Kristen Sotakoun, who played Pocahontas, Mulan, and Silvermist at Disney World, told Vox about her experiences dealing with overstepping male guests. 

“[Mulan is] dressed head to toe. I would get comments from the dads that were like, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful!’ Or phone numbers written on Disney World napkins,” she said. “Pocahontas, though, was wearing the least amount of clothes, so it was always the older grandpas.… I’ve never been, like, groped, but it definitely does happen. I think the people who do say things to the princesses have real balls. You’re at Disney World. There are so many children around respecting this character.”

Disney is also famous for protecting its reputation, which means you’ll have to be on your best behavior, especially on social media. One requirement is to maintain the illusion even when you’re not performing. If someone who knows you from the park sees you in public, you can’t say that you play Elsa; you’ll have to say that you’re “friends with Elsa.”

“If you criticize Disney in any way, they’re pretty much just not interested in dealing with you,” warns Planchet. Another danger zone you may not expect is being seen on social media. Although you might think Disney would like the attention you’d get if your performance was so good it went viral, the case is actually the opposite. If loads of guests want to come see you as that character, it breaks the illusion that there is only one version of that character. You won’t be Cinderella, you’ll be a Cinderella, which is not what they’re looking for. 

If you want to become a Disney princess, consider these downsides in addition to your dreams of how magical it’ll be. The total package has its positives and negatives, but it’s always better to know in advance before you commit.

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