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My Magic Carpet Ride as Jasmine
The First Rehearsal
Somehow I've turned my childhood dream of becoming a princess into a part-time profession. Yes, like many little girls fed all the fairy tale B.S., I wanted to don a crown and marry Prince Charming and sleep in a canopy bed in the highest tower of a magnificent palace. A part of me, despite my feminist tendencies and years of worldly life experiences, still longs for that selfish fantasy. A larger part of me loves making quick cash to help support my bigger, more substantive dreams. Instead of waiting tables, I'll slide into a pair of magic slippers and don a smile, earning anywhere from $20-150 an hour (plus tips, mileage compensation, and even a meal most of the time). Besides, it's fun and always makes for great writing material.
Among the Disney princesses, I've been Snow White, Belle, and Cinderella. (That's not to mention my adventures as the Easter Bunny, a Christmas elf, a clown, a mime, a bride, a pirate, a PBS cartoon character, and too many others to list.) For now, I'll focus on my latest gig as Jasmine from Disney's Aladdin.
Unlike many of my entertainment gigs—birthday parties, grand openings, corporate events, regional expos—this one is regular and ongoing. I'm playing Jasmine in a Disney princesses production at a local spa. This is no typical spa. Think of it more as a complex. The complex features multiple rooms and specialists, allowing customers to indulge in manicures, teeth whitening, body tans, massages, Zumba classes, etc.
One such indulgence takes place in the Princess Room, a space with magenta and turquoise walls, inspirational posters about girl power, and a table brimming with rhinestones and plastic pearls. Twice a day on Sunday, little girls can come with their friends to watch the Disney Princesses sing and dance. The show lasts about an hour, which is just long enough for Mom to visit the in-house podiatrist or nutritionist. After the show, the little girls can go get their age-appropriate make-overs done.
Like most of my entertainment gigs, I spotted this one on Craigslist (beware: most CL posters in the “Talent” category just want to see your boobs.) I was sitting on my porch with my laptop, trying to schedule my life for the next month. That involved hitting up clients, old and new, for entertainment work. Not long after that, the spa folks replied and I snagged an audition slot. Two days later, I wowed them with my princess-y qualities and got the job.
Fast forward two weeks to today for our first rehearsal. That Princess Room was packed with estrogen, doe eyes, and perky personalities. All of the princesses introduced themselves and then, one by one, stood up to present a song or dance. It started out kind of awkwardly since nobody had had much time to practice.
Cinderella sang softly, hands trembling as she clutched the print-out sheet with her lyrics. Belle began with a long, rambling explanation about why she had combined two Beauty and the Beast songs into one. Then she sang a tad timidly but otherwise very well. After Belle's performance, Sleeping Beauty stood up and sang pleasantly, though slightly off-key. Next came Mulan. She was the youngest in the group, just entering her senior year of high school. She was doing beautifully until her voice cracked. Then it cracked again. And again. By this point, she was quivering.
The spa owner stopped Mulan in the middle of her song and said, “You have to be confident.” We stared at the owner after she paused too long for comfort. “It doesn't matter that you're singing for kids. When you enter this room, you have to be confident. You have to be confident about your gift. Each one of you has a gift. That's why I picked you. You need to believe in that gift. Those little girls need to believe you're a princess, but they're not going to believe that you're a princess until you believe you're a princess.”
Lecture over, right? Wrong.
Somehow this pep talk stretched into a spiel and that spiel turned into a prompting to disclose our biggest insecurities. The spa owner put Sleeping Beauty on the spot and thus began her account of sibling rivalry. Growing up, she'd always been the Pretty Sister and her sister had been the Smart Sister. Relatives would say that her sister was so smart, she could go anywhere, while she was so pretty that she'd marry well. Then Sleeping Beauty gained so much weight that no one thought her pretty anymore. Because no one had ever praised her for anything but her looks, Sleeping Beauty questioned her self-worth.
Belle had been bullied. The other kids at school called her “Caterpillar Eyes,” slammed her against the lockers, squirted ketchup on her favorite sweater, and even put her in the hospital at one point. None of the teachers would defend her, so Belle relied on her older sister for protection. Meanwhile, her older sister had her own troubles, having to play the role of surrogate mother since their mom was so negligent.
Mulan had been molested. By her cousin. At age three. Needless to say, Mulan cried after her confession. Pocahontas scooted over to hug her.
Stories from the rest of the princesses came pouring in after that and we went around hugging each other once the storytelling ended.
Somehow rehearsal resumed, perhaps because everyone was out of tears and hugs. The other princesses presented their acts, with Tiana of The Princess and the Frog bringing everyone else to shame. She had choreographed her own dance and then performed it flawlessly.
We departed clumsily after receiving our paperwork. Mulan shouted at me from across the parking lot as she got into her mother's mini-van: “Good-bye! It was nice to meet you!”
I studied her mother's face for a few seconds. She was looking down, probably reading a magazine or checking her phone. I wondered if she knew Mulan had been molested as a child.
“Bye! Nice meeting you, too,” I shouted back, and then got into my Corolla.
What was I doing? I hadn't signed up for therapy. I signed up to sing about magic carpet rides. Maybe I'll have a chance to do more of that next rehearsal. Until then, I'll be thinking about toddler Mulan's trials and tribulations.
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