Keeping Confident in the Most Magical Place on Earth
I took a slightly different path than some do after graduating. While on a trip to Walt Disney World during high school, I noticed that the parks seemed like quite a magical place to work. I was curious about what being a cast member would entail, and that spark of curiosity lead me to the audition website. Shortly after, I hopped on a train to Chicago and auditioned to be a character performer for Walt Disney World. Because I knew the stakes were high, and there were many other talented actresses auditioning, I never thought I’d be chosen. When I walked into the room, I was given a number and told to take a seat. Once the audition began, we were taught a short dance combination and animation sequence. Eventually they selected seven women, including myself, to read lines and have photos taken. I remember sitting on the train on the way back home and telling my dad on the phone, “I think I’m going to get this job.”
A few weeks later, I discovered that my suspicions were correct. I was offered a full-time position at Walt Disney World in Orlando. I was all set to start my freshman year of college that fall, but after getting the opportunity, I knew it was time to change the plan. Union University in Jackson, Tennessee was kind enough to allow me to defer my admission for a year. I packed up my car, put a Rapunzel doll on the dashboard and began the long journey to the “happiest place on earth.”
The training was vigorous and intense. Disney has very high expectations for their performers, and it’s important that you always do your best, follow the strict rules when interacting with guests, be sure to meet the required number of guests each hour and maintain your appearance for consistency. “Character integrity” is high priority for performers, and although I no longer work at Walt Disney World, I still value the integrity of the characters. We maintain an element of mystery, so I can’t openly disclose my everyday tasks or how my shifts went. However, I can say I spent a lot of time with Rapunzel and Anna from Frozen. They were some of my best of friends!
The best part of the job was seeing the amazement on the faces of children and adults, excited to meet Anna or Rapunzel. That made the struggles worth it. Children stared in awe, wowed by the fact that this character from their TV screen is finally in front of them. Adults poured their hearts out, sharing their desires as Rapunzel reminded them to go and live their dreams. I look back fondly on those memories, grateful for the opportunity to make dreams come true. Disney World truly was a magical place for me, but unfortunately, not without harmful effects on my confidence.
While my time at Walt Disney World was incredible and fulfilling, it could also be draining and difficult. The constant pressure of maintaining my appearance wore me down and broke me. I spent many days at work crying in the mirror, dreading going onstage where I knew hundreds of people would be taking pictures of me. Every eight months I would have a “relook”, which consisted of a casting director looking me up and down and determining if I looked the same. At one relook in particular, the casting director told me I needed to watch my silhouette and that my arms were looking full. Given that this was already an insecurity of mine, I went to my car and burst into tears. This job had a way of affirming your worst insecurities while forming new ones each day. Each day wore me down, and I crumbled under the weight of my own insecurities.
After working full-time at Walt Disney World for one year, I packed up my things once again and moved to Jackson, Tennessee. I was relieved to get a break from the pressures of my job and have a chance to focus on my self-growth. I went through recruitment at Union University and the women of Kappa Delta offered me a bid to the Zeta Beta chapter. They told me, “You have such incredible confidence.” Little did they know that the confident act I put on was merely a façade. Fake it ‘til you make it, right? After hearing the positive affirmations from these women, I accepted my bid and became a new member of Kappa Delta.
At the time, my confidence was at an all–time low, especially coming off that difficult year working at Disney World. It was a breath of fresh air to be affirmed for what is on the inside, rather than be judged for my outward appearance. I’d always wanted to be a leader, and I jumped at the leadership opportunities in Kappa Delta. The encouragement I received from my KD sisters was unprecedented. I took on the position of vice president-public relations in my first semester of college, but the opportunities didn’t stop there. I went on to serve as vice president-member education and eventually as chapter president.
For me, confidence has always been a battle, and sometimes my self-esteem was nonexistent. The road to confidence is a journey with many ups and downs, sometimes I take a shortcut and sometimes I end up going in the wrong direction. However, my membership in Kappa Delta has served as a road map through it all, guiding me towards a more confident version of myself.
During each break from school, I returned to my job as a character performer at Walt Disney World. I would arrive a confident, self-assured woman, but after a few weeks of working, I noticed my confidence levels dropping again. When I returned to my beloved Zeta Beta, my sisters would refill my tank, building me back up again until I felt like myself. When all you hear is commentary about appearances, and you find yourself dipping into negative self-talk, when the world wants to tear you down, your Kappa Delta sisters are there to build you back up. They were the soldiers in olive green and pearl white armor that fought the battle of confidence alongside me, protecting and encouraging me along the way. Without my membership in Kappa Delta, I would not be the woman I am today. It is through the love of my sisters in Kappa Delta that I’m able to be empowered. Encouragement, trust, affirmation and unwavering support. That is what confidence and Kappa Delta mean to me.
Lauren Blodgett (Zeta Beta – Union)