Right after I turned 18, I started auditioning for a job at one of Disney’s theme parks because I would be paid to play a famous character there.
After thirteen auditions in which I was repeatedly told that I “didn’t have the right look”, I was hired in March 2012 at Disneyland in Anaheim to play the role of Drizella Tremaine, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters.
Later I also worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where I was forced to leave in December last year because of the corona pandemic.
Despite all the research I had done beforehand about working at a Disney park, there were a lot of things that I didn’t learn until I got the job. While some things may have changed since I left, these are three things that have surprised me the most.
After I was hired, I kept worrying that I could lose my job at any moment
Unfortunately, I always had the feeling that the role of my dreams could be taken from me at any moment. I was especially worried that they would think I was too old to still look like a 16-year-old princess from a cartoon.
The cast members were also always afraid of having to come to an interview for a ‘silhouette problem’. That means someone from Disney management thinks your weight is a problem.
It was also not unusual to hear that a manager had seen photos of an actress at the Ariel’s Grotto attraction — where many characters wear a mermaid tail and bikini top — and commented that she looked too chubby. Then she was temporarily not allowed to play a mermaid and she only got the role back when the casting had decided that she looked slimmer again.
I was also regularly banned from playing fully clothed characters like Pluto because of the shape of my shoulders. I also got nervous when I didn’t fit into my parade dress. The casting had said I would lose my part if I didn’t look good in any way. That didn’t feel good.
I couldn’t count on a fixed number of hours, but I had to be available at all times
When I started working for Disneyland in California, I was cast for a part on a temporary special event.
One of the main reasons I wanted to work at Walt Disney World was that my character would be deployed multiple times a day. As a result, I thought I had a greater chance of a full-time contract, instead of part-time or seasonal work. That turned out not to be the case. After two years of working at Disney World, I was still seen as a seasonal worker with no additional benefits.Sometimes I was not scheduled at all and had to hope that other girls would give me a service, or worse, hope that they would get sick.
I felt guilty, but this was my only job, as I feared that I would not be eligible for a full-time contract or other roles if I also did something outside of Disney. The rules to get to work are strict unless the casting team loves you
Disney is known for the company’s strict character requirements, but I’ve seen the rules go overboard easily if the casting really likes how someone looks.
This made me realize that it is not always deserved for an actor to get a certain role. Actors who play characters where the face is important, such as the roles I played myself, are mainly chosen for their appearance.
In my opinion, the audition process is not very difficult once you get through the first round, where all you have to do is stand still and laugh. As long as you look good in your costume, Disney can teach you the acting skills you need.
Unfortunately, I also often got jealous when the casting team liked someone else more. I often thought: ‘why can she play more roles than me?’ or ‘why was she chosen for the parade, while I’m working here longer?’”
Still, Disney actors generally work hard and take their jobs seriously. The work itself was always fun and I loved the visitors and the roles I played.
But the harsh reality is that Disney magic doesn’t bring a decent income. I knew I had to do something different when I realized Disney didn’t love me as much as I love Disney.
Melanie has asked not to use her last name for privacy reasons. Her full identity is known to Insider. Disney has not yet responded to a request for comment from Insider.