I Want to Be a Disney Princess

A group of seven friends, dressed as their favorite princess, have made it an annual tradition to run in Disney's Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.   Photo by Lauren Greenfield

A group of seven friends, dressed as their favorite princess, have made it an annual tradition to run in Disney’s Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Lauren Greenfield

Every little girl’s dream is to be a princess when she grows up. But fairy tale has become hobby, pastime, and obsession for a new generation of women in their 20’s and beyond, as well as a multi-billion dollar business for Disney.

Since she was three years old, Courtney knew she wanted to be a princess. Now, 8, dolled as Rapunzel, Courtney is a princess, “I dress up and I get my hair done and I’m very kind like them.” She knows you can get married at Disney and already dreams of a princess wedding. That dream has become a reality for Christina Alaniz, soon to be Mrs. Torres, when she steps out of Cinderella’s horse drawn coach, moments before walking down the aisle in a Cinderella inspired dress and her modern day glass slippers, a pair of bejeweled high heels, at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion. Her fairy tale wedding followed a Disney World proposal “package” that included a ring in a glass slipper.

It is the capacity of the Princess brand to attract adults that has brought a record 36,000 participants, mostly grown women, to Disney World to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon, dressed in tutus and tiaras. The princess fantasy seems to have as strong an attraction for grown women as it does for little girls. Consequently, the eleven princesses that make up the Disney Princess franchise, Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, and Merida have become an empire, creating $300 million in revenue in 2001, $3 billion in 2006 and today, a $4 billion gold mine that has retailers from Alfred Angelo, Sephora, Dooney and Burke, and DSW designing Disney Princess lines of wedding gowns, handbags, glass slippers, and more.

For many women, the weekend allows for a break from being a mom and an escape from their everyday lives, where they don’t always get to feel like a princess. For others it is about camaraderie and personal commitment, like Kara Peters, who two years prior was 54 pounds heavier and couldn’t run half a lap around a track without doubling over with exhaustion. Meanwhile, at Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon, the seed is planted for the fantasy that, if Disney has their wish, will last a lifetime. Little girls, between 3 and 12 years old, line up to get a $200 dollar princess makeover where they transform from ordinary child into princess of their choice, with the help of a cadre of fairy godmothers, full length gowns, hairstyling, nail polish, make-up, glitter, and a splash of fairy dust. As parents look on and take memorable snap shots, one mother requests that Disney “come out with the adult version of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon…I think mothers like to be princesses too.”

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