Life as a real life princess
Lyndsay Byrne is living out a fairytale life as the owner and a performer at Once Upon a Princess Party.
“Every little girl, and especially me growing up, of course wished to be a princess," Byrne says. "But often you grow up and that dream kind of disappears. And for me, I got really, really lucky to find a way that that dream actually comes true for me. And it’s a reality that I live every day."
While taking the musical theatre program at St. Lawrence College, Byrne discovered the idea of princess parties and instantly fell in love. When she moved from the Brockville campus to the Kingston one for the child and youth worker program, she decided to stay in Kingston and found Once Upon a Princess Party, previously run by Chelsea Swain Deodato. Byrne worked several years as the head princess performer and then took on ownership of the business when Deodato stepped down.
"She gave me that opportunity and I just jumped on it. It was the most amazing thing to ever happen to me," Byrne says.
Running Once Upon a Princess Party is not all sunshines and rainbows, though, Byrne says.
"It’s still a business. So it’s still running all of the paperwork and all of the behind (the) scenes sort of stuff. There’s all the costume maintenance, there’s all the wig maintenance. There’s getting in your car and driving through the worst snowstorm of the year so that you can be at this one little girl’s birthday and make her year. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work. But it is so worth it."
Byrne says she does it all for the children's happiness and to prove dreams really do come true.
"I really feel that with this work we create the closest thing to magic that is possible. When you enter the door dressed as the child’s favourite character, it is their hero. And the look on their face and the excitement when they see you is unlike anything else."
Preparing for that moment is a whole other process. Byrne explains the people who book a princess aren't just paying for the hour she is there, but also for the hour it takes to put on makeup, wig and costume, as well, "hours and hours spent on learning each and every single character so that we can portray them as realistically and believably as possible," Byrne says. "Just sort of knowing what the character is like is not okay, because these children, they know every single detail about these characters, and if you don’t know them, you’re not real."
The performance standards don't stop there. All of the performers at Once Upon a Princess Party have backgrounds in singing, acting and must have experience working with children. Some are even dancers.
"Some people think, oh, it’s just, you know, you throw on a dress and you go to a party for an hour and you smile and that’s it," Byrne says.
But that's not the case.
"We really make sure that they’re not just hiring a princess to look pretty or to smile for photos. They’re hiring a performer with a full routine to fully engage the children while at the party."
This includes singing, dancing, story reading, makeup, games and photos.