How Royal Princess Parties brings magic to Calgary.
Once upon a time, in a Calgary coffee shop far far away, a girl stopped at a Starbucks and her life changed forever. Her name was Makenna Llewellyn, and in that coffee shop was a poster advertising Royal Princess Parties.
Now, four years later, she is the assistant manager of that very company and a main performer — her promo character being The Little Mermaid.
Llewellyn grew in the late ‘90s watching Disney’s Princess movies and fell in love with the magic that surrounded them. Everything about the characters, songs and dances drew her into that fantasy world, even as she grew older, that feeling of getting her happily ever after never left.
“Disney magic is all encompassing. It’s like living out your childhood and bringing a special magic to other people. You can’t help but smile when you see a princess walking down the street. It’s just always so positive, happy and life giving. I love it,” she giggles, flipping her red wig.
Even as I met Makenna Llewellyn for the first time, I felt like I wasn’t just meeting her, I was meeting the Little Mermaid. She answered the door wearing a bright green ball gown, red eyebrows, lipstick, everything but her red wig on. She was nice, bubbly and over all welcoming, just like a Disney princess.
Llewellyn's life goes from shell phones and dinglehoppers to selling cosmetics at Lush Calgary, where she is the full-time floor manager. Balancing her life isn’t hard, she says: when she is selling soap she is Makenna, and when she puts on the wig she is Ariel, the two worlds never collide for her.
“When I am in costume, I am Ariel. There is no more Makenna...It’s nice because we do have very similar personalities, so it is easy to jump back and forth for sure. But day-to-day I am definitely like, ‘I’m Makenna, I work at Lush,’” says Llewellyn.
Keeping her two lives separate doesn’t stop the mermaid from slipping some Disney esthetics into her home and personal life. From the mermaid fin blankets laying on her couch to the ‘Be Our Guest’ guest book she had at her wedding last year, Llewellyn is a true Disney fan.
Her husband on the other hand, not so much.
“He is not into Disney at all! He accommodates my little things that I incorporated. But we went and got married at Hatley Castle in Victoria, and it was wonderful. It was just like my family, I think 25 people. It was great.”
Their wedding photo that sits on the banister in their Calgary home displays the two at Hatley Castle — her in a tiara and gown, him in a blue suit and Burger King Crown. The two are sharing a kiss while framed in a Mickey and Minnie wedding frame.
Mr. Llewellyn is not the only man in Makenna’s life, although she loves her husband and they are happily married, she also has her fairytale husband, Steven Morasch, owner of Royal Princess Parties and Prince Charming.
“She’s my assistant manager so I have that relationship with her. But her and I just see eye to eye on literally everything,” says Morasch.
The company has over 20 characters to be rented out for birthday parties and events. Everything ranging from Disney mascots, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, to superheroes like Spider-Man and Wonder Woman. With every Disney princess there is also a prince charming to accompany her. If you want Ariel you will also get her true love Eric, played by Morasch.
Although Llewellyn is happily married, like many actors in the company, when she has her wig on Eric (Steven) is the only man who gets her attention.
“Hugging, snuggling and little glances are really good and just help create that ‘they’re so in love’ sort of thing without kissing,” says Llewellyn.
After working together for four years and building that relationship, being a convincing couple comes easy. But when they first started, playing into the idea of true love with a complete stranger was a large task.
“One of my very first parties with Steven we were Cinderella and Prince Charming together, and I had never really done a party before. So one of the little girls was just adamant that we should kiss, because we are true love, and I wasn’t sure because it was never talked about so I was like, ‘What do you think Prince Charming?’ And he was like, ‘No, but we can give each other a hug.’ So it just got turned into this whole other thing and we basically just moved on from it,” Llewellyn giggles.
The two met when Llewellyn called to book an audition for the company in 2014. The poster she saw was actually just advertising for the company. Morasch wasn’t accepting auditions, but she was persistent and swam her way in there. But the audition was less than perfect because Morasch only had the company for a couple of months so he couldn’t afford to rent a place for auditions. He had them in his parents’ basement. Just him, a camera and a bunch of dresses.
This would have scared most girls off, but not Llewellyn. She came in full of confidence and looking for adventure. She tried on costumes, took photos and acted her tail off.
“For some people that was really awkward, but she just like came in and did it. She put on some costumes and we took photos,” Morasch explains.
Morasch started Royal Princess Parties after auditioning to work in Disneyland and Disney World on many occasions, always making it through the audition process but never getting the final call. Being on the other side of auditions is hard for him, but he wants his company to have Disney standards, so if a girl doesn’t fit the mold, she doesn’t get in.
“It is super hard being on the other side of it. Having like 30 girls in front of you wanting to be a princess and you can only pick like two or three. That’s hard,” says Morasch.
Disney standards go further than just the look of a girl. You need to have the same mannerisms and attitude as the character you’re portraying. Most importantly, you need to be able to represent Disney and make magic seem possible.
“Of course the look helps. But we also try to find people who want to be a princess to make the magic, not just put on the costume and be a princess. We want to make sure that everyone in our company is in it because they want to see that little girl be happy on her birthday and make the magic,” says Morasch.
Llewellyn watches the movie before every party, searching for little phrases to slip into conversation, like “neat” or “dinglehopper” to really enhance her character. Also, by studying meet-and-greet videos from the Disney parks, she can better see the mannerisms of the character, rather than try and copy a cartoon.
“There are always little one-liners you can pop into a party that make it really special.,” Llewellyn explains.
Focusing on this concept rings true for all the performers, like Kassidy Capaniuk, who plays Tinkerbell. The character of the silent fairy is mostly all mannerisms, making every move she makes while in character impactful.
“She is really sassy. So I kind of just try to have your hands on your hips, or your hands crossed, kind of thing. Because that is what she does in Peter Pan, you see her little actions, so I try to think of her in Peter Pan. Because she doesn't talk in the movie, she does do a lot of actions,” Capaniuk explains with that signature sassy Tinkerbell attitude showing.
Capaniuk joined the company six months ago after moving to Calgary for school. Her dream is to become a lawyer, not that she would turn down a call from Disney to work in their parks, because she loves Disney magic.
“You need a little fun, you need a little balance,” says Capaniuk.
The cost of having the look of a Disney princess goes a lot further than just merely looking like the cartoon. Their custom dresses run between $500 and $600 for each different character they are fitted exactly to their body type. It’s worth it, though, to make the magic come alive for every family that hires them.
“Not everyone can afford to go to Disney World [in Florida] because it is so expensive, so you get a little bit of Disney magic, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money,” says Llewellyn.
Hiring Llewellyn or any of her magical friends can cost a family anywhere from $150 to $230.
“Oh my gosh, there are a lot (of unusual events). I would say the funniest ones, and these ones always crack me up, is when it is an event for an infant. It happens and the birthday child can’t speak, walk or talk or engage in a way, and maybe there are like two other kids but the rest is like adult family. You kind of run out of things to do. They’re always fun but it’s like, ‘Your child is not going to remember this, why are you spending like $200 on this party?’ I appreciate it but also what are you doing?” Llewellyn giggles, blushing while she talks about money.
Disney has changed and developed as a company over the years, and many would say the movies portray a bad image to young girls by giving them the idea that they need to be saved by Prince Charming. But Llewellyn does not see it that way, especially when it comes to The Little Mermaid.
“It was the start of the ‘90s princesses like: Bell and Jasmine and Pocahontas and that kind of thing, and it was sort of a movement into girls have power too and we can go after what we want, and our parents don’t dictate what we do. You can be independent and powerful, I guess that is probably why she [The Little Mermaid] stuck out to me so much,” she explains.
Llewellyn also talks about how although Disney Princess may have once had that stereotype, they don’t anymore. She believes that as society grows, so does Disney, which is why she is so proud to be associated with a company that grows and changes, while still holding onto that feeling of magic.
“I think so, I think it is so cool how Disney has evolved from something like Snow White, where she is very feminine and almost like needy — like we love her, she is the OG princess but she is kind of needy. But now we have Moana and she’s like, ‘I am the chief's daughter and I can lead my people’ that kind of thing. It’s cool how it like evolves with our society and our culture and just how we grow as humanity,” says Llewellyn.
Llewellyn and Morasch see Royal Princess Parties growing to new heights in the next few years. This, however, is going to take a lot of work, and a lot of long hours under the wig, but both know that this company they are building is worth it.
One day they will get their happily ever after.
To book a princess you can visit their website or call: (403-477-5116)
- By Mackenzie Jaquish