In her day job, Delaney Andrews is the annual giving and stewardship officer for the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at U-M.
She also has a weekend gig that’s a little more … magical.
Through her company, Pixie Dust Entertainment, Andrews performs as princesses and fairy tale characters for parties and events. Elaborate costumes help her transform into a dozen characters, from Cinderella and the Little Mermaid to a popular superhero.
Andrews said she enjoys bringing a touch of whimsy to people’s lives while also promoting a message of empowerment.
“It’s a blast,” she said.
Andrews’ path to becoming a princess began when she saw how much fun her sister was having while working at Disney World in college. She learned about the princess business after doing an online search about how to become a Disney employee without living near a theme park.
There are companies across the country that provide princesses for events. Andrews enjoys working with children and thought the line of work would be a good fit. She started her own company in 2015.
Beautiful gowns and flowing wigs fill Andrews’ closet. She is meticulous about details, making sure not only her costumes but also her mannerisms and voice match the characters she is playing. She even sometimes wears colored contact lenses.
“You want to look as much as the character in the movie as possible, because kids will know,” she said.
Andrews has appeared at fundraisers and other community events. But she most often works at children’s birthday parties, where a visit might include singing, telling stories and face-painting.
Andrews’ most requested character is the Snow Queen, which is based on Elsa from the movie “Frozen.” Her favorite character is Cinderella.
“I think I look like her,” Andrews said. “I’m very fair-skinned with blond hair, and she has a ball gown that feels very whimsical and princessy. I like that.”
When she is at a children’s event, Andrews tries to reframe the traditional princess narrative of a damsel-in-distress who needs to be rescued by a prince. She makes it a point to comment on a child’s strengths, like how brave they are for trying a new sport or hobby.
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“I will ask them about what new adventures they have been on lately, about what they’re learning in school,” she said.
“Very rarely, if ever, does a birthday kid come up and say ‘I like your dress, I’d want to sit around and be rescued.’ I think kids are very smart and very empowered as they are, and I think it’s important to nurture that.”
Andrews has had to change how she works because of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the last few months, she has participated in story times and birthday parties over Zoom.
Beginning in April, she led a weekly virtual story time for six weeks for families of Ford School staff who were working at home.
Andrews said her colleagues get a kick out of her princess work.
“When I meet someone, I try not to lead with, ‘I’m a princess on the weekends,’ because people can interpret that in various ways,” she said with a laugh. “Most of the time, everyone seems to think that it’s pretty cool.”