Cosplaying for a Living

by Paula Claunch, guest blogger

Cosplay: the  activity or practice of dressing up as a character from a work of fiction (such as a comic book, video game, or television show)

I can’t recall when exactly I first heard the term cosplay but I do know that I was pretty obsessed with the show the Guild roundabout 2008. If you aren’t familiar with it it’s the story of a group of online gamers that eventually become friends in real life. Felicia Day did a fantastic job with it. I remember having two kids with one on the way and identifying a little bit too much with the character of the incompetent and distracted mom Clara. Of course, now that I have five kids and actually am incompetent and distracted my present self likes to laugh herself silly at that version of me. 

I thought about cosplaying again when we started going to Dragon Con in Atlanta with the kids and managed to get, um, ‘photographic gems’ like this:

A few years ago, I had the chance to meet Keilee Terry of Magical Memories AL who, honest to goodness, cosplays for her career. I chatted with Keilee about what sounds like just about the best job ever last week.

First off, what is Magical Memories AL? 

Magical Memories AL is a character entertainment service. We provide beloved book, movie and TV show characters for birthday parties, fundraisers, corporate events and volunteer events. 

So when did you first get the idea for Magical Memories? 

When I was fifteen I was able to volunteer as a princess and absolutely loved it! I wanted to start my own company where I could offer princesses and other characters for birthday parties with a heavy emphasis on volunteering in the community! Still some of my favorite events are our volunteer events.

Who was the first character you ever dressed up as for Magical Memories?

The first character I ever portrayed was Elsa from Disney’s Frozen movie. I was just sixteen when I first started my company. Thankfully I have grown and evolved since then!

Do you make the costumes yourself? 

I wish that I had the ability to sew and make accurate costumes myself but my sewing skills stop at hair scrunchies! I spend countless hours researching and looking for companies and designers that make quality custom costumes. I do however style all of my own wigs. 

What is your most popular character? 

By far the most popular character is Elsa, even before Frozen 2. She is most children’s favorite. I can definitely see why. With her sparkly dresses, independence and magic ice powers she’s one of my favorites too! 

What’s the most detailed character costume you have?

I have a strong attachment to all of my costumes but my most favorite and most detailed is my 5th Spirit white Elsa dress. Not only is it my favorite scene from the Frozen movies it also has countless rhinestones and beads.  It was custom-made and hand-painted. It is absolutely gorgeous. It was my dream dress and I am so grateful to have it!

Do you enjoy playing characters with more props and accessories or less?

I love to have accompanying stuffed animals that match each of my Disney characters. Of course Elsa has the most stuffed animals. My favorite is my little Bruni from Frozen 2 because he walks and he makes a little sound and he lights up.  The children believe that he’s really hot and they have to use their ice powers to cool him off. Matching Disney stuffed animals really brings the character and the story to life. 

Do you have a funny story about a time you were in character?

Working with children on a consistent basis you’re going to have so many funny stories. One of the most interesting things is when children ask the Princess questions. You never know what they’re going to ask next! Some of the funniest questions I’ve been asked are: “Ariel, do you sleep with Prince Eric and does he snore?”, “Elsa, did you walk all the way from Arrendale in THOSE heels?”, “Elsa my brother is driving me crazy, can you freeze him?” Also I love the way boys and girls interact with the Princesses so differently. Little boys always seem to either show me their muscles or how fast they can run. Once during a story time a little boy was enthralled and answered all my questions. When I said “I’m so glad you like my movie” he scowled and said “I just hear it because my sister watches it all the time.”  

What has been your most heartwarming moment in character?

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to bring magic to children struggling with illness and those in foster care. One of the more recent opportunities I had was to visit nursing homes during quarantine dressed as Cinderella and wave to the residents . I was so happy to bring a little magic to them. I know that they were unable to visit with their families and that was a very difficult time for so many. In March 2020 at the beginning of quarantine I started offering weekly free Facebook live story times in costume. I had so many mothers reach out to me saying that their children were having a hard time with the new adjustments and that it was something they could look forward to every week!  

What is your favorite character to cosplay?

I love so many of the Disney princesses and it’s hard to pick a favorite character. I love being Ariel because when I was little that was my favorite Disney princess. I love being Merida because she’s outspoken and independent and a warrior. But I absolutely adore being Elsa because she is strong and caring and her personality is the most like my own. 

What is the next character you are looking forward to adding to your repertoire? 

Since Covid I have added quite a few characters. One of my most recent characters that I did not expect to love as much as I do is Princess Aurora. Growing up I never watched her movie as much as the other princesses so I never really appreciated her. But now that I’ve had a chance to be her I absolutely love it! And a sparkly tiara definitely helps.

Obviously the pandemic has changed so many things about the way companies conduct business – How has your business adapted? 

Being a company that provides in person entertainment for birthday parties Covid definitely changed a lot of things for us. I was very fortunate that it also opened so many doors. Right from the beginning I started offering personalized videos, Zooms calls, virtual events and virtual story times. Because of these virtual services I have gotten to celebrate and interact with children all across the United States and the world. From California to Pakistan, Germany to Italy, New York to Canada and everywhere else in between. I have absolutely loved getting to connect with children beyond my local area. I’ve also been able to record story times for libraries, schools and businesses across the United States. Even though we are starting back in person activities I still want to be able to connect with children around the world. 

There are so many different forms of social media from FB to Twitter to TikTok and on and on – how do you know where to spend your energy?

I absolutely love social media. I think it’s a wonderful way to connect with people all around the world. I use different social media platforms for different reasons. For my company account (@MagicalMemoriesAL) Facebook is definitely the best place to post. Because we are a local based business and Facebook is more locally-based. For my personal Princess-gram (@PrincessKeilee) I love TikTok and Instagram (posts and Reels). That is where I can connect with other princesses or performers all across the world. There I also can be a little bit more creative. I love putting a twist on the classic Disney princess. With modern looks, vintage looks and more. Every October I like to do daily posts. I plan this content for months pulling together villains and non-princess character looks. They are some of my favorite posts!

Going back to the question of when you first had the idea – what would you tell that girl now? Any words of wisdom you wish you had known going into this?

There have been several people who have started their own Princess companies across the US who have asked me this question. My number one piece of advice is quality over quantity. Looking back I did not take that advice in the beginning. But at least now I have lots of photos to use for glow up posts. 

Finally, since I’m writing this for GeekOut Huntsville, what’s the geekiest thing about you? 

I grew up with a very nerdy mom – she was a gamer.I had my first World Of Warcraft character when I was three. She was a gnome with pink bubblegum hair and I refused to kill anything. I played W.O.W until I was about 15. Now I play video games, Zelda is my favorite!

Where can people find you online?

To keep up with my company you can follow at @MagicalMemoriesAL on Facebook and Instagram. To follow along on my personal princess journey you can follow at @PrincessKeilee on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook.

4 comments

  1. Fun.. there are all kinds of ways to make a living. It’s so great when people can love and enjoy what they do for a living. Yeay her!!

    Like

  2. What an interesting interview. Congratulations on a successful and interesting business, Kailee. Your creativity is refreshing. Being an 80 year old Grandmother, I will probably only be able to read about your accomplishments. I’m very happy for your unique business

    Like

  3. Keilee is one of the best people I know. She is as goodhearted as they come, works harder than most anyone, and her mother is every bit as wonderful. Did my heart good to see a story on her inspiring career!

    Like

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