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Playing Princess

Alumna Brings Disney’s Magic to Millions

By Karen Shih ’09


For most people, Disney lives in songs and movies and family vacations. For Amanda Ogorzalek ’13, it’s a world she brings to life every day.

“It’s such a rewarding job,” says the character actor at Disney World in Orlando, Fl. “You literally watch kids’ dreams come true.”

AmandaThere, she’s “friends with” Ariel and Cinderella, according to Disney terminology, (and at times, less glamorous characters like Pluto, Rafiki and Eeyore), making her way through the sprawling amusement park to greet its millions of visitors each year.

A theater and communications major at Maryland, Ogorzalek got her start with the Disney College Program as a sophomore, when she skipped classes one day to hop on a plane to audition in Orlando. She was offered a job on the spot and spent her spring semester there, living out every little girl’s dream of wearing ball gowns and tiaras.

“My favorite Disney movie was ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ though that was only because she had a pink dress and I was really into the color pink,” Ogorzalek says. “I was also into ‘The Little Mermaid’ because she had red hair like I did.”

Being a princess isn’t easy: Her hours can be exhausting, with six- to 12-hour shifts that might have her starting at 6 a.m. or ending at 4 a.m. Winter break, particularly New Year’s Eve, is “by far the craziest time year,” she says. “I could not move (through the crowds). I know wait times for rides were up to five hours.”

Ariel & Flounder

As a park cast member, she rarely has to wait, because she can pick less busy days (on her days off, of course) to go on the rides for free. She also has free access to any Disney park around the world, so this August, she’s going out to Disney Land in California.

But the best part of her job, she says, is lifting the spirits of children with life-threatening illnesses who make the trip through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

In the spring, a 10-year-old girl in a wheelchair “said to Ariel, ‘You’re my favorite princess because you don’t have legs and you can’t walk, and neither can I.’ That was a moment that got me,” Ogorzalek says.

This summer, she’s taking a break to direct a drama camp back home in Columbia, Md., where she’s been either a camper or a counselor since she was 6 years old. In the fall, she’ll go back to Florida. After another year or two in her role, she’d like to go to graduate school for performing arts administration or education, and she hopes she can continue on with Disney, possibly in its New York shows or its weddings and honeymoons division.

“I can’t say enough good things about it,” she says. “The people you get to interact with, the guests you meet, are so unbelievably different and diverse… You go to work and leave smiling almost every single day.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.