Making sure every family has a magical celebration is the number one priority of Once Upon a Time Parties D.C., a princess party company serving the DMV area. Its owner, Alexa Garcia, created the company with a mission of diversity and inclusion in mind.
“Growing up as a Mexican girl in America in the 2000s, there was hardly any positive Latine cultural representation in TV/film, let alone any fairytale characters that had similar stories to my own,” said Garcia. “Since then, a few more culturally diverse stories have been told, but there is still so much work that needs to be done when it comes to making sure that BIPOC children get to see themselves centered and represented as princesses and other fairytale characters. As a white Latina, I know and understand that our society praises white Eurocentric beauty standards. So, I follow the education and work of the many BIPOC entertainment company owners in our industry to make sure that my own company is prioritizing accurately melanated and well-researched representation.”
Like most people her age, she grew up watching Disney movies and participating in extracurriculars like singing and dancing, passions which continued through her teenage years.
“I grew up adoring Disney movies and even more so, admiring the strong characters that inspired me to dream big— especially the princesses. From the age of 3, I was active in various forms of art and performance, such as dance, competitive figure skating, musical theatre, and improv. Once I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to continue to perform, even though I planned on majoring in a different field. I performed with a local character company for about a year but felt that it lacked the professionalism and high-quality standards that I was ultimately seeking.”
Garcia started the business in 2019, when she was just 20 years old, after returning home from the Disney College Program, an internship program that allows college students to live and work at the park.
“On a whim, I applied to the Disney College Program and after a few rounds of interviews, I was offered one of my dream roles — character attendant,” said Garcia when asked about her time in the program. “I moved to Orlando, Florida for five months and worked full-time, facilitating interactions and making magic for thousands of guests at Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. After returning from my program, I knew that I wanted to make that same high-quality magic accessible to Northern Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland.”
“My role as a character attendant introduced me to so many dedicated, hard-working people that inspired me to work just as hard to make magic back home in the DMV. I am now able to implement that theme park knowledge into my own company with a unique training program that I have developed. I designed and created highly detailed character training guides that guide my performers to fully embody the mannerisms, voices, movements, and songs of the characters they are portraying.”
Garcia runs the business alongside her mom, Jeanette Eveland and family friend Ashley Allen with the intention of bringing high-quality, park-accurate characters to parties and events all over the area.
“My favorite part about getting to work with my mom is that she is an incredible support system. She jumps at any opportunity to help- from mending costume pieces that need fixing, to lacing up performers into their gowns, driving performers to events if we need an extra hand, and everything in between. She does everything with a touch of grace and magic and is a true Fairy Godmother,” said Garcia.
A normal weekend for the company can include a handful of parties. In the days leading up to an event, lots of work is going on behind the scenes from washing costumes and styling wigs to confirming details with the clients and packing supplies for games and other activities.
“My weekends involve hours of applying park-accurate makeup, carefully pinning wigs onto performers, dressing the performers in the many layers and undergarments necessary, coordinating and attending multiple events with said different characters, and sometimes stepping in as a character if I am needed! While we’re at events, our character performers lead children in activities while our character attendants set up and oversee the event,” said Garcia, who handles many different tasks in her role as owner.
During the pandemic, the company still worked to create magical experiences for children and their families while stuck at home and before they started doing in-person events again. This included storytimes via IGTV on Instagram and making a variety of printable activities available on their website.
Their online reviews are overwhelmingly positive, praising the company for all of the steps they take to ensure a magical and high-quality experience, both for the children and adults attending.
In May, the company celebrated its two year anniversary. Over this time, they have partnered with multiple small local businesses and helped create memorable experiences for families all over the DMV area.
When asked what her advice is for other young women looking to start a business, she said, “First of all, congratulations on following your dream! Second, I highly recommend making sure that you’re covering all your bases when it comes to not only running your business effectively but also legally. Third, research the market you’re interested in and find the areas that are lacking so that you can be unique in what you offer. And most importantly, give yourself grace. Running a business is hard and there is so much work behind the scenes that others don’t always see. Make sure to take care of yourself and your mental health so that you can offer the best version of yourself and your business to your clients!”
Overall, the company strives for quality and inclusion in order to provide magic to children of all ages.
For more information about characters offered and packages available, visit onceuponatimepartiesdc.com. You can also follow Once Upon a Time Parties D.C. on social media @ouatpartiesdc to see event photos, character videos and their #BehindtheMagic series where Garcia shares a backstage look into the characters and company.