Many children dream of being princesses and mermaids — and for some, those dreams do come true. But are these supposed “dream jobs” really worth the rigorous training, often low pay and other drawbacks that come with the role? If you’re looking for a job that seems like a fantasy, it’s important to know what the realities of that job entail.
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If you grew up watching “The Little Mermaid” and always envied Ariel, you’re in luck — you can get paid to be a real-life mermaid. Mermaids can perform at private parties as a weekend job or as a side gig to boost income, or as a regular job at places such as Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. But you usually can’t just throw on a tail and get the job. Weeki Wachee holds multiple rounds of auditions for its “mermaid squad.” Those tryouts involve completing a timed, 300-yard endurance swim, swimming both with and against the water’s current and treading water for 10 to 15 minutes, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Aspiring mermaids who make it past the first round of auditions then must demonstrate their underwater theatrical skills for the theater manager. The women who make the cut will perform underwater ballet in a 400-seat auditorium. Shows take place year-round.
How Much It Pays to Be a Mermaid
Weeki Wachee mermaid pay starts at $10 an hour, and mermaids must be able to perform at least four days a week, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Mermaids who work private parties can earn more: One mermaid advertising her services on Gig Salad charges $100 to $300 to perform at children’s and adult parties and says her events typically last one to two hours — so you probably can’t afford to hire a mermaid if you’re trying to stay on a budget.
Mermaid Perks and Negatives
For people who love swimming, entertaining and being around children, all while wearing a mermaid costume, being a mermaid could be a dream job you aim to land. “Interacting with children in the water and sharing the magic of our oceans with them is my favorite [thing about being a mermaid],” Mermaid Linden, a mermaid performer, wrote on her website. However, it’s not all dress-up and fun, as there are occupational hazards in the job. The Weeki Wachee mermaids perform in 72-degree water, so being cold comes with the job. And depending on the type of water you’re swimming in, performing could lead to stinging eyes, Linden said. There also are additional risks that come from performing with sea creatures. “I have been stung in the eyes by jellyfish,” Linden said.
2. Disney Princess
Being a professional Cinderella or Belle at Disney World, Disneyland or another Disney park might be an easier way to princess-hood than marrying a member of the royal family — but not by much. Princesses must audition for their roles, and auditions can include singing, dancing and acting. If you’re auditioning for a specific character, you’re judged more on your ability to portray the character based on attitude and gesture than on how you recite lines, according to the Disney Auditions website. “It’s pretty hard,” a former Disney cast member said of the princess audition process. “There are multiple auditions across the country. Sometimes thousands of people show up. You have to dance and read lines, depending on how far you go.” You’re then filtered for the various roles based on how well you fit into the costume. “They cut you based on need, and height and face obviously matter,” the cast member said. “Ninety percent is, can you fit in the costume?”
Characters with accents must undergo dialect training, and even women who portray American characters must practice doing their princess voice, which often is higher than their natural speaking voice, Buzzfeed reported. Princesses must be in character and in costume the whole time they are in the park and must perfect their character’s signature. Duties include performing in parades and signing autographs for guests.
How Much It Pays to Be a Disney Princess
Character performers at Disney parks and resorts make an average of $10 an hour, according to Glassdoor. Full-time performers work 40 hours a week, but Disney has part-time performers too, Buzzfeed reported. There are better-paying part-time jobs out there, but this might be one you just love to do.
Disney Princess Perks and Negatives
Getting adored by Disney fans, especially young girls, is one of the best aspects of the job, one former princess told Buzzfeed. “So many little girls are obsessed with Snow White and look at you in awe,” she said. “Being dressed up and seeing little girls in the same costume as you, who really think you’re her — that’s special.” But you need to have a thick skin to apply for the job and even to stay in the job. Current and former employees told Buzzfeed that aspiring princesses were disqualified for “being too ‘ethnic’-looking,” aging or gaining weight. And princesses are evaluated monthly on how they look in the costume. Those who don’t maintain Disney’s standards are given other roles.
3. Santa Claus
Most malls and shopping centers have a Santa Claus during the Christmas season, and being a mall Santa can be one of the best side jobs for making extra holiday cash. So how do you get to be St. Nick? Although some malls hire directly, many go through event agencies and photo companies, Monster reported. Having a real beard no longer is a requirement since many fake beards look just as natural, the job site stated, but it is important that you like working with children. Many Santas get professional training to get the gig, during which they learn how to communicate basic things in sign language and Spanish, how to answer difficult questions and even how to work around reindeer.
Santa’s responsibilities include talking with children about their Christmas wishes and answering their sometimes-tricky questions.
How Much It Pays to Be Santa Claus
Compared to other character actors, Santa Claus gets paid pretty well. A mall Santa can make $15 to $20 an hour, Monster reported. However, the shifts can be long. Because malls don’t want children to see Santa switching shifts, the same Santa usually works the entire day. Depending on the employer’s hours, shifts can range from six to 12 hours, especially for Santas who start work earlier in the day.
Santa Claus Perks and Negatives
For many people in the Santa role, the feeling of making a child’s day is the best part of the job. “It’s definitely more rewarding for the Santas than the children,” one Santa told Monster. But it also can be a tough job. Santas sometimes have to be the one to place the kid on their lap, which can mean repeated heavy lifting. There’s also the risk of getting sick from interacting with germy children all day. And it can be emotionally challenging if a child confides in Santa about difficulties at home or other hardships in their lives.
4. Pro Sports Team Mascot
If you’ve dreamed about being a professional athlete but don’t quite have the skills, you still can get the feeling of being important at the game — and drawing the attention of adoring fans — by being a professional sports team mascot. There is no formal training required to be a mascot, but you do need to audition, the Chicago Tribune reported. Desired skills include acrobatics, cheerleading and mascot training, which you can get in a specialty program such as the Pro Mascot School in San Antonio. If you do get the gig, you have to follow a script, perform choreographed routines and make appearances as an integral part of the team’s marketing strategy.
How Much It Pays to Be a Pro Sports Team Mascot
The average professional mascot makes $25,000 a year, but top mascots can earn six-figure salaries, the Chicago Tribune reported, and NBA mascots make more than MLB mascots, according to Job Monkey. The amount of hours you’re expected to work depends on the team: About half of the professional sports teams hire full-time mascots, but other teams split mascot duties among more than one person.
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Pro Sports Team Mascot Perks and Negatives
Mascots get to be front and center during professional sporting events, openly mock the opposing team and bask in the adoration of thousands of fans. But it can be hard to be “on” for hours on end, and you have to be willing to act silly and make a fool of yourself on a regular basis. Fortunately, in most cases your face is covered, so no one will know it’s you doing outlandish things.
5. Rodeo Clown
Were you the class clown in school? You can turn those skills into a profitable career if you want to join the rodeo circuit. The most important job of a rodeo clown is to protect the cowboys: Rodeo clowns are responsible for distracting the bull once the rider has fallen off so that the animal doesn’t trample the fallen cowboy. Clowns also act as the entertainment between rides by bantering with the announcer and performing comedic skits. To get the gig, you have to work your way up, according to Salary.com. Aspiring rodeo clowns usually apprentice at local or youth rodeos, and some attend clown training school to gain extra skills.
How Much It Pays to Be a Rodeo Clown
Rodeo clowns earn $100 to $225 per show, according to Salary.com, and the average rodeo clown makes $37,123 per year, according to Salary Expert. However, top rodeo clowns can make six figures, according to the Houston Chronicle, so it can turn into one of those odd jobs that pay insanely well. Clowns can either work full time or take jobs here and there.
Rodeo Clown Perks and Negatives
The biggest perk of being a rodeo clown is getting appreciation from the crowd and the cowboys you protect. “It’s a great feeling when the crowd applauds and appreciates your efforts. But the greatest is when the cowboys come to you and let you know how much they appreciate you being there for them night after night,” one rodeo clown, who goes by the name of Scooter, told Salary.com. It’s the ideal job for an adrenaline junkie who likes to goof around and make people laugh. But it’s obviously extremely dangerous to work in close proximity to enraged bulls. “It’s not whether you’re gonna get hurt, it’s when and how bad,” said Scooter, who has suffered numerous injuries during his career, including 24 broken bones, three concussions and a dislocated jaw.
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