Lessons in Magic and Kindness: The Liberty Princess Company’s Philanthropic Vision
Written by Katazyna Ignatik
Delighted squeals sound from inside the party room. Five little girls jump up and down. The birthday girl, wearing a pink princess dress and crown, grins excitedly at the two royally-clad young women who have just joined the party.
The two young women dressed as princesses are student volunteers for the Hillsdale-based Liberty Princess Company, which brings princess characters to parties and events.
In her apartment before the party, the company’s founder, Gianna Marchese, ’17, swiped on blush in front of a vanity covered in wigs, makeup, and jewelry. Her laptop, open in front of her, played an episode of a princess cartoon. A purple dress lined with pearls lay spread over the bed nearby, along with a fluffy tulle petticoat and hoop skirt.
“I had no resources when we started the company on campus, so at that time I sewed everything myself,” Gianna said, gesturing to the dress. She was a student living in one of the sorority houses at the time, and she recalled, “I turned our study room into a sewing room at night.”
A local company donated a sewing machine to the organization to make the costumes. Donations from the community continue to help the Liberty Princess Company. “I got so much support and so many chances from the community,” Gianna said.
While Gianna had to go through a lot of difficulty to get the organization started at Hillsdale, people telling her that she couldn’t do it only made her more determined to make the Liberty Princess Company a reality.
Students who volunteer for the program audition to be matched up with a royal role. Then, from the organization’s website, www.libertyprincessco.com, people in the community book these characters for events—free of charge. “Everyone deserves to experience the magic,” Gianna said.
Gianna encourages her actors to get as deeply into their roles as possible. Some characters give singing performances and encourage kids to sing along. Others imitate some of their role’s special characteristics. Gianna remembered a parade in which one of her volunteers played the role of a snow princess. After some research, Gianna found that potato flakes would work well as a substitute for real snow. The snow princess kept some handy in her dress pockets and tossed them into the crowd as the parade went by. “Adults, kids—everybody went nuts for it,” Gianna said.
The volunteers also give “princess lessons” at events, something Gianna started after seeing a lack of strong female role models in many kids’ lives. During “princess lessons,” the characters ask children what they think makes a princess. Since they often hear responses like “dresses” or “a castle,” the characters remind the children that kindness is what makes a true princess, and they encourage kids to think of ways to be kind every day.
Smiling and in full princess garb, Gianna spins round and round at the party for about ten minutes with a happy toddler. The makeup and ball gowns may come off after the party—but if kindness makes a princess, the volunteers of the Liberty Princess Company certainly have a claim to the throne.
Katarzyna Ignatik, ’20, studies English. She strives to live optimistically and deeply, with a healthy sense of the hilarity of life. Katarzyna believes that the world should have more genuine community, witty conversation, and appreciation for pleasant little things like green grass and bread pudding.
Published in November 2018