Ayla Eichenhofer would wager that there's no one else in the metro Detroit area who knows more about Belle, Rapunzel and The Little Mermaid than she does. It is, after all, her job to be well versed in the intimate details of each fairy tale princess' story.
As a character performer for The Singing Princess, Eichenhofer dons full regalia to portray these much-loved princesses at birthday parties and festivals throughout southeast Michigan each weekend. For her, it's a childhood dream come true, just as it is for the hundreds of little girls who get to meet their favorite princess.
"When I first appear as a princess at a party, I witness a huge intake of breaths," Eichenhofer says. "Beyond that, every little girl's reaction differs. The birthday girl is either so excited or so overwhelmed and hides behind her parents."
Eichenhofer attributes this to the pure exhilaration of seeing a princess at a child's very own party.
"There's something special about the princesses," she says. "Their lives are very different, full of adventure and magical happy endings. They're larger than life. That's very attractive. Girls get caught up in that."
To capture the precious details she witnesses weekly at the parties she attends, Eichenhofer keeps a journal to capture what she calls "magical moments."
"An older girl once tried to trip me up and asked me why we never find out what happened to Gaston at the end of Beauty and the Beast," Eichenhofer recalls. "I had to think of an answer quickly. I told her that he fell off the castle, and we have never heard from him since. She loved that answer."
While the majority of the guests at the parties Eichenhofer attends are little girls, sometimes boys are also present.
"These boys can be so charming," Eichenhofer says. "At a party I attended as Beauty, the birthday girl's 5-year-old brother overheard me say how much I loved roses. He ran into the kitchen to grab a sprig of roses off the table for me. I was so touched that I dried and kept them.
"At a different party, a little boy wanted to sit next to me the entire time and kept calling himself the king. Later his mom let me know that he hadn't even wanted to come to the party because he was disappointed that Superman or Spider-Man wouldn't be there. You never would have known that!"