Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Media Reviews, Out and About in Orlando

Raven About The Holidays

It’s that time of the year again, where Disney goes all out for the holidays. From Mickey’ s Very Merry Christmas Party, to Epcot’s Holidays Around The World, and the newest events at Hollywood Studios, there is no stopping the fun. 

One tradition the Disney Parks have each year is their yearly holiday special. Christmas Day on ABC was where they always showed the parade and the occasional concert, with some Make A Wish style moments thrown in to celebrate families who run non profits, reunite from deployment in the military, and have defeated the odds despite whatever life has thrown at them. It’s a well loved tradition that keeps families glued to the TV, and I got to experience it first hand. 

Spot the Amandas

Thanks to my bestie Amanda, who works for the company, I was able to score a chance to be at a taping for one of the many specials Disney has set out to present this year. She was given a time to show up and a comp ticket for me, with no other info on what we would see or do. Contrary to popular belief, Disney doesn’t film the special live, but a few weeks ahead of time. Usually, they only open the filmings to cast members,  which are people who work for the company, before they allow guests to join in too. 

The stage in front of the castle, all glitzed out and ready to go

Once we got to the stage, our M.C. Cam explaimed more about what we will see and do for the couple hours we would be there for. He went on about the directors cues, when we should applause, and just kept the crowd entertained in between takes. We were also told that we were there to see the Descendents perform holiday medleys of their hit songs from the movies, with Raven Symone and Isaac Brown from “Raven’s Home” stopping in to film transition segments for the special. It was also explained to us that our special will air on Disney Channel December 2, with multiple reruns throughout the month. 

Although I am not a fan of the Descendents, I did fall in love with Sofia Carson, her voice is incredible and her attitude brilliant, always smiling and having fun with what she does.  She sang two songs, multiple times. Her first song was “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and her second song featuring her fellow villian friends “Chillin’ Like A Snowman” a play on the song made famous from their movie “Chilln’ Like A Villain”

Even Olaf makes an appearance, because why the heck not?

Sofia Carson
Did somebody say snowman?
The Descendants perform “Chillin Like A Snowman”

But what got me hyped was Raven making an appearance. From her Cosby Show days to That’s So Raven, I feel as though I grew up with her, and with the success of Raven’s Home, it’s exciting to see her continue on entertaining a whole new generation. Along with her co-star Isaac, they kept the audience pumped, even for us 90’s/2000’s babies who could…and did… recite her That’s So Raven theme by heart. 

“You all are old. I love it!” She said as the crowd laughed.

Raven and Isaac scoping the sights as they make it to the stage
Practicing their lines for the next segment
Having fun with the audience

Be sure to look for me and Amanda amongst the crowd during the Disney Parks Holiday Celebration, starting December 2nd on the Disney Channel

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Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Lights, Camera, Universal!, Overcoming Adversity

One More Week…

The hardest part of my journey over the last few months has been to learn to cope with the fact that we all need a little help sometimes, and that often when we get in a comfortable position, we tend to take the stuff we love and need for granted.

Losing my job at Disney had to have been one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me. Never in my life would I have imagined the hell that would become of my life for almost a good year now. Living off super tiny paychecks and unemployment, as well as taking in RJ partially on nights he works in exchange for survival cash, was definitely not the life I wanted to live. I’m an independent woman, but I felt like I got tossed back into the darkness. 

Life played out like a nightmare I constantly have. In the nightmare, I am a successful business person or graduating college, only to be pulled aside at random and told that there was an error in my records, forcing me back into highschool and having to do the whole thing over again. Just as I was in my prime, everything I worked for was taken away.

I sit here today glancing over my pay stub for the week, yet another check that doesn’t exceed $100, mostly because I’ve been in training one day a week or so for the past month. 

Normally, I find myself in a deep depression over the fact that I can barely buy food let alone pay my bills. I pray every single day that I never have to deal with this again. I wish with all my might that this will be the last really bad paycheck for a while, and yet my wish never comes true. Although I’ve had some decent paychecks since making the move to the new park and picking up seasonal work, the results are often short lived. 

I look at this last paycheck and smile. 

Because after 8 months of suffering, trying to prove my worth to others, dealing with collection calls, and living off Dollar Store food, it’s all come to an end.

Next week, my park will officially be open. I will finally have regular work again for the first time in almost a year. I can finally gain the independence back that I craved for so long. I found a place where my career can grow, where for once, I truly feel accepted. 

Six months ago when I walked out of Disney for good, I thought my life was over.

Turns out my life is just beginning.

In this rather tough journey, I found out who my true friends are, to appreciate the small things in life, and most importantly, not to take life for granted. I’ve learned to take the struggles head on, knowing as bad as things can get, with a little help from the people you love, and sometimes the ones you least  expect, anything and everything is possible. 

Although I still have one really tough week ahead of me, I know, like everything I lived through, it’s only temporary.

In the meantime, I’ll have one more helping of ramen please.

Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Nerdy and Nifty

Let Me Introduce Myshelf- Part 7, Of (Little) Mice and Men

When I first moved down here, I didn’t have any furniture and the walls were pretty bland. The only thing I had was a small ledge above my sliding glass door.

So one day, when I was working the Disney gift shop on International Drive, it dawned on me. These little Vinylmation guys would look cute up there.

And well, a collection was born.

The Collection got so big, it actually stretches among three different shelves in 3 different places of the apartment. I have some on the top shelf of what I called the Tower of Power, I have some hanging out in the coffee bar near the Keurig, and I have others on the TV stand.

Vinylmations were an easy little collection to start up with. For about $3 to $5 each at the shop I worked at, I would be able to bring home a little Mickey Mouse figure painted in different ways to fancy up the bare ledger of my apartment. When I first started this collection, Walt Disney World Resort used to allow trading these figures the same way they trade the pins. That was another way for my collection to expand. Sadly, they put an end to the trading, but upon doing that, I was able for a short time to purchase some of Disney’s supply of trading vinyls at The Cast Connection store, a special shop for cast members only. A dollar a vinyl? Can’t beat that.

Wait a minute,what the heck are those little things in the bottom right corner?

For a short time, Universal Orlando resort tried the jump on the vinyl trading bandwagon with their creation the U-Mini or Uni-Mini. These figures were shaped more like a monkey or like the item they were representing, like the squarepants pineapple man. Although they still sell them today, it just never caught on as the next big thing. 

To be honest, I would have loved to see them expand on it more, like a mini Jimmy Fallon or a little baby Terminator.

As of now, Since I no longer work on Disney property, the days of collecting Vinylmations have pretty much come to an end and  the focus has been replaced by my quest for Funko Pops. You’ll see them in the next post.

“Let Me Introduce Myshelf” is  an ongoing series about the meaning behind my collectibles. You can read it from the beginning here

Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Lights, Camera, Universal!, Overcoming Adversity, The Billy Blogs

Why I Didn’t Give In To The System…or Him

My biggest critic turned out to be the person I devoted my whole life to. And because of a tough choice I made in finding a stable career, I lost him.

After about a decade of trying to make things work between us, me and Bill decided to part ways. There was more involved than what I want to share, but the gist is that I decided to fight the odds against me and work hard to make my life one where I don’t have to settle for less.

Back in August, I lost my job with Disney, and with my fate being undetermined with Universal for the longest time with me not finding anything beyond seasonal or temp work, all signs pointed to me moving in to Bill’s supportive living community in a last ditch effort to not resort to moving back in with my parents, a fate many of my friends with disabilities, and some without, have faced.

To Bill, this meant we could live out our lives where he would be taken care of and have me at the same time. And as magical as it would of been to be with the person I loved, it would of torn me apart inside.

Although being born with the challenges I have faced, my family made every single attempt to raise me as if I were a normal child. My dad, being the conservative kind of guy he is, always told me to work for my goals and not ask for a handout. Even my mother worked every single job she could find so we could move out of living in poverty and be happy, ever since I could remember. I wanted to be like my parents and fight for what I wanted even if the odds are stacked against me. I saw them grow from minimum wage retail workers to being a corrections officer and a teaching assistant. If they could do it, so can I.

Bill, on the other hand, had different plans for me, and although they seemed wonderful, they weren’t for me. His idea of a perfect life involved having me and him move in together, live off the system and food stamps, and essentially have no control over my money while his staff take care of our bills, our meals, everything.

As cushy as that sounds, I didn’t buy into it.

Now I’m not trashing that lifestyle by any means, but what he was used to given his disability and what I was used to as a person who got denied for most government benefits just never added up to me. Where would I have fit in in all of this? What purpose would I have aside from being a live-in girlfriend? So many questions, not enough answers.

A few weeks ago I got the news that I was able to transfer into Universal’s newest theme park, going back to my roots as a vacation planner and finally having stable employment. Bill judged me for making the choice of career over him, and who can’t blame him?

I worked hard for last eight months to prove myself worthy of getting back in the workforce, and sadly, it came at a price of losing the person I love the most.

Whether I lost him for good or not remains uncertain, but my love for him will never die even though things didn’t work out the way he planned. I can only hope one day he will forgive me for making the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make.

Nevertheless, I persisted. Having the disabilities I have will never stop me from living my dreams. 

If only he could see that this decision is worthwhile.

Here goes nothing.

Me in one of my many uniforms, this is my resting Market Research face for the NBC Media Center
Posted in Cast Member Chronicles

Ohana Means Family

When I left Disney, I assumed a good chunk of my Disney family wanted nothing to do with me. I was worried what would they think of me after all the escapades that unfolded the last few months. Gossip is as contiguous as the common cold over there. 

Yesterday, I was able to meet up with a bunch of them at my friend Jenny’s house for a Christmas party, and all those fears I had? Turned out I was worried over nothing.

It was almost like I never left. A lot of them were excited about what lies ahead for me and a few are going to stop by and watch me perform. So glad that those friendships I thought I lost never really died. 

Once an Epcot family, always an Epcot family. Thank you all for being a part of my life. 

Posted in Cast Member Chronicles

How Do You Say Goodbye? 

So recasting has been denied and I was told I would have to report back to work, exposing myself to chemicals that can do some damage to my body. With my doctor insurance locked in the company clinic and me still without coverage, my one way ticket to casting has me deadlocked. 

So this is where I have to draw the line.

After three and a half years, three different roles, thousands of guests I met and made magic for, and countless memories made, it has come time to bid adu to this amazing company that has given me life. 

But how does one say goodbye to a dream? 

How does one say goodbye to the amazing people who made the job worthwhile?

How does one say goodbye to the amazing events witnessed in those three years? From the gospel choir backstage every marathon at Epcot, Pokemon Go hunting with the parking guys behind the Ellen ride, the Magic Kingdom After Dark experience, riding Rock and Roller Coaster with the lights on, and the special cast parties and events that made coming to work everyday fun?

How do you say goodbye to the guests who came back to you every year because they knew you were always there to reach out if a problem arises? Or to the guests who overcame disability and disease and an act as simple as giving them a button or comping a MagicBand (with supervisor approval) can make their day truly unforgettable?

I guess goodbye never comes easy, no matter the circumstance. I have a feeling that this goodbye won’t last forever. But then again one can’t be too sure, although they say I can start anew in six months with none of this nonsense above my head. 

The last three and a half months have been pure hell for me, trying to prove my worth to the world and trying to make my life better. So in a way, this goodbye could be a positive thing. This goodbye could mean relief from the hurt that has been brought upon me. Maybe this goodbye could very well be hello for something better. Maybe fate is telling me something that I don’t know. Maybe there’s more to this dream that I thought. Maybe Disney isn’t the answer, or it very well could be, but not now. Maybe it’s just not my time. Or maybe Universal will be the key to my success instead. 

Friday morning will bring a lot of emotions, as I travel to the Polynesian Village Resort one last time and hand over my badges. This time willingly. 

There’s a saying that rings true to me, from all people The Angry Video Game Nerd.

“Only through fear can we gain courage and evolve.”

And although I remain fearful of my future, I know that this is a sign of better things to come.

For now it is a time to heal, to nurture myself, and to try to find that happiness  I lost several months ago.  

Despite all I’ve been through, I will never lose my ultimate love of Disney. For without Disney, I would never be the person I am today. As bad as things have gotten lately, I never let that ruin all the good that this company has done for me. Disney will forever be my home.

And now it’s off to new adventures.

Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Lights, Camera, Universal!

Marching On

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for since August. I had my interview with Universal Orlando and needless to say, I nailed it.

It took several months because my first application didn’t quite go through. But I stuck it out, and well, here I am.

My career path this time is relying mostly on seasonal work, since I signed up for both the Christmas event and the Mardi Gras event. This will then lead on to other things, most likely event guide. 

As a kid, I always wanted to march in the parade, especially the Macy’s one in New York City. What makes this opportunity surreal for me is that I will be marching real Macy’s balloons from the Thanksgiving parade in our parade here at the resort. Childhood dream complete. 

Of course, an interview wouldn’t be complete without questions regarding my disability. But luckily I was able to convince them that I’m more than just a diagnosis and that I had an opportunity to do this  last year as a guest experience, which I  succeeded in without any hassle.

The parade usually happens at night, so I have no worries in dealing with direct sunlight. Once I told her I could see perfectly in the dark, the deal was done.

I am so thankful to be a part of a company that looks beyond my diagnosis and gives me an opportunity to shine.

Now what does this mean for Disney? To tell you the truth, I’m not so sure yet. They still haven’t put me through the recast process yet and there’s no signs from my leaders when it comes to an update on my progress. Basically put, this part of my journey might be done for now. Off to new and better things.

When and if should a recast happen, I’m willing to work it out so I could have the best of both worlds. 

But it’s all in the Mouse’s hands for now.

If it has to come down to me leaving, rest assured I could try again in six months. Like Mickey Mouse said “C ya real soon.” Goodbyes don’t mean forever. This goodbye might be the beginning of something special. 

But until then, I can rest easy knowing that I have a job doing something I love.

Like the balloons I’ll be carrying, hope floats. 

And I got a lot of hope in my heart that all will work out fine.