Two young girls with pink matching backpacks walk out of Build-A-Bear Workshop and catch a glimpse of a familiar character roaming Opry Mills shopping center. The woman, wearing a teal sequined dress with a long, sheer train, flashes a welcoming grin in their direction. Their eyes widen, two smiles follow.
“Elsa,” they say, in perfect unison. It’s a bustling day at the mall, but the girls find a way to slide past the throng of people within seconds.
Today, she’s Disney’s Frozen matriarch, the Queen of Arendelle, with a delicate french braid and sparkly blue eyeshadow, but on any other day she is 20-year-old multimedia journalism major Allie Phillips. She’s joined by Smyrna High School senior Sami Kauffman dressed as Princess Anna and long-time friend Austin Dubuc, who is portraying the film’s Prince Hans.
“I became obsessed with the movie shortly after it was released, especially the character Elsa,” Phillps says. “It was never my original plan to start a business, but after a series of events, it just happened.”
An early fan of the Frozen franchise, she jumped at the opportunity to purchase a $200 outfit akin to Queen Elsa’s crystal-blue dress with sheer sleeves and a transparent cape covered with large snowflakes. It wasn’t a sensible thing to do at the time, she says, but the dress has seen more days than she originally planned.
“I had to buy it,” Phillips says with an eager tone. “My mom wasn’t happy that I spent so much money on a dress I would likely wear only once, maybe for Halloween, but I told her I’d find something to do with it.”
Phillips’ new dress sparked a few inquiring voices as she walked through Opry Mills last July. She was “just Allie in a dress” at that time, but before entering the mall, she was approached by a mother and son, who asked for both a photo and a business card.
She then decided to make use of the dress by starting the Facebook page “Elsa in Nashville” to introduce her new business. The page quickly gained traction with each mall visit, now totaling over 2000 “likes” since last summer.
“Growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to Disney (World) because I had a large family and it was too expensive,” she said. “I know other families can’t make the trip for similar reasons, so I came up with the idea to bring Disney to them in an affordable way.”
Apart from mall visits, Phillips advertises for birthday parties, hospital visits, company events and school functions. Last year, Phillips visited Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt on multiple occasions, once to take photos at a Frozen-themed Christmas party.
“Visiting Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital was one of the most rewarding experiences,” Phillips says, “On the second visit, as soon as the kids saw us as Elsa and Anna, they had the biggest smiles across their faces, especially as we all danced to ‘Let It Go.'”
A couple months after starting the business, she says she was often asked “Where is Princess Anna?” and began looking for someone to fill the role and attend events with her. After a short search and four applicants later, Phillips says she was approached by Kauffman and her mother at a mall visit, and she “knew she found her Anna.” They are occasionally joined by Dubac, and she’s in search of finding someone to portray Kristoff to complete the quartet.
“The kids sometimes ask where Kristoff is, but we usually say he’s watching over Arendelle because someone has to,” she says. “We bring Sven and Olaf with us, so he’s the only one missing.”
Phillips says she was drawn to Frozen because of its message that “family is forever,” and she hopes to help convey that message through her business. With a busy schedule as Elsa throughout the week, Allie says she’s constantly reminded of this message by the support of her family and friends.
“Unlike other Disney movies where the prince is the hero of the story, Frozen takes on a new message that true love isn’t always found in a significant other,” Phillips says. “It can also be found in someone like your sister, and I think that’s something everyone should learn.”
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