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In Toronto, there’s an infamous dude who dresses up as Spider-Man and circles Dundas Square posing for photos, jumping on streetlights, and shooting silly string at passersby. Every so often, little kids will spot this pseudo superhero and freak out. I once saw a boy in a Spider-Man outfit legitimately wail when he saw Peter Parkour (which he calls himself… obvi) balancing on a pole while a group of teens snapchatted him. Spidey stopped and spoke to the boy, signed his backpack, and definitely made his entire day. Kids will pretty much lose their shit over anyone who vaguely looks like a character they’ve seen on television.
No matter where these fictional characters show up, kids are stupidly obsessed with them. These obsessions not only give city buskers easy access to loonies and toonies, but also a quite lucrative children’s entertainment business. Numerous companies employ actors and actresses to play popular kids’ characters for birthday parties and other special occasions. It’s a seemingly niche occupation that’s extremely in demand for today’s tykes and their eager-to-please parents. VICE reached out to some current and past kids’ entertainers and asked them to recount some of their worst gigs ever.
VICE: What characters do you dress up as?
Lauren: Elsa, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Ariel, and Belle.
How does your job work?
I usually do it at parties on weekends because I’m in school during the week. A photographer comes with me, and I do the kids’ nails, makeup, I sing all the Disney princess songs that apply to that character, and I play games with them.
What was one of your worst gigs?
One time I was doing Elsa—Elsa has magical snow powers—so the little girl said, “Elsa, can you do your powers?” I had to do something, so I said, “I’ll make it snow tomorrow.” And the girl was like, “No, do it now, Elsa. I want the powers now.” I insisted that I’d make it snow tomorrow. And then the mother just went up to her child and was like, “Magic isn’t real!” I was so shocked. The poor little girl was crying in the corner, and I was trying to console her, but the mom told me to leave.
Oh my God.
Yeah I felt so bad. The mom was crazy. But the next day, it did snow, so.
VICE: What characters did you dress up as?
Mark: Iron Man, a pirate, the red Power Ranger, Captain America, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, all of them really.
What was your worst gig?
It was my last one actually. I was Spider-Man. I walked into the room, and it’s very hard to see sometimes in the costume, but I see the kids, and I go over to them. No one introduced the birthday boy to me, but there were two kids there, like three years old. I go, “Heeey! Are you the birthday boy?” to the first guy. And he was just like, “no.” So to the kid beside him, I said, “Happy birthday!” He looked at me and just started bawling, like inconsolably bawling his eyes out. The mom and dad swooped in and took him away, so I tried playing with the other kid. He wasn’t really interested in playing with me; meanwhile, the birthday boy was just wailing. Eventually other kids arrived, and the birthday boy stopped crying. So I go over, and he sees my mask and starts crying again. I asked the dad if he wanted me to take the mask off. He goes, “Yeah that might be best.” It didn’t work, and he started crying again. The parents just told me to go.
Was he scared of you?
The dad said he loved Spider-Man. I think it was like, when you meet your idol and you just don’t know what to do with yourself. You can’t control yourself.
Did you get paid for that disaster?
I did. Originally I didn’t want him to pay me, like it was ridiculous. I was there for ten, fifteen minutes tops. I was supposed to be there for an hour.
VICE: How did you get involved in children’s entertainment?
Jaicyea: I was about sixteen years old, and I had been learning belly dance. My mom wasn’t entirely comfortable with me performing in nightclubs with live musicians, so I really needed an outlet to do my performances. I saw the opportunity to be Princess Tiana, and I got the job right away. I did it for two years.
Tell me about a bad gig you’ve had.
One of the worst gigs that I’ve had was one where I think the kids were being overly stimulated. There were jumping castles, clowns, there was a rapper for some reason, and there was me. It kind of sucked because I was just being ignored. Like, you’re in the princess costume, and you have to play that role no matter what. So there’s me being poised and cute, and no one’s even talking to me.
Who were they most interested in?
The castle [laughs].
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