For the past six months I've been on a journey to learn photography that was all started by going to cons. This week, I jumped into the deep end by shooting with someone different every day and I got the opportunity to shoot with someone pretty cool. It was a little nerve wracking but that's how I always am when shooting with someone new. The good news is that I made it out alive. The cosplayer I got to shoot with was Joanna Lynn and she's known for her spot on princess cosplays. On this day, however, I decided on something a little different. Something that didn't involve cosplay (which is a stretch for me, I know). Thankfully she was patient with my experiment and was a joy to work with. She knew how to pose with very little direction which was a godsend for a beginner like me.
As the day went on I learned that Joanna owns a small business called 'Smile and a Song Princess Parties' where she and other princesses go and make children happy for birthdays and other special occasions. Solid business model if you ask me. So, in conjunction with taking some pictures, I decided to ask her about cosplay, commerce, and everything in between.
Why do princess parties at all? What got the idea in your head that, yeah, this is a thing I'm going for instead of moving to the usual 'get a 9-5' path.
I'm an artist at heart and that path isn't linear. I worked at the Santa Monica Playhouse as a theatre educator and performer. We would do theatre for children on the weekends and our characters would come out and do birthday parties beforehand. That was my first introduction to party princess work.
Even though I wasn't a princess. I was Queen Anne Soforth of Oogaboo. I wore a short curly red wig and a giant crown.
So they put the crown on your head and the rest was pretty much history?
Haha. I was like, "I just have to rule."
Hah. Fair enough.
What came first, cosplay for fun or the business?
The business. I was owning a princess company and I had met Jimmy Sherfy in a networking group online. He convinced me to come to my first Con. It was very easy to start. Anyone can start cosplaying but it is increasingly difficult to stop. I officially started around 2013.
When did you start the business?
I opened it in 2012. The business is a lot harder since technically I am a sole proprietor with independent contractors.
I had to start with a lot of capital and in the beginning I lived with my parents to cut down on living expenditures. I started with 4 princesses and this was before Frozen! Cinderella, Merida, Rapunzel, and Ariel.
What's a piece of advice you would have for someone who wants to turn their passion into a business?
Be honest with yourself. Do you excel at this skill and is your product something that someone would want to buy? Know that being a small business owner means making your own hours, 24 hours a day. Be easy on yourself, too. If this is a new creative endeavor there are going to be learning curves and when you decide to expand there will be some growing pains.
My role as Queen of my castle hasn't always been an easy one, there have been struggles, but I find it ultimately rewarding and I wouldn't choose any other career. The joy of the children and their families make it all worth the sweat and tears.
Well, I can definitely respect your hustle. Thank you so much!
Interview edited for format.
If you want to see Joanna's cosplay work, make sure to check out her Facebook Page. Also, if you're in the LA area and need to add some magic to your kid's birthday party, check out Smile and a Song Princess Parties.
Oh, also here's Joanna in full princess mode.