"As a girl growing up, when I thought of careers or jobs, it always came back to children."- Kaylie Abney
Kaylie Abney has always loved children. As a young girl, she dreamed of running her own orphanage.
Now that she's all grown up, Abney gets to spend her time singing, laughing and playing with little ones. And she gets paid for it.
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The 28-year-old Bluffton woman has an almost magical power over young children these days. When they see her, they either stare in frozen wonder, or they flock to her.
With flowing blonde hair, blue eyes and a beautiful singing voice, Abney bears a strong resemblance to a much-loved Disney character known as Elsa, especially when she gets dressed up in her fancy blue gown.
If you aren't familiar with Elsa, she is the princess -- and later the queen -- in Disney's hit movie "Frozen." She has a bad habit of freezing everything in sight.
You might've heard her signature song, "Let It Go." If you're the parent of a young child, you've heard it thousands of times.
And if you've ever walked through Target or Walmart, you've seen Elsa and her sister, Anna, on toys, clothing and even cereal boxes.
After Abney dressed up like Elsa for a friend's 4-year-old daughter's "Frozen" birthday party, she posted a photo on Facebook. By the time she got home, she had messages from local moms asking how much she charged.
"At first, I didn't really think of it being a business, but then more people were inquiring, so this is what it turned into," Abney said.
So she started scheduling parties and is now booked through the end of the year.
"Whatever they have planned for the party, I engage and participate," Abney said. "If the kids are having birthday cake and drinking CapriSun, I'm sitting there at the kids' table, drinking CapriSun and eating birthday cake. So I know what I'm there for. I'm an experience. I'm part of making the children feel like, 'Elsa is at my party.'"
Elsa isn't the only royalty in the Lowcountry. Abney has rounded up a group of other women who dress up as princesses -- Ariel, Snow White, Jasmine, Belle and Anna.
She said they all offer something unique to their characters. Some dance. Some tell stories. Elsa, of course, sings "Let It Go" and braids hair.
Aside from making their birthdays extra special, Abney wants the little girls she meets to know they are beautiful, even if they don't look like the princesses they see on screen.
She said one little girl told her she was sad that she didn't look like her. So Abney used that as a teaching moment, telling the child what was beautiful about her and that being different is what makes people special.
"I think that's what kids need to hear," she said. "They see this girl who has blonde hair and is in a show, and she looks a certain way. And they expect that that's what they have to look like. ... It's about making sure the girls love who they are and embrace their differences, just like Elsa."
Abney has watched "Frozen" about 10 times so far, because she wants to be an expert on her character.
Kids ask her all kinds of questions: What's her favorite dessert? What color is her car?
Snow cones and white, just so you know.
And, of course, they ask her to use her magic to create ice and snow.
It's just too warm here for snow, she responds. Even the Snow Queen can't change that.
"My goal by the end of the party is to make sure that they have a memory," she said. "I mean, at Disneyland, you wait two to four hours, and then get a photo opp and a hug, and you're on your way. If you can spend on your birthday an hour to two hours with your favorite princess, that's huge. So getting to be a part of that is awesome."