Hello, everyone! Jennifer Stroup here. I’ve been a member of Costumers with a Cause since late 2018, and now I’m happy to join the wonderful admin team! I’m a Florida native who grew up visiting Disney World frequently, so I’ve always believed in magic, which is why I’m so happy to be a part of this organization.
I attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. After a six-year career in local TV news, I decided I needed a change. I thought to myself…why not become a princess? I love to Disneybound, and I was frequently being mistaken for a character performer at Disney, so it seemed like a natural fit. I auditioned for entertainment roles at Walt Disney World, but after several rejections, I realized I would have to find another way to fulfill my dream of making magic for kids and families. I turned to the web to find volunteer opportunities, and that’s when I discovered CWC.
The mission of CWC perfectly matched my own beliefs. I believe that every child deserves to meet their favorite princess or superhero, regardless of whether they are privileged enough to visit a theme park. My mom once told me that you should always smile at people when you have the chance, because you might be the only smiling face someone sees during their day. That’s a sentiment I have carried with me through every interaction I’ve had as a costumer, and I am honored to be in the company of other talented cosplayers who have the same goals in mind.
How did you learn of Costumers with a Cause?
I initially discovered CWC through an internet search for local volunteer opportunities. However, it wasn’t until a chance meeting with a CWC volunteer at a photoshoot that I took the next steps and contacted Jack Hill, who leads the Northeast Florida branch.
What is/was your favorite experience when in costume and why?
One of my most cherished experiences happened at a blood drive for a brave little boy battling cancer. His younger sister was so skeptical of me as Merida when she first met me, but just as I was getting ready to leave, she approached me and asked if I would play with her. How could anyone say no to that?! So we played tag, dribbled a basketball, colored and just talked for at least an hour. This sweet girl and her family were going through so much, and if I could give her that time to have fun and just be a kid, then I was more than happy to do it.
Do you have a favorite princess? If yes, who and why?
Merida is my favorite princess to portray. She’s so much fun! She has the upbeat energy of a child herself, and she never has to worry about being prim and proper like other princesses. Kids love her because she loves to chat (and she carries a cool bow and arrows), and moms love her because they relate so much to her story. The Scottish accent is a little tricky to manage, but it’s always worth it when people say that I’m the real deal!
If you could cure any disease or disability, which would you cure?
If I could cure one disease or disability, it would be cancer, in all its forms. There aren’t many people who haven’t felt the sting of cancer in some way in their lives, and it’s taken far too many good people from this world.
What hobbies do you have outside of CWC?
One of my favorite activities outside of CWC is Zumba! I love to dance, and I take a couple of dance fitness classes every week. I also enjoy visiting the Disney parks and Disneybounding, which is dressing in Disney character-inspired fashion, and I’m currently learning how to sew!
The world is your oyster. You can go anywhere and do anything for as long as you’d like. Where would you go and what would you do?
I would travel the world if I had the chance. I would go back to Europe and see all the places I haven’t seen yet, just soaking up the different cultures and languages, and of course I would eat all the foods! If I had the chance, I would also love to spend a year at the Disney parks in Tokyo as a character entertainer. I think it would be the perfect combination of learning a new language and customs, while also interacting with people as my favorite princesses and heroes!
Are there any causes or foundations that come close to your heart? If yes, which ones? Why?
I am very passionate about raising awareness for skin cancer, as it is something I have experienced firsthand. I was diagnosed in my mid-20s and thankfully had an easy road to recovery, but it’s something that I would hate to see anyone else go through. I’m also a big proponent of adoption. My family became a licensed foster family when I was in middle school, and I gained two wonderful siblings through adoption.
Who are your real-life heroes?
My parents are my real-life heroes. Not only did they raise me and help me achieve my own goals in life, but they opened their hearts and home to countless other children who needed a safe place. They taught me the value of compassion for others, which is one of the most important things you can instill in a child.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I don’t have one specific memory that stands out as the best, but many of my happiest childhood memories come from spending time with my great grandmother. She lived across the street from my grandparents’ house, and we would always bake, read stories, feed ducks, and do all sorts of arts and crafts together.
Tell us one thing you think would surprise us.
When I worked at my first TV station, I started my own on-air segment about music! I started off by interviewing local bands and featuring them on our morning show, and just a year later I was interviewing some of my favorite rock stars! I’ve been backstage at countless rock shows and festivals, and have met quite a few celebrity musicians. I don’t attend nearly as many concerts these days, but every now and then I will pick up a freelance interview opportunity!