The early experiences people have as children tend to shape the interests, values and beliefs they carry throughout adulthood.
Paula Bauman, a communications alumna, understands this. She is working to become a role model for children—particularly young girls—with the creation of her original character, Princess Unicorn.
Princess Unicorn is a culmination of Bauman’s interests in cosplay and feminism and was developed as a way to empower children to identify and pursue their goals.
In her handmade costume, Bauman works full time making appearances at birthday parties, empowerment parties and other family-minded events.
A quick internet search reveals dozens of local options for Disney princess appearances at parties, but none that offer original characters or empowerment parties geared toward children.
“When you look at mainstream media or even into the lives of ordinary children and the sort of role models that are available, there aren’t that many,” Bauman said. “(This is especially true) in the limited or impoverished communities that you see throughout New Mexico. I wanted to fill that niche.”
Created last year, Princess Unicorn attempts to redefine the traditional princess archetype that has been maintained by Disney films, Bauman said.
“Princesses are damsels in distress. They’re waiting for a man, they’re codependent. I’m trying to promote the self-saving princess,” Bauman said.
Bauman has been involved in cosplay, short for costume play, for about six years and her costumes have often reflected her fondness of unicorns. She has dressed as Lady Amalthea from “The Last Unicorn” as well as Princess Celestia from “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
Princess Unicorn was inspired by these characters as well as Bauman’s experiences working with kids throughout her life, she said. She has taught dance classes and even worked at Walt Disney World for six months a few years ago.
“The overarching message of the brand is to promote literacy and creative communication via writing, reading and imaginative movement,” Bauman said. “Not a lot of young kids have the skills to verbalize their needs or wants. By giving them a variety of skills — writing, reading empowering literature, movement — they can convey their interests in a more positive way.”
Participants in Bauman’s empowerment parties learn about goal implementation through discussion and writing prompts, she said. They are also taught about how to empower others.
Children also have the opportunity to become pen pals with Princess Unicorn. They may write to update her on their aspirations and their plans to follow through with them.
“As the brand grows, I really hope to get more into the educational side of this, again, promoting positive princessing,” Bauman said. “Birthday parties supplement the costs of empowerment parties. Eventually I want those to be free, but I can’t always do that (at the moment.)”
Marielle Dent is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Marielle_Dent.