The Horizon

Play dress up for a living?

Job uniforms come in shapes and sizes, but these costumes make a child truly smile

Candace Leilani, Staff Reporter

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Hair done? Check. Make up? Check. Shoes? Check. Costume? Check.

This becomes Madi Sellmer-Shipman’s checklist as she leaves her living quarters and drives to her destination for each acting gig.

Madi Sellmer-Shipman, sophomore and secondary education major at IU Southeast, has been doing just this for three years now. Batgirl, Cinderella, Jessie from Toy Story and Princess Anna from Frozen has just been a few characters Sellmer-Shipman has dressed up as.

From the age of 4, Sellmer-Shipman has been involved in theater; being in the limelight isn’t anything new to her. Over 50 theater productions give a girl the chance to learn her character, figure out how to move quick on her feet and see how quickly someone’s face can light up when they watch her in action.

Back in 2015, Sellmer-Shipman booked a role at the Louisville Zoo’s “THE WORLD’S LARGEST HALLOWEEN PARTY!” on her first audition. Since then, her character acting has grown.

Sellmer-Shipman has been involved in many types of acting roles, all having one in common: in every costume, she has children’s faces light up with a smile.

“I love kids! And costumes are pure magic to kids. Their faces light up when they see you and that itself is very rewarding,” Sellmer-Shipman said. “Every single time, I get a hug from an excited little kid. They are the reason I do what I do.”

The Louisville Zoo isn’t the only place Sellmer-Shipman character acts. She works with a company that allows her to work at many diverse venues and locations, some of them even including corporate events, birthday parties, the Louisville Bats games and themed nights at local restaurants.

With any princess, they must be treated like royalty. When Sellmer-Shipman is invited to attend a birthday party, for instance, she is treated like it is a huge thing.

“We do a grand entrance where I’m introduced to the guests then we will play some games, read stories, take pictures and sing happy birthday. After we cut the cake, that’s it,” said Sellmer-Shipman.

From walking in, attending the party in character and walking out, the whole event is about an hour. An hour of her time and that child will talk of “that one time, princess so-and-so came to my party,” for years.

It isn’t always smiles and fun times for Sellmer-Shipman though. Working one full-time job as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant and going to school part time is sometimes overwhelming for her.  When she isn’t teaching Kindergarten students, she is character acting or teaching choreography for local theaters she choreographed herself which are two part-time jobs she undertakes.

“I take things one day at a time and I’m always on the move,” Sellmer-Shipman said. “Sometimes it’s hard especially when I can’t see my husband often, but he is very supportive which is a huge help.”

Like any career, there are cons to the many pros. Character acting isn’t all that it seems to be either. Sellmer-Shipman said there are some negative responses from adults within this career field.

“Some adults can be very mean to the characters including heckling, ignorant questions, sexual harassment and even cyberbullying,” Sellmer-Shipman said. “Most cyberbullying I just ignore. Sometimes I’ll just kill them with kindness; sexual harassment online, I handle the same way. Sexual harassment in person, I address to my director and she takes care of it.”

All in all, Sellmer-Shipman wouldn’t ask for anything in this life. Her life has revolved around theater for so long, she wants to show others her appreciation for the arts and help others achieve their hopes and dreams within theater too.

“Being a character performer is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had,” Seller-Shipman said. “I’ve grown very close with my fellow performers and we are like one big character family!”

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