Kennedy McCabe works with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation by dressing as Disney’s Moana
By Lindsey Nolen
Having grown up at the intersection of Livingston and Indiana streets in Port Richmond, Kennedy McCabe became aware of all of the opportunities presented by the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation. Thus, when she turned 13, she became a recreation specialty instructor, and now at 23 years old continues working with the department by dressing as the Disney princess, “Moana.”
Leading to her idea to dress as the 2016 animated film character, McCabe has been promoted from RSI to assistant recreation leader this summer. In hearing the Department of Parks and Recreation would be hosting a Summer Movies in the Park series, with many parks playing “Moana” at some point, she thought it would be a good idea to dress up as the character.
“I thought it would help support Parks and Rec and give kids the opportunity to see something different and fun,” McCabe said. “Moana is definitely one of the newer princesses, and her movie is a big hit this summer, since it’s really a summer movie focusing on the ocean and Polynesia. I knew [Parks and Rec] were going to show it a lot this summer, and plus she’s the princess I look like the most.”
To bring her idea to life, McCabe organized a princess pop-up party at the Cione Recreation Center, located at 2600 E. Aramingo Ave. After seeing its success, she contacted Patty-Pat Kozlowski, the director of park stewardship with the city Department of Parks & Recreation, and asked if the department would be interested in working with her beginning an hour before each showing of “Moana.”
“[Kozlowski] was very enthusiastic and eager to bring something exciting to the different parks,” McCabe said. “Especially for the opportunity for free pictures and interactive time with the Moana princess with the children.”
With agreement from Parks and Rec, McCabe began attending department-sponsored showings of “Moana” at parks including Penn Treaty, Marconi Plaza, Mifflin Square and Benson. Here, she would provide children with a hula-hoop lesson and join with the children to sing “How Far I’ll Go” from the movie. Lastly, the children would get the chance to pose with Moana on her boat from the movie — which McCabe constructed herself — for a photo taken by their parents.
“The kids loved it,” McCabe said. “A lot of them would ask if I remember seeing them at Disney World, but it was also the first time a lot of kids got to see a live Disney princess. Since it was in the park and free, it was exciting for the kids who don’t have the opportunities to go to Disney World.”
Although McCabe said the innocence and pure excitement on the faces of the participating children are priceless, and by far her favorite part of dressing up as Moana, the process to look like the Disney princess can be tedious. For example, to replicate Moana’s long, crimped and curly hair, McCabe must cornrow her hair for 24 hours before an event.
“I take the braids out two hours before an event, and tease it and use a lot of hairspray,” said McCabe, who attends the Community College of Philadelphia with hopes to someday move up to a higher position within the Department of Parks and Recreation. “Then I do dramatic makeup on myself with lots of lipstick. I also ordered the exact costume from the movie so I really look like her.”
After lots of positive feedback regarding her appearances, McCabe has decided to expand her work as Moana to birthday parties and other special events. She has made one appearance at Xfinity Live! as the Disney princess for a showing of the movie it hosted on behalf of the Ronald McDonald House.
“The Department of Parks and Rec really helped me create a platform for my work as Moana,” McCabe said. “Kids love the movie and are very intrigued and excited when they get to see the character in person. Their reactions are priceless and really make dressing like her worth it.”
McCabe plans to continue her work as Moana, but now has the means to dress as other Disney princesses, including Elsa and Anna from the movie “Frozen” and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.” With questions about appearances, or to book McCabe for an event, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.