Pam Carpenter must be a storybook princess. She is pretty, petite, and always smiling. She reigns over a huge kingdom complete with castles, lakes, islands, ships, and spaceships. And she is entertained by flights of fantasy from Peter Pan, rides with Alice in Wonderland and her friends and Captain Nemo, and pirate cruises. Her special friends include Dumbo, Goofy, Donald Duck, Chip and Dale, Mickey Mouse, and hosts of other delightful storybook characters.
Unlike most other storybook princesses, Pam works very hard at being a princess. She always looks nice, is always on the alert for people who need her special help, and graciously welcomes thousands of visitors to her kingdom each day. Such royal responsibilities seem to belong quite naturally to Pam Carpenter, a young Latter-day Saint convert from Orlando, Florida. This pretty young lady possesses a delightful combination of charm, wit, and an encyclopedic knowledge of her kingdom, and she is a person who loves helping others.
No wonder she was chosen to be the official ambassador for Walt Disney World in Florida, chosen for her special responsibilities from the more than 13,000 employees at Disney World. Because many people try out for this position, applying for it involved a series of taxing tests and interviews.
“I really wanted this, but it is so much more than just a job,” said Pam. “During the year you are an ambassador, you have to devote most of your time to it. I always come in early and stay late, and travel much of the time.
“I knew I wanted the job and felt I had something to offer and so I tried out four different years. At first I thought that if I had to try out more than once then maybe I should forget it. But then I realized that was my false pride talking, not me. I finally realized that I did not get the position to begin with because I was not ready for it—I did not know enough about what I was doing.
“The first time I tried out I felt knew all there was to know about Disney. I walked into that room and there were five managers there for the first interview. I was so scared I could hardly talk to them—my voice kind of squeaked out, I gave them all the wrong answers, and I didn’t say anything I wanted to say. I am basically a shy person, and I knew I would have to work harder at being able to get up and speak to groups and being able to present my thoughts in a clear way. So I studied and learned all the facts I could about Disney World. I learned how many acres there are in Bay Lake, how many beams were laid beneath the contemporary hotel, and how many leaves are growing on the Swiss Family tree house. And I tried to develop my poise. I transferred into tour guiding, and this helped me in talking to people and becoming more outgoing.
“I prepared in every way that I could, and then I gave it my big try. Now I am so glad that I did not give up earlier because I have had so many great experiences and met so many wonderful people. After I became ambassador, I even joined Toastmasters International where I learned more about addressing large audiences,” she added.
During the early part of her reign, Pam investigated and joined the Church.
“I had dated a Mormon, and was interested in his great family life. His family members are wonderful together, and I enjoyed spending time with them. I could see they had the key to something important that I wanted in my life. The gospel helps me to appreciate all the people I meet, but it really showed me the importance of the family unit. I love my own family even more since I joined the Church.
“I really feel that I was introduced to the Church for a reason. Meeting other Mormons reading, and talking to the missionaries all felt so right to me. I agreed with everything they taught me. It seemed so natural for me to be baptized. To me it was a very simple process; it wasn’t a big ‘do I or don’t I’ situation. I was learning things I already believed in before I ever heard of the Church. I hadn’t picked up any bad habits to overcome, so I feel like a very natural Mormon.”
Being an example for the Church comes naturally for Pam because of her experience as an ambassador. She was told when she became an ambassador that she represented all 13,000 employees and the whole Disney organization. She was chosen because she was the kind of person that her employer felt good about representing their image.
“To me there is a very specific tie-in between my job and the Church. For Disney I represent the clean, wholesome, all-American look. This is almost more of an attitude than a fashion style. You can’t really look one way and feel the other way inside. Clean, wholesome goodness is something that will never go out of style. That is one of the reasons there are strict dress codes for all of the employees here. We do not even allow men in the park without their shirts and women have to be in modest clothing. I think all young Latter-day Saints ought to try and set this kind of an example. We should be on our toes and demonstrate by the way we look and act what the gospel can do for our lives. It just is not that much trouble to be well-groomed. Combing your hair, dressing cleanly and neatly, and being generally pleasant is the kind of example I think we all should set. What a powerful influence we would be on the world if all members of the Church would be this way. And as long as I am ambassador here, it is expected that I be this kind of good example. I was always taught at home that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right, and that is one reason I got this position in the first place. It is also one of the reasons I am having such a good year as an ambassador. I am sure not planning on changing my outlook after I leave,” she said.
Of course, Pam’s duties include more than walking around Disney World in a clean uniform. She travels widely in the U.S. and Canada, appears on many television shows and radio interviews, gives VIP tours through her kingdom, and in the company of Mickey and some of her other fantastic friends appears at children’s hospitals and schools for handicapped children.
“We take the Magic Kingdom to people who can’t get out to see it on their own. This is the most exciting and fulfilling part of my ambassador duties. There is a special warmth associated with our hospital visits because we know that many of the people we visit will never come to Disney World in person. You should see the delighted children’s faces when Mickey and the other characters walk into a hospital ward. It puts a very bright spot in the normal daily hospital routine where everything is sort of gray and white. I’ve seen patients smile who the nurses say hadn’t smiled for months. One little girl had been in a coma, and when she came out of it, they could get no response from her. She just lay there. We walked in, and she said, ‘Mickey Mouse.’ Then she smiled. The nurses thought this was incredible because they hadn’t got any kind of a response out of her for months,” Pam said.
In addition to heads of state, royalty, and entertainment and movie stars, Pam was able to show President and Sister Kimball through the Magic Kingdom.
“At the time I had only been a member of the Church for a few months, and I felt honored. I enjoyed being in the presence of this warm, wonderful, great man. Meeting President and Sister Kimball was a tremendous privilege for me because I realize how few people, some who have been in the Church all their lives, ever get this opportunity.
“I’ve had other great experiences this year as well. I met Great Britain’s Queen Mother in Toronto and many other special people who have taught me important things about life. On one of our programs in Washington, D.C., there was a young singer who was blind. He told how when he was young his parents thought he should be sheltered and kept apart from the rest of the world, so they fenced him into the backyard. He didn’t go to school; he didn’t have any friends. He was totally shut away. Yet he had learned to sing, and here he was on this program with national political figures and entertainers. This young man gave us all goosebumps with his singing. He sang ‘The Impossible Dream’ and showed us that being blind doesn’t need to be such a bad thing after all,” she said.
Pam’s work at hospitals and children’s schools has given her a special interest in the handicapped. She is learning sign language and now regularly assists the visitors to Disney World who are hearing impaired.
“I’ve been able to sign for our arts festival and recently at the Ohio and Pennsylvania schools for the deaf. You can’t imagine how excited these kids are when they learn that I am from Disney World and that I can communicate with them in sign language,” Pam said.
Before she got her job, Pam never realized how demanding or fulfilling the life of a storybook princess could be, but to her the rewards are more than worth the effort, for her job and her joys are in bringing happiness and laughter to others.
“Life is wonderful for me. I am having such a great year. * I joined the Church and I like doing all of the Church things—being around Mormons, attending meetings, and especially going to family home evenings. I love helping others, and get a special joy out of helping handicapped people. These experiences make me humble and give me a great appreciation for the things that I have, including the great privilege it is to be able to help make other people happy,” Pam said.
Since Pam’s reign as ambassador, she has starred in a TV musical special “Wonderful World of the Waltz,” featuring the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus.