It has only been three months but Disney Cruise Line main stage performer Maryann Williams believes she is exactly where she needs to be in her career. The 30-year-old Texan plays not only Ariel but Princess Tiana in separate performances aboard the Disney Wish, the global entertainment giant’s latest addition to its fleet.
Williams understands playing two of the most iconic roles in the Disney universe, more particularly the Disney princess universe, comes with a lot of pressure, but also with a ton of pride. She knows she’s representing more than just herself and her family when she takes the stage night after night on the Disney Wish. “It is so important to me, when I saw the audition notice and [Disney] was looking for someone that looks like me,” Williams, who is biracial, said during an interview with the media Sunday morning. “I’m so thankful that I was chosen to tell this story. Storytelling is really important and you see that all over the ship,” Williams said.
People from all over the world travel aboard Disney cruise ships. Williams’ audiences will take her performances across the world with them when they head home. The buzz around Ariel being played by Halle Bailey in the upcoming live action version of the Little Mermaid has all eyes on the women that will play the character going forward. Williams is proud to take on the change and challenge. “I can see it in the audience when I walk by kids and see the kids and hear them say, “Is that Ariel?”, she said while visibly getting emotional. “And the realization that it is, not just the kids that look like me, but all kids of all different colors.”
As a young girl Williams was immediately inspired by the 1997 ABC version of Cinderella that starred the late songstress Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother and multi-time Grammy winner Brandy as the lead character.
Long before the internet and social media rants reached iPhones around the world, Brandy starring as the white rags-to-riches star of Disney’s highest-grossing movie/film was big news. Twenty-five years ago Williams had that moment of inspiration that she hopes to bring to other children when she takes the stage as Ariel. “I play Ariel and it’s really special to me to see their little faces light up,” Williams, who studied musical theater in college, said.
On playing Princess Tiana from the hit movie, The Princess and the Frog, Williams admitted that character is her favorite to play because, “She’s an entrepreneur and I like that she achieves her dreams. Tiana is the only Disney princess that says she doesn’t need a man. He has to supplement her life,” Williams laughed.
First time for everything
Like many of the staff and Disney fans on board the Wish, Williams is on her first cruise. She expects to see her mother and younger sister on the next cruise however. Her family has not gotten the chance to see her perform as Ariel or Tianna yet. That will be yet another first for one of the newest Disney performers.
Princess Tiana is the first and only Black Disney princess. If performers like Williams have anything to do with it that won’t take long to change.