Images courtesy of Pamela Ditchoff
A secret retreat occurred on Valentine’s Day 2011. Without interference from the paparazzi, Beauty of Beauty & the Beast, Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty quietly arrived in a small town in southern Nova Scotia to participate in a retreat at the home of Pamela Ditchoff, author of Mrs. Beast. In the shadow of an undisclosed landmark lighthouse, the purpose of this gathering was to give the most famous fairy tales princesses an opportunity to decompress from the public spotlight and to share war-stories and secrets in a safe, friendly environment.
This is the only interview granted by these storied stars of stage, screen, and literature during their two-day meeting. THIRSTY was fortunate to be the only media outlet invited to visit with these great women. Their frankness about fame, fortune, marriage, and middle age will long be remembered.
THIRSTY intentionally kept the format informal and posed our questions to the group in order to allow not only individual responses, but also debate.
THIRSTY: Thank you all for permitting us to intrude on your retreat. There are a few topics that always come to the forefront when your names are mentioned. Now that each of you has entered middle age, what regrets do you have looking back over your lives?
Snow White: If Cinderella is just now entering middle age, than I’m a toddler in nappies.
Sleeping Beauty, (aka Rosamond): Cinderella? She’s not here. But there is an old, white-haired fat lady next to Beauty.
Cinderella: She’s right about that [laughs]. It’s truly me. Rosamond, your red hair looks lovely, all shot through with silver. When was the last time you looked in a mirror?
Snow White: Not a mirror in my house! They can be bewitched, you know. Although I do look upon myself on occasion in the clear pond water, and find the white streak in my ebony hair quite pleasing. Rather like a war ribbon.
Beauty: I think it is safe to say we each tend to avoid mirrors; too much time wasted gazing into them during our youth.
Cinderella: Rosamond, you are no longer a Sleeping Beauty, you are a mere stick of a woman—you need to eat more. That’s my major regret, that I didn’t allow myself to enjoy glorious food. Breads and cakes, pies and tarts, roasts and sauces. Is Pamela bringing a lunch to the lighthouse? Her Porridge Bread French toast this morning was marvelous.
Sleeping Beauty: Looks like Cinderella ate Pamela.
Cinderella: What about you, Sleeping Beauty, do you have regrets?
Sleeping Beauty: Ah, fill the cup that clears today of past regrets and future fears [breaks into a coughing fit].
Snow White: I regret sending off the notice to find wives for the dwarfs. I regret not marrying Lars, and I would have if…
Beauty: Regret is a thorny, bloody path to travel, which leads nowhere. If you should ask of us, what might you have done differently, it would still be a path leading back to each of us in the here and now. Hindsight is always viewed through rose-colored glasses.
THIRSTY: How has being off the charts beautiful affected your lives and your outlooks? Is being beautiful really that important?
Snow White: It’s all in black and white in Pamela’s book. I don’t need to repeat it yet again.
Sleeping Beauty: You read it, did you not? I’ve read thousands of books, read until my eyes bled. But then my husband, the prince introduced me to the poppy’s nectar, and I have read with pleasure since. Naturally, it takes me, oh, how many weeks or months to read a volume, what was the title of the novel? Is that a monkey in the lighthouse window?
Beauty: Ladies, I do not believe we have the time for a discussion on aesthetics. I will tell you this, however, I am convinced that beauty lies within the eye of the beholder, and within the soul.
THIRSTY: Would you say that the search for love was the major motivation in your lives?
Beauty: An appropriate question for Saint Valentine’s Day. I do miss the days of courtly love, chivalry, love sonnets, ah, alas, those days seem so very far away. Yes, the search for love was the major motivation in my life. I was never able to win the love of my sisters, but I was beloved by my beast. That love kept me going through my arduous quest. When I reached Elora’s palace, about to give birth, it was love that motivated me to chose the spell Elora cast. Love for my daughter sent me on a second quest into Andersen Land to save her from herself, from her wild idea of a quest for love. I learned on that journey that our connection as mother and daughter, beauty and beast, is a bond that can never be broken, not on the screen, not in the pages of a book.
Snow White: Love—romantic love, Pah, I never knew it. I thought I did when I married my prince. I guess we all did. [The others nod in agreement.] And heaven knows, we all tried to please our husbands. When a man chooses a wife based solely on physical beauty, the marriage is doomed to fail.
Cinderella: I am yet a married woman, and happily I will add. It was through my own shame and vanity that our marriage nearly failed. Although, if my feet were not still so very lovely and petite . . .
Sleeping Beauty [interrupts]: How could one of us know how to love when none of us knew a mother’s love? Did our father’s love us? Beauty’s, who sent her off to a beast to save himself? Snow White’s, whose father remarried an evil woman bent on murdering her stepdaughter? Cinderella’s, who married a harridan with two evil daughters? Mine, who excluded the 13th fairy from his banquet, resulting in the fairy’s curse that sent me to the spindle?
THIRSTY: As of today, only Cinderella has a companion committed to her happiness, standing by her side as best friend. Do you others regret not being able to grow old with someone?
Beauty: Again, that troublesome word regret. I do not have romantic love in my life; have not for many years. However, my daughter and her husband wish me happiness every day. I have lived much of my life in a quiet, solitary manner, and it suits me. I am comfortable in my own skin, whether beastly or human.
Sleeping Beauty [rubbing her arm vigorously]: I have few moments of comfort in my own skin. Why should I want to inflict that on someone who may love me for a lifetime?
Snow White: We love your skin, Rosamond, your bones too, your wacky wise brain, and your resilience. Unlike Beauty, my prince did not love me as the beast loved her. But like her, I have family who wish me well every day. In fact, I am surrounded by a large loving family as beloved aunty to scores of the seven dwarves’ children. I rather like that role. I am not asked to change nappies, nurse a child through chicken pox, resolve sibling fights, yet I can spoil them to my heart’s content, as I will spoil their children in my old age.
THIRSTY: You were all invented by the Grimm brothers, but the Disney company seems to have altered your birth certificates. Does that bother you?
Lighthouse - Nova Scotia
Sleeping Beauty: Snow, let’s do the well song—I’ll be the well.
[Breaking into song]
Snow White: I’m Wishing.
Rosamond: I’m Wishing.
Snow White: For the one I love. To find me.
Rosamond: To find me.
Snow White and Rosamond [together]: Today.
Cinderella: Why should we mind? The Disney films are quite charming, with all the singing and dancing, birds and woodland creatures helping us. Not one of us is grim, and we are all so very animated.
Beauty: An excellent play on words, Cinderella. Disney altered more than our birth certificates, he altered the Grimm pages, sanitized them so to speak. In the Disney films, Cinderella sisters do not have their feet butchered by their mother; Snow White’s stepmother is not locked in red-hot iron shoes; my sisters do not have their eyes pecked out. Grimm tales were cautionary and Disney’s film tales are entertainment, the carrot of hope dangling before princess wanna-be’s for their personal happily-ever-after.
THIRSTY: If you could choose an actress to play your life in a film, what actress would you choose?
Snow White: Before happily-ever-after, or after?
THIRSTY: Both would be good to know.
Snow White: Kate Winslet and Jacqueline Bisset.
Cinderella: Renee Zellweger and Meryl Streep.
Sleeping Beauty: Helena Bonham Carter and Sissy Spacek.
Beauty: Natalie Portman and Cher.
THIRSTY: At this stage of your lives, do you draw comfort from each other or is this retreat more of a cleverly conceived media “event” in disguise?
[Looking at one another and grinning.]
Beauty: We draw comfort from each other. We are a set of keys that have opened locks. We are sisters in our scars, in our survival, in our hopes.
Snow White: A media event? Look around you, Bub. Oh, there’s a seagull. I think that’s a whale fluke about five miles out to sea. What’s that sound? The roar of the crowd? Nope, the roar of the Atlantic.
Sleeping Beauty: There is a monkey in the lighthouse.
Cinderella: Pamela invited us here because she loves us; she has lived in our skins. She loves this landscape, and lives in this weather. It was a wish her heart made to bring us together. She invited you, and only you because you were clever enough, and wise enough to have faith in her and give us our voices after ‘happily ever after.’
THIRSTY: If you were to give young girls and young women one piece of advice, what would it be?
Sleeping Beauty: Just say no.
Snow White: Do not dwell on reflections, your own, and the exteriors of those around you. They are most often false; they cannot reflect the soul.
Cinderella: See us as we truly are, young girls. We are four fairy tale beauties who paid a dear price for being forced to depend on that beauty to sustain our characters. You have choices we were not offered. Among us, only Beauty chose her prince rather than waiting in a tower for a prince to ride to her rescue and sweep her into his arms. See us as aging women who were once young as you, and one day you will be old as us. Write your own book of life and make it a page-turner.
Beauty: Have fun being a girl. Try on your pretty dresses and your pretty shoes, sparkling rings and things. But decorate your mind with even more care. Try on science and mathematics, music and painting, history and medicine, astronomy and sports—so many to try on. If you don’t respect your mind, you can’t respect your body. You cannot make the quest of your life if you don’t try all the wondrous paths available.
THIRSTY: Thank you all very much. It has been an honor to visit with you.
Pamela Ditchoff, the host of this retreat, is the author of Mrs. Beast and Princess Beast.