2019: The Year An Outsider Became An Insider

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It happened in 2019, but in all honesty, it’s been my entire life in the making. I got my first glimpse of Cinderella Castle when I was 3 years old and I was hooked. The feeling I got when I first saw the castle, the characters, rode the attractions, it never left me. It’s stayed with me throughout my entire adult life. It wasn’t long before I realized, that mouse had become family.

I credit Walt Disney World as being the keeper of my happiest childhood memories. It’s the only place I can go as a 35-year-old wife and mother, and still feel like the little girl I once was- rocking a Minnie Mouse dress and pigtails, clutching her autograph book or waiting for that wave from Mickey as he rode by on a parade float. I have children of my own now, two boys- 4 and 6 years old. They love Disney as much as I do, maybe even more. Every time we visit as a family, I get to see Disney through their eyes and all at once, that sweet Disney nostalgia wraps around me like a warm blanket.

I always knew I wanted to work for or somehow alongside Disney, in some capacity. When I was 18, the age where society pressures us to choose our destiny right then and there, the world of blogging or creating content didn’t exist. Heck, at that point, social media might as well have been a plotline in an episode of The Jetsons. I decided to go to school and major in Communications, but a lot has changed since 2005 with how society communicates. I’ve essentially had to reteach myself everything. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a wonderful thing. But looking back at what I learned in college communication courses, it all seems ancient. It might as well have a spot next to the Phoenicians on Spaceship Earth (while you’re at it, you can go ahead and thank them).

Fast forward to 2019. Most of the communication I’m doing, ok- all of the communication I’m doing, is saying things out loud to my children that I never thought I’d have to say (“Get your hands out of your pants,” “The toilet is not a car wash for your Hot Wheels,” “Don’t whack your brother with your lightsaber. I don’t care if you’re Kylo Ren.”). Amid mom and wife life, my downtime would be those few moments I went on my phone and scrolled through various Disney media sites. If I couldn’t physically be in the parks, reading about everything that was happening made me feel that much closer to my happy place and was the next best thing.

I had been following these media sites for a few years at that point and I even applied three times to one particular site that has an open application process every year to be on their mom panel. Needless to say, my three attempts to join this panel were unsuccessful. But did Walt stop at his first three rejections? No, he didn’t. To be honest, I found inspiration from my favorite Walt quote and I decided to take those three rejections, combined with my eternal love for all things Disney and create my own piece of the magic.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” -Walt Disney

That’s exactly what I did. Along with a close friend of mine, we created a Disney Mom blog. Sound familiar? That’s probably because there are more Disney Mom blogs out there than happy haunts residing in the Haunted Mansion- except that in this particular case, there’s barely room for one more and everyone is volunteering. For months we labored over which hashtags we were going to use, what kind of content should we create, and more importantly- how do we get noticed by someone, anyone, at Disney? The truth is, there is no secret sauce and it seemed like there was no rhyme or reason for anything Disney did. After a few months, it was time to set bigger goals. I asked myself some hard questions and ultimately I kept asking myself the same one: “What do I hope to accomplish in the long run? The overall, bigger picture- where did I see myself?”

“Don’t be in the business of playing it safe. Be in the business of creating possibilities for greatness.”- Bob Iger

Next to Walt, Bob Iger is my most admired person. I’ll save my reasons why for another article at another time, but the quote above resonated with me. I had a lightbulb moment and realized that I needed to start creating possibilities for personal greatness in my life and career.

My first assignment, covering the After Hours Party at Hollywood Studios. Ignore the picture quality, I hadn’t discovered Adobe Lightroom just yet.

It was in May, Mother’s Day Weekend to be exact when my life changed. I was contacted by The Kingdom Insider to see if I were interested in becoming a contributor. Without hesitation, I said yes. But this is where creating possibilities for greatness comes into play- May and June were successful months for me. I had covered an After Party event at Hollywood Studios, written a handful of reviews on anything from Disney date nights to child care services, and even went outside my Disney box (gasp!) to cover the opening of Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando. It was after the event at Universal where I was given an opportunity to seize my moment- I was asked to become full time and oversee all social media aspects of The Kingdom Insider.

I immediately got to work, with several goals in mind. One of them was to score a media invite to the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World in August. But here I was, in that all too familiar place where I knew I was going to have to create possibilities for myself- no one was going to hand them to me. I knew there was no way I could attend the hottest media event of Summer 2019, just by using creative hashtags and getting a certain amount of likes on a picture. I brushed up on my social media skills, learned SEO through a few webinars, while also trying to learn the “Disney way.” There were countless nights where I was up, long after my husband and kids went to sleep. Times when one hand was stirring the pot (not in that way, I mean literally stirring the pot of what I was cooking for dinner that night), while the other hand was typing an article. My efforts paid off.

My first official Disney Media Event- the grand opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!

On August 28th, the night before it opened to the public, I found myself standing in the middle of Disney press and media, watching Bob Chapek (Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. And in my opinion, the one who will replace Bob Iger) deliver his speech at the opening ceremony of Disney’s historic new land. I found myself trying to maintain a sense of professionalism, while I was internally freaking out. I was around several Disney media people that I had followed for the past 2-3 years and couldn’t believe I was now one of them. I was standing in front of Disney executives, ones that I had admired for so long and had to keep pinching myself to make sure this wasn’t a dream.

I was even fortunate to be one of the first few to take flight on Disney’s Skyliner, which quickly became my favorite mode of Disney transportation! Not to mention, I’m still recovering from the Rise of the Resistance opening. Gosh, that ride is a game-changer.  I’m still wondering; “how’d they do that?” I didn’t think it would be possible to top the media event for that attraction, but I was wrong.

On the morning Disney’s most ambitious and technologically advanced attraction opened to the public, I found myself sitting at a table across from a handful of modern-day Disney legends. I had the unique opportunity to attend a round table discussion with Disney Imagineers; Scott Trowbridge, Kevin Rafferty, John Larena, Jon Georges, and Bill George. While other reporters were armed and ready with their rapid-fire questions and recording devices, my eyes were filling up with tears and my heart was about to explode, it was so full. “You’re a professional, don’t let your Disney side show,” I kept repeting over and over in my head. Not to my surprise, I couldn’t contain myself and the true Disney lover in me came through. Sure, I asked the media type questions I was supposed to ask, but I felt it necessary to personally thank each Imagineer. It’s because of them and the attractions they create that my family is allowed to create memories that will last forever. Memories that my children will one day share with their children, just like I do with my boys. These special memories turn into nostalgia and nostalgia is what makes a Disney vacation essentially priceless. After all, nostalgia is Disney’s catalyst to creating the magic and selling it.

In November of 2019, I ran the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. This was the year I became an insider, but it will also be the year I unintentionally became a runner. When I announced in the Summer on TKI that I would be training and running a half marathon, the outpouring of support was truly touching. Our readers shared their stories with me, we exchanged runDisney tips, and I owe them a tremendous amount of gratitude. If it weren’t for me having publicly announcing that I signed up for the Wine and Dine Half, I wouldn’t have had the readers and social media followers to answer to. In some of my darkest and weakest moments, when I didn’t think I could pull these 13.1 miles off, my fellow insiders saw me through. If that’s not a shining example of the power of social media, I don’t know what is.

What’s meant the most to me is the events and opportunities I’m given where I can bring my family. Because of The Kingdom Insider, I’ve been able to give my children so many special Disney memories this year, ones that I never would have been able to pull off it weren’t for this job. This past November, we took our love for Disney to the high seas aboard the Disney Dream Cruise Ship. Let me tell you, we were hooked at the sound of the first ship horn (if you’ve been on a Disney Cruise, you know what I’m talking about). And it seems as though every day since we disembarked, the topic of our Disney Cruise comes up multiple times a day.

An outsider I was, no more. My focus immediately shifted to making sure whatever I wrote, whatever content I created, I made sure to keep one very important thing in mind: It’s my mission to make our readers and followers feel like they’re right there with me. I know what it’s like to be on the outside and it’s my hope to make all of you feel like you’re now an insider, right alongside with me.

2019 was the year that fate stepped in to see me through. 

There isn’t a day that goes by where this Disney kid at heart, isn’t extremely grateful for the opportunities that have been provided to me as a direct result of creating content for The Kingdom Insider. Disney has taught us that a dream is a wish your heart makes, and my dream has finally come true.  I’m confident that 2020 will become the year where The Kingdom Insider reaches new heights. I want to thank every one of you for your continued support. All of this would be in vain if it weren’t for our readers and fellow Disney lovers who follow along with us on our Disney adventures. Together, we can make 2020 the most magical year yet!

And remember, if ever you’re in doubt, look to Walt for inspiration. More often than not, he acts as my conscience, all I had to do was let him be my guide.

“All our dreams come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” 


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Kristi is the Media and PR Director for The Kingdom Insider. She's a lifelong Disney fan and grew up spending her family vacations at the Happiest Place on Earth. She resides in Florida with her husband and two boys, ages 4 and 6.

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