Julie Andrews has teamed up with Target and The Walt Disney Company for the first ever National Princess Week – a celebration of each child’s unique spirit, or “sparkle,” as the lovely lady herself calls it.
“Throughout my career as an actress and author, I’ve encouraged children to use their imaginations and dream big,” she said. Andrews has written several children’s books with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton including a New York Times best-selling series about a little girl who finds the princess inside of herself.
“The Very Fairy Princess series is very close to our hearts,” Andrews said. “It’s about a little girl with her socks about her ankles and scabby knees, who feels very strongly inside that she is a genuine fairy princess. She goes about her royal duties and takes care of her fairy citizens – which are mostly all her toys. She’s a little girl who feels a great sense of responsibility and she’s kind to animals, to all creatures great and small.”
In honor of Princess Week, Target is offering an array of princess themed merchandise as well as a special 10th Anniversary release of the two-movie collection “The Princess Diaries” and “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” for the first time ever on Blu-ray.
In the films, Andrews plays the grandmother of a girl who is thrust into the spotlight when she discovers that she’s the princess of a small country and how she handles the challenges of becoming an overnight royal.
“I think that modern day princesses have an enormous responsibility,” said Andrews. “They are constantly in the goldfish bowl, so to speak. And it’s really not about the outer trappings. They have to take care of many people, they have to be generous and thoughtful and work extremely hard.”
This is a thread that runs through much of her work: No matter your status, it’s important to be kind, decent and hardworking.
“It’s a theme that Emma and I believe in very much and we try to bring it out in our books. It’s true in life really. I hope that young children who love to play princess can learn that it’s not just about dressing up – it’s about what’s inside and what’s in your heart. As our little character Geraldine says – everyone can be whatever they want to be, you just have to let your sparkle out. And what we’re trying to do in our books is encourage the individuality of each child.”
As for how she encouraged her own children to find their sparkle, Andrews is a passionate advocate for developing little imaginations through reading and outdoor adventures.
“I particularly loved taking my children out in the garden and we would have what we called an adventure – which meant finding things in the garden that we might not necessarily notice. It’s a way of making you more aware of what’s under the hedge or what tiny piece of color is peeking out that you might have missed if you hadn’t stopped to look at it.”
As a mother and a grandmother, Andrews has some experience in the parenting department – including all the ups and downs. Her advice to new moms:
“What’s so wonderful about raising children is that each season seems to bring a new set of unique challenges, but each challenge is going to pass. And so mums can just enjoy whatever they have while they have it.”
However, this mother of five is certainly content to be a grandmother now. “I have more than a few grandchildren,” she laughed. “I think I have nine to date. They keep popping into this world and I lose count sometimes. And it’s heavenly! I used to think, ‘oh I can wait. I’m not sure about being a grandma.’ Well I can tell you, the minute you become a grandma, you’re a changed human being. It is such a joy. It’s also something about seeing the passing on off genes. One of my grandchildren is so like my mother as a child it’s uncanny. And you think, gosh how did the genes know to do that?”
But no interview with the world’s most beloved nanny would be complete without a look back at two of her most famous characters. As a long-time “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” fan, I asked Andrews if she think she’s more like Maria or Mary:
“I guess there’s a bit of me in both. I mean, I’m fairly bossy, which is Mary Poppins and I think there are parts of me in Maria – I certainly do love everything to do with the country and nature, and obviously with music and with children too. I guess it was a very fortunate day for me when I was asked to do that lovely movie.”
She said with a smile, “I’m very blessed, I think.”