What’s it like to be a literal Disney princess? Jodi Benson could tell you. She was the voice of Ariel in Disney’s 1989 hit The little Mermaid. After this film ushered in a renaissance for Disney animation, the young actress’ career was catapulted in a whole new direction.
His new memoirs part of my worldwas released on September 13. In this collection of stories, Benson reveals the highs and lows of her decades-long career, including deeply personal experiences and tragedies.
Ahead of her book, Benson told us about her writing process, her advice for budding artists, and why she never wanted to write a book in the first place.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
You mention in your introduction that you weren’t at all interested in writing a book. Can you talk about this hesitation and why you changed your mind?
I never wanted to write a book. Memoir, autobiography, it’s not me. But then, in February 2020, publisher Tyndale called. And I told them no. And then they called back, and my answer was still no. And then they called back a third time and Sarah Atkinson, the editor said, “Well, what if I had phrased it differently. What if, instead of a book, it was just a collection of stories that have happened in your life. What if there was a reader who could be encouraged by the mistakes you’ve made and some of the lessons you’ve learned. Would you be willing to write it?” I thought, yeah, I think for that person, that would be great.
How did you decide which parts of your life and career to include?
Carol Traver, my ghostwriter, and I spent months and months together on the phone. We originally had 70 stories, but then we rounded up to 25 and I think we ended up with 24. It was hard to choose and I really couldn’t because I’m too close. I let the team narrow it down to a pot of 24 stories that have good value and good lessons within them.
How has your faith influenced your writing?
Tyndale publishes Bibles. When they came to see me, I said, “No, I don’t want to do a Christian book. They made it clear that they did not want a Christian book. They just wanted me to share my stories. I really wish this was a book that someone could pick up that might be interested in Broadway, be interested in Disney, be interested in Howard [Ashman]. And my faith just oozes around it. It’s not something I wear on my sleeve, but it’s going to be part of my story because it’s who I am, and it’s been a part of my life for decades.
Was it difficult to write about some of your experiences? Did it open up some things?
Yeah, it did. These months of work were painful because my two children were at home and their lives were turned upside down when the world was closed. We were all here together as a family and I was going to lock myself in this room for four or five hours a day on the phone and I was going upstairs and I was exhausted. It was very hard to remember things from so long ago and they weren’t accurate. Carol and I were carving out territory, and I had to decide what to share and what not to share.
Unfortunately, Pat Carroll, the voice of Ursula from The little Mermaid, recently deceased. What was your experience working with her?
She was an incredible woman. So sweet and hysterically funny and just a great lady. To be 95 and this icon with such an incredible group of friends and family is nothing short of amazing. But it’s sad for me that most of our actors are gone now.
Could you talk about the voice work you recently recorded for Disney’s new cruise ship, the Disney Wish?
For the Disney Wish, I took two consecutive cruises. First, to introduce The little Mermaid show, then showcase this new interactive scavenger thing you do on the ship. Pat and I did. They recorded me in California, and they recorded Pat at my place on the East Coast. She had just recorded it not so long ago.
Do you have any interest or plans to go back and do Broadway or regional theater again?
I get this question all the time, including from my agent in New York. I went out with a bang Crazy of you. Everything was perfect and there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to taint the memory of that last New York experience. Regional theater would be super fun, because it’s a short period of time for me to continue doing the other things I do for The Walt Disney Company.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get into the film, entertainment or theater industry?
When I’m working with kids and doing masterclasses, the first thing I ask is, “Why do you want to be in the industry?” First, you must have real talent from birth. I think you have to have the desire, but I think you have to have the right intention. I think the intention of just being famous is not a goal. Also, if they have doubts about stability, go get something else because there is no stability. And ultimately, the purpose of happiness does not come from what you do. It just comes down to who you are and the quality of life.
What do you hope people take away from the experiences you talk about in your book?
If they choose to pick it up and read it, I hope in one of the 24 stories they find something that might resonate with them in a challenge or difficulty or whatever is going on in their life. .