Personal Interview with Paige O'Hara or Belle of Beauty and the Beast


Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting the vivacious and lovely actress Paige O’Hara, voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, in person down in Philadelphia where she granted me a one-on-one interview to talk about this incredible movie that has captured children’s hearts and imaginations ever since she first recorded it 18 years ago.

This week a Diamond edition of the movie is being released in a 3 disc DVD/Blu-Ray combination package and you can enter to win your own in my very last post which you can also click HERE to go back to. I have 5 sets to give away and the top winner will also get a delightful set of Beauty and the Beast themed books from Disney. But, let’s get to the interview (with my words in bold):

Tell me the story of how you become Belle.

Paige: Well, you know, Little Mermaid was a huge hit, and so I read about Beauty and the Beast in the New York Times.

So, you were already singing and performing. . .

Paige: I had been on Broadway for almost 15 years at that time, on Broadway, off Broadway, national tours. So, I was kind of a veteran and I saw that it was happening, the auditions; so I talked to my agent and got an audition. The first audition was just Albert Tavares [casting director]; it was just in the booth . . . sending tapes to L.A. and they listen to them and say, "bring back this and this." And, then they came back and there was five auditions with five hundred other women . . .  a couple of names . . . but I just had this gut feeling . . .

… it was meant to be. .

Paige: . . . it was my part. In my heart, I just identified with it.  It was funny, when the directors were there and Howard and Alan and such, they closed their eyes and just listened; then they started watching me. It was really an interesting process.

So, did the animators come in and take pictures?

Paige: Good question. A lot of people don't realize this. They videotaped us through the entire sessions for the two years off and on as we did this. They would videotape us every day, take the videotape to the animators, and then they could watch them and copy your mannerisms. Like the hair in the eyes, I was constantly doing that and little quirky things that they would [catch].

Now, I'm going to watch the movie in a new way. . .

Paige: Definitely, and she [Belle] changed a little bit. The original drawings, by James Baxter from England, . . she was too perfect. She looked a cross between a young Liz Taylor and Angelina Jolie. I think they decided they wanted to keep her beautiful but quirkier and more identifiable. And of course, Linda Woolverton, the writer, and I pushed the book worm aspect, the smart Belle.

Great, that was one of my favorite parts. . .

Paige: Absolutely, they took that a little more and went in that direction. And physically, they changed her up a little bit.

How has it changed your life?

Paige: Totally. Totally a life changing experience. This is eighteen years ago that it came out and I still work for Disney. It is my main job. I do plays and work still in concert work. But, I am still in the studio for them with Belle all the time, interactive toys, CD-ROMS, . . .

It was such an amazing movie that connected with kids on so many levels; but, you see kids on America's Got Talent or American Idol, what are your words of inspiration to them?

Paige: I just think it is important that they study the history of where all this came from first and have background behind them. A lot of kids, they don't know Rogers and Hammerstein. They don't know Cole Porter and Gershwin and Jerome Kern, the grandfather of musical theater, who really created musical theater at the turn of the century. I think it brings depth to whatever they do.

I really think that the reason I was cast as Belle was that Howard Ashman was a fan of my Showboat recording that I was Ellie in and he loved that recording and it won all kinds of awards. So, I think that helped a little bit. I had a slight classical edge to my sound .. because, initially they thought, maybe we'll just bring Jodi [Benson] back

Ariel, right?

Paige: Yes, and they said, "No, no, no. I think we want to make her a little more classical, a little more womanly." My voice is a little lower than Jodi's.

But, for kids, I would say STUDY, sing along with great singers, you will pick up their good habits. You know, . . .

Sing with the best…

Paige: Sing with the best, take acting classes, do scene work, create your own little singing group with friends; but perform, do community theater. . . It all helps and I've heard two legendary musical theater people say the same thing and one was Angela Lansbury and the great Jerry Herman that I work with a lot and they have said the same thing, just work. Work and know your history.

Well, now you are painting, tell me about that? Is that a new profession?

Paige: Well, now, I am getting paid for it but I have always painted since I was a little kid. That's the weirdness part of Paige that I identify with Belle. As a kid, I was copying Turner and Sargent in water colors and I loved Gershwin and Richard Rogers and my friends were into Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Hendricks. .  . . But, when it finally came to high school time, they thought I was pretty cool.

But, as a young kid, I definitely identified as Belle. I loved to read.

What were some of your favorite books to read?

Paige: You would say that. Oh, that's a whole 'nother hour.

So what book was Belle reading when she crossed the courtyard?

Paige: They refused to tell me but it was Cinderella. It had to have been.

If you would play another princess, who would it be?

Paige: I would like to create a new one. You know what, I think it would be really fun but we'll see.

But, the painting is something I have always done and when I first moved to New York, I would sell them on the street to help pay my rent, not for a lot of money but enough to help. . . Right now, I am doing guash and oil, and I am using a water mixed with oil that I love. Watercolor is much harder.

I saw "Belle on Belle" on your website.

Paige: I'll be curious to see what you think of the newer ones because I have gotten better and they are setting up a website.

I also saw pictures with a religious theme. What is your background?

Paige: I am a Christian. That is a lot of what has helped me endure, well, you know, the rejection in New York, being hungry and living on rice and peanut butter and not working. My faith has always been strong. . .  Truthfully, at 12 years old, I chose Christianity. I was baptized as a baby but I actually chose a second adult baptism when I was 30 and followed that path.

My mom was a Christian as a young person and then she kinda turned against God later and we fought about it; but I know on her dying bed, she admitted that she loved Christ and that made me feel better. . . .She was in a church that we were baptized in as little kids and when she got divorced, they said you aren't
welcome. I'd said, "Mom, that was one bad church that doesn't feel how Jesus would feel."

My natural, biological father is still alive and he does ministries everywhere. He travels all over the place. He's in his 80's now and . . . he's amazing.

What age did you know you wanted to sing? Were you one of those 2-year-old's belting out music in front of the mirror?

Paige: {Giggle} I was, but I didn't know I was any good until about 12. I sang along with Judy Garland all the time. I have a musical in the works about the life of Judy Garland that has been written for me. . . in the meantime, I will be at the Luxor doing "Menopause, the Musical" making people laugh every night, making them feel good about themselves.

Finally, who were your mentors or heroes that formed your early years?

Judy Garland, definitely. Both the Hepburn women, Audrey and Catherine, were my favorite actresses. And, I love Barbara Streisand, even as a person. But, Judy has always just . {tsk}, I don't know. . . . I know both Liza and Lorna and that has been exciting to me. And, Mary Martin had a huge influence on me as a little kid when I first saw her in Peter Pan. I think that is when I decided I wanted to be in theater when I saw the television version.

And then your talent shone through. Some kids decide they want to do something but then there are those that actually can. It's a blessing.

Yes, it is a blessing and I never take it for granted.



Sept 001
Beauty and me (hopefully not the Beast)

Thank you, Paige and Disney!

Now, head back over to the giveaway and comment for a chance

to win your own Diamond edition of Beauty and the Beast!


  1. Rachel Jarrett says:


  2. Rachel Jarrett says:

    are you christian

  3. Rachel Jarrett says:

    are you a christian

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