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Disney on Ice's Princess Tiana hails from Wilmington: 'I feel really honored to play her'

Wilmington native Hope Alexander in Disney On Ice Presents Follow Your Heart.
Wilmington native Hope Alexander in Disney On Ice Presents Follow Your Heart.Read moreGeo Rittenmyer/Feld Entertainment

When figure skater Hope Alexander was a child, her mom would take her to Fabric Row to pick out materials for her competitive figure skating dresses. Now, the Wilmington native will perform in Philadelphia for the first time, as Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog  in "Disney on Ice Presents Follow Your Heart," Friday through Jan.2 at the Wells Fargo Center.

She talked to us about her favorite Philadelphia staples, portraying the first African American Disney princess, and how it feels to finally perform close to home.

When did you start skating?

I started skating when I was about 2 years old. My mom used to take me. She used to go with her friends when she was younger. And then from there I just fell in love with it and started competing.

What was it like when you found out you were cast?

Like a dream come true. I had done a few smaller shows when I had graduated college, but nothing to this extent. So finding out I was going to be performing with Disney was really great. It was just superexciting.

What is it like portraying the first African American Disney princess?

It's really special to me. Growing up skating and competing, I didn't see many African Americans at all, so to be able to portray [Tiana] and to show other African American kids skating is something they can do is really special. I feel really honored to play her and show everyone what I can do.

Do you see a reaction to that from fans?

Yeah, I think the audience gets really excited when I come out, and it's a really good feeling. There's a segment where the princesses come out one by one, so it's good to see that reaction when I first step out onto the ice.

This is your first time performing in Philadelphia. What are you most excited for?

I've wanted to play Philly since I joined tour, like it's always been my dream to play close to home so my friends and family can come see. I've been waiting for this for five years, so I'm so excited.

Anywhere you’re definitely going to hit?

I always go to Wawa when I'm home. That's like the number one spot. I love their mac and cheese and hot food menu. That's probably the main one.

What’s your favorite Disney movie?

Growing up, The Little Mermaid was my favorite movie. I always wanted to be a mermaid when I was younger.

What’s your favorite part of the show?

It's all pretty exciting. It's a brand-new show, so there are a lot of different elements this year. Like I said, there's a princess segment when they each kind of do a solo. There's an aerial act where, well, Ariel [from The Little Mermaid] is flying on a web, and a silk act with Rapunzel and Flynn [from Tangled]. Overall, this is my favorite show I've ever been in or seen. And there are all the new characters from Inside Out — just a lot of new stuff to see that I really enjoy, and the audience does as well.

Will your family be there?

Yes. I think they enjoy seeing how I've progressed throughout the years. This is my fifth year [with Disney on Ice], so they always like to see the new things I can do with my skating.