As part of the Disney100 Celebration at Disneyland Resort and the new “World of Color — ONE” spectacular, we are highlighting cast members who, like our new show, exemplify how one small idea or action — like a single drop of water — can create a ripple that grows into a wave of positive change. Today, let’s meet Lainie Trout of the Costuming Design and Development team.
Growing up, while Lainie Trout’s friends were dressing up like Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” Lainie was admiring a less obvious role model from the animated film.
“When Ursula came on the screen — this size 28 sea witch who loves herself — it was the first time I ever saw a plus-sized character say, ‘I’m bad, I’m beautiful and your opinion holds no weight because I am fabulous,'” Lainie recalls. “I just felt connected to her.”
Fast forwarding a couple of decades, today Lainie is a resource assistant with the Costuming Design and Development team at Disneyland Resort, where she is advocating for lines of costumes that afford more options for plus-sized cast members in entertainment roles. For instance, during this past holiday season, elves in newly designed plus-sized costumes made their debut with Santa Claus, among them entertainment host Stephon-David Haynes, also known as Knick Knack the elf.
“Sometimes, people my size feel as though there is no space for us, but it turns out there’s quite a bit of space,” Stephon-David said, showing off an embroidered green vest with gingerbread buttons. Turning to Lainie, he thanked her for “giving us a voice that we didn’t know we had. It’s loud, and it’s vibrant and it’s colorful — everything that is you. You’re magic.”
Lainie’s personal passion has forged a unique path in her Disney journey. Her career began in 2005 in attractions at Disney California Adventure park. After a few years, she left for a production role in reality television. When she returned to the resort 12 years later, she worked in attractions in New Orleans Square (where she met her husband), and then became an entertainment host and character lead. That’s when Lainie turned her focus to advocating for fellow plus-sized cast members by working to adapt costuming options past the typical large or even extra-large sizes.
“So often, we see padding used in costumes, or we see them thinned down to fit what society tells us is beautiful,” Lainie said. “But accurate representation matters to both our cast members and our guests.”
So, Lainie created a presentation to show just how much that representation matters in creating a more inclusive environment — and how it could be achieved in costuming adaptation. First, she took it to her managers. Before long, she was presenting to directors in casting and costuming. People started talking — and listening. “Sure, this is an emotional issue for me, but I tried to take the emotion out of it and focus on not only our business objectives, but also on just how much it means for cast and guests to see themselves reflected in the entertainment they partake in.”
One of Lainie’s supporters is Brenda Mercure, senior manager of Costuming Design and Development. “Lainie is a true advocate for our cast,” said Brenda, who helped establish the diversity and inclusion position on the team, which Lainie now holds. “It is wonderful to know that she is seen as an ally and someone who will act upon an issue. Lainie is driving change in the way we all think.”
Lainie said this initiative has been the highlight of her career thus far. “When I see a cast member’s eyes light up when they realize there’s a costume for them, it is the most rewarding feeling,” she said. “It’s super humbling because I never expected to have this kind of impact. And it kind of fires me up because I know this is just the beginning.”