LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Walk around Walt Disney World with newly minted Disney Ambassador Raevon Redding and it’s like walking around with a rock star.
Everywhere he goes, people light up when they see him coming.
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It’s nearly impossible not be excited when you see Redding. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious. He has a smile you actually feel when he greets you with a big hello.
On the day we followed him around Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, it was raining. That didn’t matter because Redding is a one-man band of sunshine. He simply deployed his umbrella and kept on walking and waving.
Cast members are quick to call out his name when they see him.
“I spotted you over there and I said, ‘Raevon is here!’” a cast member tells him as he approaches and they hug outside the theater on Main Street U.S.A.
Another cast members gives him a hug and says he misses seeing him. Visitors stop and ask him to take selfies with them. He is quick to accommodate.
Following him as he walks down Main Street is something to see. Even people who don’t know him do a double take when they see him coming. Maybe it’s because he is meticulously dressed in a tailor-made suit. Or perhaps it’s the unique bow tie he has chosen to wear on this day to represent Black History Month. Whatever it is, people seem drawn to him.
Redding says he has always been drawn to Disney. He visited the theme parks a lot as a kid.
“My mother worked at the Emporium, my stepdad worked at Cosmic Rays, my aunt worked on Main Street, my cousin has been with the company 15 years. So I knew I was going to be a cast member,” he said.
It was as simple as that until the 8th grade at Tuskawilla Middle School. That’s when something magical happened in his classroom.
Redding says he and some of his classmates were having a student government meeting and discussing the 8th grade school dance. Suddenly, he said, there was some kind of commotion going on behind him. He remembers turning to tell everyone to calm down before being left speechless by what he saw.
Right before his eyes in his classroom was Mickey Mouse in a full tuxedo, accompanied by Walt Disney World Ambassador Clay Shoemaker.
“It was in that moment, I was not only starstruck because Mickey was in front of me, and in front of all my friends, but I felt this aura of magic, you know, illuminating around the ambassador and around Mickey,” Redding said.
He says once he realized Mickey and the magic could exist outside of the theme parks, he instantly felt the magic calling him.
“It was that day that I said, ‘Wow, I want to do that job. I want to bring this magic, that feeling that I felt into the community and spread it to everyone else,’” Redding said.
He still has pictures of that day from 8th grade on his phone. Why wouldn’t he? It’s the day that changed his life.
It’s also the day he learned he had to become more than a dreamer. He knew he had to be a doer.
And he did a lot.
“I was an entertainment cast member and I got to dance (in) various parades and shows across property and even overseas in Shanghai Disneyland. I worked in the Magic Kingdom guest relations, have worked with their guests experience team, enhancing that guests experience and work(ed) as a VIP tour guide. So there are multiple facets and multiple roles that I played while being a cast member here before becoming an ambassador,” he explained.
It was while he was a tour guide that he manifested his dream job. Every day, when he came to work, Redding said he would make his way to the Ambassador Lounge to find the emblem of the Ambassador pin.
“I would touch it and say, ‘I will become the next Walt Disney World Ambassador.’ Every day. I did not miss a day,” he said with confidence.
When he got the chance to apply for the job, he said it was during the final interview that he felt a shift in the universe.
”I remember standing in front of the big board room, and I believe it was our president and all of the senior steering committee, and I remember telling myself, ‘I am meant to be here. I am the next Walt Disney World Ambassador. Let me show them why,’” he said.
He learned he got the job over Zoom while he was home alone. Redding says all he could do was cry. At 27, he’s only the 5th Black man to become a Walt Disney World Ambassador in 50 years.
This young man from Winter Park says he comes from a family of people who have always believed in him. But he said no one believed in him more than his grandmother. She told him to always be excellent at whatever he took on.
“My grandmother (played) such a pivotal role in my life. And unfortunately, she passed Jan. 2, 2021. So she was unable to see me pinned as ambassador. But I know that the one thing that she wanted me to do was to continue to be excellent. Now if I failed, it wasn’t a failure to her. She said, ‘You just learned something. Now continue to be excellent,’” he said.
He’s still taking his grandmother’s advice and walking confidently in the direction of his dream—a seed planted 13 years ago by a classroom surprise. Now, Redding says he hopes to inspire others the same way Mickey and Disney Ambassador Clay Shoemaker inspired him.
As a Disney Ambassador, Redding is leaning fully into the role. If there’s a special event, you will likely see him there enjoying the spotlight and lighting up the room.
So what’s his next adventure? Likely whatever he dreams of.