An Interview with the Lovely Missus Behind the Mall Santa Factory

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Admittedly, I originally set out to track down and schedule a mall Santa for this Christmas interview… but mall Santas are far more busy/elusive than I thought. They also have agreements with the malls (owned by large real estate investment trusts) that prevent them from interacting with certain members of the press. Yet, in navigating all the red tape that surrounds the world of working Santas, I somehow found myself at the core, speaking with Susen Mesco—the truest embodiment of Mrs. Claus on Earth and something of “the Godmother” to every working Santa in the world.

Susen has spent decades donning the unmistakable suit of Mrs. Claus, teaching and bestowing knowledge upon multiple generations of aspiring Santas at Professional Santa Claus School in Denver, Colorado and ultimately ensuring that Christmas cheer is an available feeling and experience to all who do not hold year-long residency at the North Pole.

With Christmas Day in sight, I wrote the lovely missus an inquisitive note in hopes of scratching a few itches we had about the professional Santa world—like how much does your local mall Santa make a year, what’s the official response when a seated child questions Santa’s existence, and more. Button your cap, it’s about to get very real.

You run a school for human beings who aspire to transcend life and become Santas. How many aspiring Santas would you say apply each year, are there any mandatory pre-requisites and what’s the graduation rate?

250 apply, 50-65 attend and all graduate the two year program!

Screenshot: Becoming Santa (2011)

Screenshot: Becoming Santa (2011)

In the 24 Christmases I’ve been alive for, I’ve probably seen 572 different versions of Santa. Some have reading spectacles, some have goatees, some have CrossFit bodies. What are the agreed-upon physical elements of a professional Santa?

A white beard, kind heart, love of children, is generous with his time and has $5000 to invest in being a real Santa.

Nice. Of all the Santas portrayed in the history of Christmas movies, which Santa do you feel sets the best example for aspiring Santas?

Becoming Santa, The Movie (2011)

It would seem that the window for making a decent living as a professional Santa is not incredibly large. What’s the average amount a Santa can make during Christmas season, and do you know of any Santas that work full-time year round?

The average Santa makes anywhere between $3000-8000. Top rate is $20,000, (mall or TV advertising), and a premier Santa can make around $60,000 (20+ years experience in an international setting). There are a few places where Santas can work full-time year-round, like the North Pole, Santa’s Village and Santa Claus, Indiana. Most people want Santa to “go away” so he can bring his excitement back at the holidays… Can’t eat lobster everyday and still look at it as a treat!

I recently saw that a professional Santa was facing some heat in the news for promising a child that his parents would be getting him a $500 Star Wars toy for Christmas. What’s the #1 mistake that most professional Santas tend to make?

Misplacement of hands!!!

What’s the most interesting fact about being a professional Santa that you can think of?

Being Santa is not a hobby! Once you grow a white beard, you commit to being Santa for the public + children, 24/7/365. Every moment you are in public you are owned by the universe—no turning it “off”. No eating in restaurants, going to the store, seeing a movie, or attending a football game without being approached by a mob of people. No more swearing, beer, road rage… you give up being human and take on the role of Santa for the whole world, every day.

What’s been the most unusual/difficult experience you’ve encountered in teaching people how to channel and bring out their best inner-Santa?

Numerous men decide there is too much involved and never go on to becoming Santa. Most feel every emotion from joy, to overwhelmed by sadness (in hearing some of the needs of the children), to upset and
disbelief that we see children who are “cutters,” addicts, pregnant, abandoned, greedy, etc., to thrilled when they get the right tools, techniques and support to do what they’ve dreamed of in donning the suit.

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Susan and a Santa School graduate. Photo courtesy of Susan Mezco.

Most common is a negation of ego… that it takes more than a nice white beard, $3,500 outfit, $600 boots, $500 belt/buckle and snazzy business card to become Santa. Ego has nothing but flashy outsides to back it up in this industry—a real Santa starts in the heart.

Best feeling is when a Santa contacts me that something he learned at our school: Sign language, how to answer an impossible question, being able to do 150 quality visits in an hour and have happy children & parents, using one of the dozens of costuming make-up techniques we teach totally wow his audience and when he had grand success + is proud of himself for the two years he studied and applied… and it WORKED! I love that most about my career: guiding & mentoring professional Santas.

Once you grow a white beard, you commit to being Santa for the public + children, 24/7/365.

Children can be skeptical. They hear things in the lunchroom that can be tough to shake. What is the official response when a child asks if Santa is real or not?

“Ask me a question only the REAL Santa would know the answer to.” Then, whip out your driver’s license from your briefcase that says, “TOP SECRET: Santa’s List” on the outside.

Some people in this world do not believe in things like, “too much milk and cookies.” I think they might be right. That in mind, what is Santa’s New Year’s resolution for 2017?

  • Find ways to help the children remember to be good (you can do so by visiting My Santa Reports and using promo code: WHALEBONE).
  • Eat more organic foods now that the North Pole hydroponics garden is producing wonderful fruits & veggies
  • Celebrate the children who have learned to share! For every new toy Santa brings them, they donate an older toy in good condition to a child less fortunate than they are!

Last question. You can choose one mega mall/celebrity party/Christmas parade in the world to serve as the official Santa at. What/where is it, and why?

Every Santa who is, every day of the year, connecting with a child, in any corner of the globe, who lights up with magic and wonder when encountering Santa… at the mall, at a private party, HOA gathering, in the hospital, at school. Every man who dons the suit with a pure heart—for children, seniors and pets to help parents, help their children relive the magic of Christmas traditions… that altogether is the mega event.

We are all Santa! All of us can change the world with a hug, a smile, a kind word. It’s not about the beard, belly, boots or belt buckles—it is about our hearts.

To learn more about donning a white beard, transcending human life and becoming a Santa, check out Susen’s Professional Santa Claus School