Savor the Moments

03/31/2023 03:56 AM By Lisa Anderson
Anya Bradford
Anya Bradford
Story & Photos by Lisa Anderson

Savor the Moments

Former Disney Princess Finds Peace in Motherhood

A mother of three and regional vice president of Primerica, Anya Bradford has genuine charm and a soft voice that are immediately disarming. She is often referred to as a Disney princess, a moniker she finds endearing. “If [little birds] want to do my dishes, they are more than welcome. That would be fantastic!”

The Hustle

The oldest of three daughters to highly educated parents, Anya experienced a childhood filled with imagination and plenty of school activities. As a tall girl, she was sought after by her school’s basketball team—a prospect she found a bit scary. “I didn’t have confidence. They would humor me and let me sit out a little, because it scared me. But music and drama was where I found my confidence,” she explains.

“I grew up in kind of the classic golden age of those Disney movies: Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Aladdin. I can remember when we lived at this house with a big wooden fence. I’ve always been the imaginative [child] with a flair for the dramatic.

“I had long hair at the time, and I remember I had just watched Pocahontas. I climbed up to the very top of the fence, and the wind was just going nuts. And I started singing ‘Colors of the Wind,’ and I just felt like I was in my element,” she recalls.

In high school, Anya’s choir director nurtured that passion and helped to set her on a path to Disney. “All it takes is one person to really believe in you, and it opens up all kinds of possibilities.”

After college, with a degree in vocal music education, Anya marched straight to Disney World. The company paid just a little over minimum wage at the time, so Anya had to think on her feet to make ends meet. “I started hustling around town, you know. I was a dancing piece of cake at Universal Studios. There are pictures,” she laughs.

“I did a bunch of runway shows for David’s Bridal. I was a singing waitress at an Italian restaurant. You know, just trying to hustle.”

But was she ever a princess? Hardcore Disney fans know the correct terminology. “Now, I’m no longer under contract with them, but the lingo they use is, ‘We were friends with…,’” Anya states. “I was friends with Mary Poppins and Belle and a lot of characters like Pluto. But I also played a villain. I was really good at the villain. I mean, my job was to give kids an authentic feel and experience. If there were tears involved…”

New Chapters

Anya met her husband Kevin while in Orlando, and the two of them headed to Georgia for Kevin’s first full-time ministry position. After her experience at Disney, Anya decided to fall back on her degree and began teaching at an elementary school in Georgia. “I had a blast. I had so much fun with those kids,” Anya excitedly states.

“We really had a lot of fun, but the appeal of owning my own business and being able to have flexibility of time, and you know, being able to make the same amount of money or more... Control of my time—that’s what I really wanted.”

Owning a business had not been on Anya’s radar until financial education came into play for the young couple. “I had just gotten married. Kevin was working at a church, and we had a lot of debt. So, we went to the bank, and the bank decided the best way to help us get out of our debt was to take out more loans. I didn’t feel like they were interested in educating me or really helping me. We found someone who worked in the Primerica office there in Georgia, and he taught us about money.”

Anya and Kevin learned about the way money works and they put together a financial plan. “I kind of joke I didn’t understand numbers, but I was dumb enough to do what the paper said. In two years we had all of our debt paid off. We had started investing, we had life insurance, we had an emergency fund that was big enough to pay cash for a car.

“I think that was the moment where I was driving home in this new car that I paid cash for, and I thought, ‘Dear God, what just happened? I’m 26. I have no debt except for my house, and I just paid cash for a car.’”

Anya knew she needed to tell friends and family about this opportunity. When she called the Primerica office to send over the referrals, they suggested Anya educate them herself. “It just kind of started this whole journey of teaching people to find financial freedom because that opened up a whole journey for us. You know, all that money had been servicing debt started going towards our adoption process, and that would have never been possible if we hadn’t learned about money instead of being sold a product.”

Heartbreak & Happiness

Anya had always had a dream of being a mother, and adoption had been on the forefront of her mind since middle school. “I just wanted to be a mom to kids who needed a mom. I didn’t have to birth them,” she says with a smile.

But the adoption journey was filled with heartbreak and tough lessons. It began in the country of Sierra Leone located in West Africa. Anya and Kevin had been matched with a boy that they had been Skyping with for a few months. They had watched him take his first steps, but communication became nearly non-existent when the country had an outbreak of Ebola.

With the government infrastructure was decimated by the virus, the couple was told that adoptions would not be taking place. Eventually, in 2016, with a new adoption agency, they were matched with 4- and 6-year-old siblings in Uganda. The couple flew over and spent six weeks with the children before they were told that Uganda had passed a new adoption law requiring adoptees to live in country for a year and establish residency.

Anya and Kevin headed home to wait to hear if they would be grandfathered into the adoption program. “So, we came home without our kids. That was the hardest 40-hour trip back,” Anya says fighting tears.

For six months, Anya held onto hope, but after losing her hair in patches and 30 pounds of weight, Kevin told her that, at some point, she would need to accept that “God can take care of these kids with or without us.”

Anya and Kevin keep in touch with the siblings, but the couple decided to have children of their own. They had two boys and one girl within four years. “I would say the whole adoption experience really kind of taught me something about time. It’s our most valuable commodity. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.

“My word [of] the year for several years has been ‘savor.’ I just want to savor [these] moments,” Anya says about her three young children.

Anya and Kevin moved to Ocala in 2015, and they have fallen in love with the city. Nowadays, Anya can be found savoring moments with her children and savoring moments with her clients. “You caught me on a Tuesday, so I’ve got deodorant on. I’m wearing normal clothes. You catch me on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday—it’s probably a messy bun, getting it done in the backyard where we’re playing dinosaur, digging holes, or something.”
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