KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Disney movie “Sleeping Beauty” just celebrated its 60th anniversary last month. So, as we celebrate movies, it is only fitting we celebrate Knoxville’s own movie legend, a true princess both on the big screen and in the way she lives her life. We are talking about Mary Costa.    

Costa was tapped to be Princess Aurora back in the 1950s. She talks about what it was like being cast as one of the original Disney princesses in a video produced for the Tennessee Arts Commission when Costa received the Governors Award in 2015.

Decades before that, the city of Knoxville also celebrated the artist with the dedication of the Mary Costa Plaza outside the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum. The plaza details Costa’s incredible career, not just as Sleeping Beauty, but as a renowned opera singer who went on to perform in some of the biggest opera houses in the world.

“When I grew up my grandfather was a big opera fan and every night he would sit in the room he would play Mary Costa. She was one of his favorites and I was in Rome, Georgia…I couldn’t ever imagine that I would meet one of those people singing on the record,” Cynthia Moxley told us.

Moxley has gone on to document many charitable events and galas with Costa in her Blue Streak Blog.

She says Costa continues to give back here in more ways than people know. Brian Salesky, the Executive Director of The Knoxville Opera, agrees. In fact, he says the opera simply would not exist in our city without Costa.  

“She literally birthed a company. Without her presence, there would not have been verve and goodwill to start enterprise like that!”

Costa went on to perform in the company’s first two operas and even today, continues to be a big supporter of the arts.

Salesky told us, “There is no more beautiful ambassador for Knoxville, Tennessee than Mary Costa.”   He went on to say, “It is always the case when you are in Mary’s presence that you are not in the presence of ordinary, you are always in presence of extraordinary because that’s the way she carries herself.”

Salesky also said if you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Mary, just watch “Disney’s Sleeping Beauty” again, “All of the goodness of that character is Mary…there is no question in terms of Disney royalty not only did she play a princess, she is a princess.”

To view the full Tennessee Governor’s Award video, click here.