Mina joined Host of Sparrows in 2013. She is the company costume designer, and performs burlesque, aerial silks, aerial lyra, aerial rope, tumbling, fire eating, and as fantasy characters and a living statue.
How I Joined the Circus.
2013 was a big year for me as an artist. I had come out of a long depression in which I’d been struggling to find my footing and place in the world, and I was ready to get out and make things happen.
I’ve always been a performer in some fashion or another and I come from a family of performers and artists. From an early age I was introduced to dance and gymnastics by my mother, who coached the sport, and I spent most of my childhood in a gymnastics gym. While I had moderate success at competitions, I never had the goal or skill-set to make it to the Olympics, and by the age of 18 I had had enough of it and quit to pursue a career in fine art and animation. Quitting gymnastics was liberating in many ways. Those who haven’t been there often wonder why so many girls stay with a sport that is so harsh mentally and physically. The answer is often this: when you spend so much of your time immersed in a place, whether you love it or hate it (most of the time both), it is often difficult to see that there is life after the gym. But life there was, and I was very ready to dive into art instead, spending all of my time drawing and writing and very little (if any) of my time working out. During high school I had also fallen in love with acting and singing in school plays. Being in drama helped me break out of my shell, and my gymnastics skills helped me get parts. I knew that I wanted to be on stage, but I wasn’t sure where all this fell into my grand plan. When it came time to go to college, my choices were drama or art. I had left my gymnastics behind for good, or so I thought.
After college it became clear that I was not going to continue with my dream of animation. I began my own illustration business and traveled to festivals and Renaissance faires to sell my work. I struggled mentally with not having a ‘real career.’ I floundered in my personal life and battled with anxiety and depression. Occasionally I would have something published or audition for local productions, but for the most part, I slept through my 20s. Here I was with all of these skill sets and no idea of what to do with them. Something a member of my family had said to me long ago began to haunt me: “In our family we are Jacks of all trades and masters of none.” I always thought that was horrible. As a kid I remember thinking that the worst thing in life must be to not have the talent for the thing it was you wanted to do. Now I was finding that to have talent but not have a place to use it was equally as defeating.
It took until my late twenties for me to finally begin to throw away my old notions of what I was ‘supposed to do’ in life and how old I needed to be to do it, and begin to say yes to things I simply enjoyed. Renaissance faires and conventions had helped me meet lots of amazing people who were living the lives they wanted to live no matter their age. You’re a 50 year old woman who wants to dress as a Storm Trooper in a kilt? Go for it! Be ridiculous. Be bold. Be happy. I honed my costume constructing skills, my networking skills, and something akin to street performance and improvisation, which I had always considered myself terrible at. By 2011 I had a new job, lots of new friends, and most importantly I was ready to give my home city of Richmond a second chance.
The art scene here was booming and so was the burlesque scene. I dipped my toe into this new medium and found it liberating and thrilling. Here I was able to create exactly the vision I wanted to create and get a chance to perform it for an audience without having to follow someone else’s script, music, or choreography. I tested the waters for my illustrations again and found the community very accepting of those as well. Then in 2013 I walked into a dance studio and reclaimed my gymnastics roots. After the first hour long class I took of aerial lyra my arms were shaking and I thought I was going to vomit, but my body remembered. I was in love with working out again. It didn’t take long for my muscles to build back up, and I began learning aerial silks with Heather Bailey and a small misfit group of circus folk who called themselves Host of Sparrows. It was here that I could use all of my art and performance skills in one place with a group of beautiful, kind and accepting individuals. I had found my home and my people, and I would never have guessed it could happen by running away with the circus.