Grace Good: “Voice your dreams”

Voice your dreams. Say them to yourself and to anyone who will listen. If you voice your dreams, you’re more likely to achieve them. We often speak to ourselves in disparaging remarks. I’ve been guilty of that. But I learned to replace that with positive self-talk, both silent and audible. As a part of our series about pop […]

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Voice your dreams.

Say them to yourself and to anyone who will listen. If you voice your dreams, you’re more likely to achieve them.

We often speak to ourselves in disparaging remarks. I’ve been guilty of that. But I learned to replace that with positive self-talk, both silent and audible.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Grace Good.

She is not your typical TV star — she’s a self-taught, daredevil performer who ran away from college to join the circus. She toured internationally with Cirque Dreams, a world-renowned Cirque Theatrics company, but it was her viral videos on TikTok where she has 1.9M followers that caught the eyes of producers, transporting her mad skills and fiery talents to reality TV shows, daytime talk shows, national news, a pandemic documentary and a new Fox network series where she will appear this season. With ingenuity and an innovative spirit, she’s spun what began as a little fun with a hula hoop into the brand Grace Good Cirque Entertainment. Meet the fire-eating, free-falling, record-breaking, hula-hooping, entrepreneurial girl next door who’s determined to ignite your dreams.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

When Snoop Dogg said, “You’re Vegas-ready, baby!” my whole life leading up to that moment flashed before my eyes. He couldn’t have known, but I was looking for a place to live in Las Vegas. That was in 2020, at the height of the pandemic.

Although I traveled the world performing with Cirque Dreams and appeared on TV countless times, his unexpected compliment took me back to my days as an awkward middle schooler. It gave me courage. The best performers don’t just entertain — they inspire and encourage. That’s the kind of performer Snoop Dogg is and the kind of human I aspire to be.

As a kid, I lived in small-town New Jersey. My mom and dad enveloped my older sister, younger brother and me in a home filled with love and laughter. I don’t take that for granted. I realize now that’s not a given. I felt safe and secure. It was truly an idyllic childhood.

When I was 13, my dad decided to pursue his dream of the music business in Nashville. My family moved to the nearby town of Franklin, Tenn., and to say that the move from the Northeast to the South was a culture shock would be an understatement. Before long, I could gulp down sweet tea with the best of them but going to a new public middle school was not so easy. I never felt like I fit in. Through middle and high school, I struggled to find my place. I was shy, but the thought of an audience excited me. I was more artsy than athletic, but I didn’t make the cut for musical theater, concert choir, soccer or basketball. What felt like a string of losses for me ended up being a win. I learned that things don’t always come easy and the feelings I experienced gave me empathy for people who for many reasons feel like they don’t make the cut or fit in.

As I’ve experienced success, I’ve never forgotten that feeling. I’m aware of it every time I perform, and it is part of why I do what I do. I love to entertain, but even more, I live to inspire and encourage — to prove that what appears to be impossible is, in fact, possible. I’m proof of it. I’m the awkward kid who never had gymnastics lessons and I’m breaking world records, performing death-defying aerial drops, spinning multiple flaming hula hoops and going viral on TikTok. Like Snoop Dogg, I want to be an encourager. I want to inspire people to pursue their dreams. I want to inspire people to find their own circus — whatever that looks like for them — and to live out their dreams on the center stage.

As for “growing up,” that’s something I may never do. I hula hoop and play with fire for a living after all!

But growing and encouraging others to grow, that’s what I always want to do.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a senior in high school when I first picked up a hula hoop. I was mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr, came across a circus hula hoop performer and was so mesmerized that I ordered a giant hoop from Amazon. When it arrived, I had no idea what to do with it, so I looked up a tutorial on YouTube. A few spins and I was instantly hooked.

When I left for college that fall, I took my hoop with me. College was my first time on my own and I was terrified. I began experiencing anxiety and having panic attacks. That was when hula hooping became more than a hobby. It became my therapy. Mastering challenges with my hoops gave me a sense of control over my whirling emotions. Something about spinning the hoops helped me still my soul. My hoops became a consuming passion and I realized that — as impractical as it sounded — I wanted to make a career out of hula hooping.

Can you imagine my parents’ surprise when I announced I was running away from college to join the circus?

It was more challenging than I’d imagined figuring out the confusing and secretive world of the circus. Most performers are born into it — and then there was me. But I was determined.

Nashville is known for its artists. They’re on every street corner. Most are hopefuls, looking for a break. I wedged my act between them, performing in Printer’s Alley and on Second Avenue on the weekends. I was the only hula hooping busker in town! I loved wowing people with my fire hoops and making them laugh with my antics. I even made some pretty good money at it by daring passersby, “Bet ya’ 20 bucks I can eat this fire!” I’m proud to say I never got arrested, although I was asked to move on a couple of times.

Then one day, I spotted an ad for circus performers on Craigslist. What were the chances? I was sure fate was smiling down on me. That was the day I learned things don’t always go according to plan — sometimes they go even better. I showed up for the audition thinking it could be my big break. It wasn’t. At least not that day. There were aerialists. There were professional dancers. And then there was me with my hula hoops. But one of the aerialists asked if I was the street performer from downtown. She had just moved to town with her circus company. She hired me to perform, taught me aerial skills, and by 2014, I was co-owner of Beyond Wings Circus.

I went on to perform with touring company Cirque Dreams across the US and internationally and then began producing the celebrated circus performances at Nashville’s Plaza Mariachi.

Pandemic quarantines, rather than closing doors, opened them, allowed me to appear in studios across the country without even leaving my condo. The rise of TikTok during the pandemic put a chance to enjoy my version of the greatest show on earth in the grasp of everyone with a cell phone. It led to more than my career — it led to my brand.

Building a brand has been the ultimate balancing act. At my core, I’m an entertainer who loves to spread joy, wonder and the courage to pursue dreams. I live that out in a lot of ways. In addition to TV appearances and music videos, I perform live in cirque tours and at public events and private parties. Watch for me in shows in Las Vegas, Nashville and other locales. I also accept influencer opportunities with brands I believe in and I’ll be taping for a commercial next week. My fire hoops have also ignited multiple spin-off ventures. As a producer, I create the circus shows at Nashville’s Plaza Mariachi, which has been voted Nashville’s best dinner entertainment. As co-owner of Beyond Wings Circus, I employ and mentor other performers and make the excitement of the circus more accessible. As director of Nashville Circus Center’s education program, I help aspiring entertainers get their start or take their act to the next level by teaching skills and showmanship. I also offer online courses and workshops. I’m passionate about welcoming one and all to the excitement of the circus — whether as dedicated performers or recreational thrill-seekers ready to try something new.

I like to invite others to consider the wonder of a circus mindset. A circus mindset encourages us to do three important things: celebrate the uniqueness each person has to offer, face our fears, and dare to dream.

Under the big top, entertainers with unique talents and abilities come together as one performance family to orchestrate the greatest show on earth. Imagine the same tent filled with people who are just alike in every way. How boring. We in America are a people of differences. Those differences make us more interesting, more alive, and able to accomplish amazing feats — if we support each other and work together as one family.

Facing fear and anxiety is the common denominator of every circus act — and a common experience of our humanity. The occurrences of the past year have exacerbated anxieties for people like me who thought they had tamed them and triggered them in people who have never struggled with them before. While I don’t have all the answers, I do know I find physical, mental and emotional comfort in doing something I’m passionate about. I’m not at all joking when I say that spinning fire hoops soothes my soul. If my performance makes someone smile and adds joy to their day, I’ve done something good. If sharing my experiences helps someone overcome their anxieties and live joyfully, I’ve done something great.

A circus also makes us dare to dream. Now I’m not saying everyone should punt college for something that sounds as far-fetched as a hula hooping career, but I am saying everyone should find what brings them joy and helps them spread it. I want to inspire everyone to dream a little and find their own circus.

My path has been a winding one taking me and my fire hoops from a college campus to the streets of Nashville, from an international tour to family room TVs across America and from a girl with no plan to an entrepreneur with a brand.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When stages began to close because of the pandemic, I was devastated. Live performances were canceled, and I was out of work. My career as an entertainer was at a standstill. As my anxiety grew, the panic attacks began to surface again. I couldn’t stand the thought of being alone day after day, so I packed my bags, locked my condo and moved into my childhood room in my parents’ home. With my studio closed, I at least had room to practice in their sprawling yard.

With space to spin my fire hoops, I could think again. I began to ground myself in what I knew to be true. I’m an entertainer, but more than that, I’m an inspirer. I want to encourage people to pursue their dreams and I want to spread joy. Never has hope been more needed than during the pandemic, but how could I perform in a world where quarantining was required, and everyone was spacing themselves six feet apart?

TikTok had reached out to me the year before and hired me to post on their platform. Since then, I had amassed 500K followers on Tik Tok and had 50K followers on Instagram. During quarantine, that number was growing by leaps and bounds. I held a lit dragon staff in one hand and a new “stage” — my cell phone — in the other and realized I had everything needed to spark hope during a heavy, dark time. I created a backyard circus — and invited the world to my one-woman version of the greatest show on earth. My mom and dad stood in as stagehands. Neighbors brought their lawn chairs and sat at a distance. The NBC affiliate came out and NBC national news picked the story up, airing it across the country. Thousands of social media followers tuned in, my TikTok following reached 1.9M and I caught the attention of several producers. I was interviewed for a documentary about resilience and pivoting amid the pandemic. And — I got a call inviting me to be on TBS’s new extreme talent show, the Go Big Show.

I never expected that!

And the story gets even better. Go Big Show contestants and celebrity judges were quarantined in a hotel for the duration of filming because of Covid. We could only leave to shuttle over to the colosseum where the performances were filmed. I was literally locked in a hotel with celebrity judges like Snoop Dogg, Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Nettles and Cody Rhodes. I got to know some of the most exciting people in the world, but the most intriguing of them all was BMX adrenaline junkie Kurtis Downs. As fate would have it, we were paired by producers to face each other in a head-to-head challenge.

At first, I focused on sizing Kurtis up as a competitor. I was impressed. And the more I learned about him, the more curious I became. His story was so interesting to me. I realized that although we performed in totally different realms, we were more alike than different. I was there to beat him, but at the same time, I was really into him. As competitors, we had to be at the same places at the same times, and during the downtimes, we got to know each other well. By the time we were waiting for results, I was a bundle of emotions. I was there to win, but I’d grown to care about Kurtis. Quite a bit actually. Only one of us could win. The other would have to leave the show. It was an impossible situation.

Like Snoop Dogg, the other celebrity judges extended encouraging comments, but Kurtis’s act beat mine in the end. He was amazing. I packed my bags and headed home. But to my surprise, I began getting phone calls from Kurtis. Then we made arrangements to see each other a couple of times. Then on New Year’s, just after the stroke of midnight, we officially became a couple. I didn’t win the competition, but for now, I couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out.

So, the pandemic looked like the end, but it turned out to be the beginning of so many great things. Lesson learned? Never say never. Don’t give up. Find a way to do what you’re here to do no matter what.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Cirque Dreams had a casting call in Nashville. It was my first big audition.

The room was filled with professional dancers — and then I walked in with my hoops. I was nervous, excited and laser-focused on blowing their minds. What I didn’t focus on was the height of the ceilings in the hotel. I planned to wow them with a trick everyone loved where I threw my hoop high into the air and caught it on my foot — only when I launched the hoop it smacked on the ceiling and rolled across the room. ALL the way across the room. I was frantic inside. I altered my routine to include a dance across the room, scooped up the hoop and nailed the finale. And I got the job!

Lesson learned: Well — there were actually three lessons I learned that day that I will never forget.

First, know everything you can before you go into any performance situation. Had I known the ceiling was lower than my toss, I could’ve practiced a lower toss, saved myself a lot of stress and avoided what could’ve been a disastrous scenario.

Second, constantly assess throughout your performance. It’s easy to focus exclusively on your performance or to lose focus as you soak in the energy of your audience. For the audition, I couldn’t access dimensions before I arrived, yet if I’d stayed focused on everything in the setting as I performed, I would’ve spotted the ceiling height and adapted.

Lastly — and this was my saving grace that day — stay true to who you are. Do what you came to do. Be nimble. I’m an entertainer. I was there to secure a spot in the production. I had to forgo my plans and go on sheer passion.

What did they see? An unexpected but impeccable performance? A miscalculation with a smooth save. A relatable, passionate rookie with ambitions higher than the ceiling. I’ll never know but touring with them that winter was a highlight of my early performance career and the lessons I learned that day will be with me forever. If you’re looking for an impeccable performer, look for someone who has blundered — or almost blundered — things before. Our mistakes will be our best teachers if only we’ll let them.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We’re still in a unique time as we ride out the pandemic. TV studios typically think twice about letting me bring fire in, but with guests still appearing remotely, there’ve been creative opportunities. On Morning Blend Las Vegas, I appeared in my home kitchen eating fire for breakfast.

On TV, you’ll see me on a new Fox network show soon. I can’t share details yet. I’m also in talks with producers for two other TV shows, one US-based and one international.

In my new city of Vegas, I hope to be performing live soon. Once the pandemic is safely behind us, I believe there will be pent-up interest in live performances. That’s part of the impetus behind my move to Vegas now. I feel a bit like the new kid in middle school again, but if Snoop Dogg says I’m ready, and I’m not going to argue with that. There’s no place like Vegas. I am ready.

Once international travel is again possible, I may take a show I’m developing on a world tour. People were crazy about my one-woman backyard show. I never anticipated that! I’m continuing to create it — and who knows — maybe what began in the backyard of my childhood home will one day circle the globe.

In Nashville, of course, you can regularly catch me producing and performing with Beyond Wings Circus at popular entertainment destination Plaza Mariachi. Nashville will always be home to me. Gone are the days when I feel the need to stuff myself into an existing category to fit in. The city is full of talent and it’s not just country music. Nashville will always be home to me and I’ll continue to perform in Nashville as often as I can.

As the world opens up, I’m excited about performing live again at large-scale events and parties.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Absolutely! Entertainment is art, and its best, art is authentic. TV and film have a unique opportunity to invite viewers along on an adventure, encourage them along the way and leave them inspired. When diversity is represented in those opportunities, we can impact our culture in positive, authentic ways.

  1. We can invite.

Film and TV have the power to transport viewers beyond the families they grew up in, the neighborhoods where they live, the industries where they work and the familiar places that are part of their routines — beyond everything they’ve ever known before. Stories invite us along for a journey. They allow us to walk in someone else’s shoes. They help us feel and understand. TV and film have a unique opportunity to introduce viewers to diverse people and situations, to build understanding and to begin to mend the issues that have divided us.

2. We can encourage.

Individuals who feel marginalized — who feel like they don’t make the cut — find hope in strong, positive characters they can identify with. For a kid who needs a positive role model, film and TV characters can help bridge the gap.

3. We can inspire.

The nightly news is filled with negative news stories — an endless stream of accusations, arguments and rhetoric. Film and TV have an opportunity to share different perspectives — to tell stories of reconciliation. They can put forth solutions. They can model love, concern and hope.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. DO play with fire.

Channel the adrenaline you feel and let it fuel you. Don’t let yourself become paralyzed by what you don’t know.

After voicing that I wanted to be a circus star, I realized I had no idea how to make it happen. Over time, my vision and the steps to get there have become more apparent. Walk forward in the light that you have.

2. Don’t flame out.

Learn from your failures and let them make you better.

When my hoop hit the ceiling in my first big audition, I learned from it how to play devil’s advocate and how to ensure perfect performances going forward.

3. Learn the rules like a pro — then break them like an artist.

When I decided to pursue a career as a daredevil cirque performer, I knew I had to crack the hard-to-understand world of circus performers. Once I understood it, I gave it my own spin.

Professionals know the rules. Artists break them. You can be both.

4. Voice your dreams.

Say them to yourself and to anyone who will listen. If you voice your dreams, you’re more likely to achieve them.

We often speak to ourselves in disparaging remarks. I’ve been guilty of that. But I learned to replace that with positive self-talk, both silent and audible.

5. Spark imagination.

Use the light you have to inspire others and make the world a better place.

At first, my hoops were a hobby, something just for fun. When my anxiety flared, I turned to them as an outlet and an escape. Now I use them to spread joy to others. Don’t let your career be an end in itself. Find a way your dreams can impact the world for good.

What do you have to lose by holding back? Everything! I believe in putting myself out there. That was my philosophy long before I was invited to be on the Go Big Show. Did I take home the 100,000 dollars prize? Not this time. But did the competitor they put me up against turn out to be my soul mate. Yes, he did. Instead of money, I won the heart of the best man I know. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The rewards out there may be even better than you can imagine, so remember to Go Big.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

  1. Seek mentorship.

Learn from the wisdom and perspective of those who have gone before you.

2. Invest in people who are new to the industry.

Their excitement is contagious. It will no doubt remind you why you chose your career path in the first place.

3. Take a break.

If you have trouble turning your mind off, try redirecting yourself instead. If I say, “Don’t think about pink elephants,” your mind’s eye sees a pink elephant, doesn’t it? But if I say, “Think about blue elephants,” then the pink ones disappear. If you’re a Type A, it may be hard to idle down and give your mind a rest, but a change — focusing on something different — can feel just as mind-clearing. Give it a try!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire the “Find-Your-Own-Circus” Movement!

The movement would encourage people to follow their dreams. Does something set your soul on fire? Don’t ignore it. Explore it. Don’t listen to naysayers who tell you it can’t be done. Figure out where your passion intersects with spreading joy to others. Then pursue it with everything in you.

No one else is qualified to be you. What is your mission — the one you’re uniquely qualified to pursue? Search for it. Find it. Go for it!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Emily Tiller. She’s a mentor, business partner, and best friend.

Being in the public eye is not for the faint of heart. She reminds me that the opinions that matter most belong to those who know you and love you best. When I begin to veer off course, she reaches out, offers me a way back and reminds me to stay true to who I am.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If it excites you and scares you at the same time, then you should probably do it.”

I’ve struggled with anxiety and panic attacks over the years, and for me, nothing makes them dissipate like spinning fire hoops. We all tend to avoid the things that scare us, but it’s in facing them that we build confidence, chase them away, and overcome the obstacles between us and our dreams.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Dolly Parton! She’s a stand-out entertainer, but she’s so much more.

She’s an innovative businesswoman who has used her platform to lift others up and give them hope. Her Imagination Library mails one book every month to children birth through kindergarten — more than 100 million books to date. When the pandemic hit, she donated a million dollars toward research that ultimately helped produce the Moderna vaccine. She’s done so much to help others.

She’s committed to her art and she’s authentically unique. She’s successful, yet humble. Strong, yet kind. She exhibits character traits I long to emulate.

Breakfast or lunch with Dolly — that would be a dream come true!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @gracegoodcirque.

You can also reach me through [email protected]

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

My pleasure! Thank you so much for much for the kind invitation to interview with you.

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