Living and travelling with the circus gives you the opportunity to coexist and get to know many different people and living creatures. And if you are willing, you can learn a lot from them all. One of those are the elephants.
Elephants are as varied and unique as people are. You can meet a super social playful one. Or you can meet the grumpy old man who doesn't want to be bothered. They are all amazing creatures in their own personal way. The playful ones are the more entertaining ones to watch obviously.
Like when it rains and everything gets muddy. People usually hate when that happens because it means trucks getting stuck in the mud, getting your motorhome carpet all dirty and wet, having to raise the big top while feeling like your fingers might freeze off etc.
But for the elephants, it's the best weather ever. They become huge goofballs, they love to run and run and then let themselves fall and slide in the mud, sliding at great, terrifying speed if they happen to come your way. Like a fun game of human bowling.
Thankfully they have more sense than most humans and usually don't play close to people or trucks.
It's fantastic and scary at the same time. They are oblivious to your presence, they just enjoy the moment and become children having a field day. They almost start dancing.
You can't not be happy when watching them just playing and being happy because they found some mud. And after that, they always get a shower because they can't work like that. It's a win-win for them because showers are their second favourite thing in the world.
I always thought that I would be that girl, the glamorous one who rides the elephant looking elegant and at ease, showing the audience how easy and normal it is to have a 12,000-pound ride.
Then I met Ana.
Ana is a gorgeous girl, with beautiful Brown eyes who is always looking for someone to give her a treat. When I met her, I had an apple I had gotten for her as a present, and as I walked over super confidently, I was excited to finally meet an elephant face to face! Or face to chest if I'm more honest. As I got about ten feet from her, I felt it. She was BIG. Really, really big! And imposing. It's not the same when you see an elephant at the elephant ride where you see their side and have a ladder to climb onto, as meeting face to face in their territory (which was a field at the back of the circus).
I felt small. She had all the presence you want to have when you walk onstage. She knew what and who she was and how powerful she looked, and owned it. I felt in awe and terrified at the same time, and we all know that is not ideal when meeting anyone new, especially someone who is 100 times heavier than you and can have 200 times more attitude than the circus diva.
I couldn't help but think “now THIS is a circus star”.
So, with that in mind, I told myself “fake it til you make it” and walked over to her. And as she opened her mouth happy to see I had brought a present... I fainted.
Ok, ok, no, that's not what happened, it would have been funnier!
I did feel like fainting though! The feeling was real!
Ana waited and waited, closed her mouth, looked at me, and opened it again. And the apple wasn't in her mouth yet. She looked at me like “seriously?” and gave me a last chance. I was frozen. My husband took the apple from my hand, told her “sorry girl, she's new” like they both knew what that meant, and gave her the apple. She was not at all impressed with me. Had she been the circus owner (which I bet she thought she was) I would have been fired there and then.
There are as many elephant anecdotes as there are people in the circus. Every circus person you meet will have at least one.
I consider myself very, very lucky because I have the opportunity to see and feel all this first hand. From a cockatoo that absolutely hated me, to a miniature horse that tried to move in with me (he literally tried to walk into our motorhome like “honey I'm home!”).
And then there are elephants. They teach you to seize the day. If it rains, play with mud. If you want that apple, be patient.
Or, as Ana taught me, personality is the most important trait you have to work on when you are an artist. You may have the costumes, the sequins, the makeup, the strength and even the looks. But if you are not the elephant in the room, you might as well go home.
Thank you to my beautiful cousin and niece Deyanira and Doricela for the beautiful pictures of them with their elephants!
Leonora Gabucio likes to refer to herself as a circus runaway.
Formerly a Waldorf school elementary teacher, she found love in a circus performer and together they decided to start a new life together on the road as a duet, defying all she thought she knew and becoming a whole new person.
Now she is a full-time circus performer, face painter, costume designer, cosplayer, and recently a mom!
She has a Youtube channel that tells her story in fun videos. As a circus performer she, along with her partner in crime, has won competitions as an international circus performing duo.
You can almost always find her training, performing, creating new cosplay or circus outfits and looks, playing with her baby and living life to the fullest!
See more of her work and interact with her here! 😃❤️🎨