Martika Daniels’ resume is more extreme than yours.
Among skills: Fire-eating. Sword-swallowing. Escape artist.
Daniels will be among performers when the Oddities & Curiosities Expo returns to Tulsa on Saturday, Feb. 22, inside Central Park Hall at Expo Square. Her set times are noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m., plus a VIP set at 10:30 a.m.
Daniels took part in a Q-and-A session with the Tulsa World in advance of the expo. Excerpts:
Your skills are part of circus or sideshow acts that someone might have seen in decades past. Is there an appeal to keeping this kind of entertainment alive?
I like to call myself a one-woman stunt show because there is so much that I do in my show. I perform with circus acts, fire arts, escapeology and sideshow stunts. I hula hoop with real barbed wire and walk on machetes. There is a wide variety of acts I do. ... I also work with other forms of arts in the performance arts umbrella, like modeling.
Your bio said this: “Born into a military family, Martika began traveling the world at a young age. Exposure to international performers sparked her interest in the circus arts early on.” Can you elaborate on that and what made you want to go into the biz?
My dad was in the Air Force from when I was born until I was about 15. We traveled frequently because of that. When we lived in Germany for four years — when I was age 7 to 11 — I got introduced to all sorts of art forms. I saw a fire performance for the first time in Rome. I was obsessed after that. I fell in love with circus and sideshow when I was really young.
I didn’t take on the art form until I was in college, however. ... I got introduced to an international hula hoop artist. I started taking classes from her my first year in college. It was a hobby and mainly for exercise. However, people started to notice me at parks, circus jam meet-ups and various places. People would ask me to perform at their birthday or wedding, and it kind of snowballed into a part-time job.
It didn’t become a full-time job until after you got laid off from work?
I got my degree as a veterinary technician. I was a parasitologist. I looked for parasites in samples. ... My corporate job got bought out and sold. They laid off about 200 people overnight. At that time, I was doing shows every weekend. I decided, instead of going back into the veterinary world, I would try to be a full-time entertainer for one year just to see how it goes. That was almost five years ago. I have never looked back. I run a small business called KC Entertainment Services LLC. I work internationally, and I hire other entertainers now to work nationally. After losing my job, I used my unemployment payments to start my business. That was the push I needed.
Are you self-taught or did someone teach you performance skills?
I am a mix of both. I am mainly self-taught with my circus acts, but I do have a mentor for my sideshow stunts. There are stunts I do that have been passed down to me from my mentor. He had it passed down to him. It is the proper and traditional way to learn a majority of sideshow stunts that way.
More dangerous — sword swallowing or fire eating? — and why?
Ha! Good question. Sword-swallowing definitely because it can cause instant death when done wrong. It could cut through my esophagus right into my heart or lung. Fire-eating is dangerous, but it’s a different kind of dangerous. If done wrong, I could have major burns on my face or mouth. I could lose my eyesight — not just my eyebrows.
All my stunts are called stunts for a reason. They could possibly hurt or kill me. A circus trick like normal hula hooping most likely won’t hurt or kill me. I like to explain what I do as this: There are actors that do film stunts like Jackie Chan. He jumps out of planes and slides down buildings. I don’t like heights, so I choose sideshow stunts. I prefer swallowing swords and walking on machetes.