Activly Engaged: Orissa Kelly

Meet Orissa Kelly, The Wonder Woman of Acrobatic Archery

Most people know the story of the tortoise and the hare. A turtle and a rabbit decide to race. The rabbit is cocky and decides to stop to take a nap during the race. As a result, the tortoise wins. The moral of the story? You don't need speed to win the rat race of life; you need diligence. Orissa Kelly knows all about that, being the first acrobatic archer to perform while on fire. It may have been speed that gave her the dream, to be the first, but it was diligence that made it a reality.

Beginning gymnastics at the tender age of three, Orissa was "born in a handstand." After claiming the European championship title at just 12 years old, she needed more. Thus, she began her career in aerial silks. It was similar to gymnastics but different, more exhilarating. She continued practicing aerial silks up until she graduated high school. Then one day, her pregnant coach offered her an opportunity that would change the trajectory of her life. To Orissa's understanding, the opportunity was just another gig, similar to the ones she had done and seen before. Little did she know that that opportunity was an audition, for the X-Factor finals. She performed in front of 8.5 million people, and that was just the first gig that her coach needed her to fill. Talk about an eventful summer. The fire to perform was lit in Orissa, causing her to cancel her college applications. When you know, you know. However, the thing about obstacles is that they come when we least expect them. They keep life eventful. Orissa experienced a major obstacle shortly after graduating high school. She was working full-time as an aerial silks performer, and work was slow. It had been months since she booked a gig. As beautiful as aerial silk performances are, they require venues with higher than average ceilings, making it hard to book consistent work. She needed to find her niche, an act that would force people to book her because she would be the only person that could do it. A lack of work allowed Orissa to craft a new performance, a performance that no one had ever seen before. After watching a YouTube video of an acrobatic archer, she went to a local store and bought a bow and arrow. Having zero archery experience, Orissa went to a nearby field and began practicing. Practicing is an understatement; she spent six hours a day, for four months, failing. When asked how she was able to fail for that long, under those conditions (it was hot outside), Orissa replied, "I had just come from a break-up. The emotion you have from a break-up or death is powerful. It can't be replicated." She did become frustrated eventually and went back to the store to return the bow and arrow. The merchant asked her what she was trying to do with it. She disclosed her plans to him, and he offered to introduce her to his friend. His friend wasn't just anybody. He crafted archery equipment for Olympians. She perfected her new craft, and then she was invited to perform at the European championships. On the outside looking in, one might think that Orissa's life was perfect, a series of fortunate events. Those people couldn't be any more wrong.

"Everything that I have ever achieved in life has been by hard work and spotting the opportunities."

I think we can all agree that practicing for six hours a day, outside in the heat, with an instrument you've never used before, for four months constitutes hard work.

Her hard work didn't stop there. In 2017, she made an appearance in the major motion film, Wonder Woman. Yes, the wonder woman; the movie. After more hours of practice and more periods of unemployment, because that's just show business, viola; she found it! Orissa found her niche and became the first acrobatic archer to perform while on fire in 2019. She debuted her performance on MTV's, Amazingness. When asked what she thinks of her success, Orissa credited her once pregnant coach, "I wasn't the most talented or the most prepared. She had other friends that she could've asked, but she asked me. She saw something in me. She gave me a chance." You can tell a lot about someone's character by his or her response to those types of questions. Orissa would go on to perform on the official Swarovski yacht and make several TV appearances to which she claimed, "I thought I was dreaming, but it was dreaming that made this [my career] a reality." If you're reading this and you feel more like the hare, as opposed to the tortoise, remember these wise words from a real-life wonder woman, "the more different your path, the more likely you are to succeed." We all run different races, in different spaces, at different paces but the outcome is still the same. We all tie up our laces, hoping to showcase our hopes and dreams.


-the blog-

© 2020 by Anna Bilha