Self-Description - Brave, Crazy, Strong
Her Inner Light - “My ability to connect with children. My warrior mentality."
Her message to women everywhere - “We are queens. We are empresses. Let’s know our worth and own it."
Hot pink feathers tucked into her black curls, red smudges across her cheeks and forehead, a belt of tinkling bells over an orange tutu around her waist. If you look past the big red rubber nose and crooked, oversized black spectacles, you'd notice her alluring eyebrows and sensitive eyes. She trips like a class A klutz yet juggles clubs, three or four at a time, clubs aflame. In this disguise, she is a jester, an innocent, an autistic savant, a clueless student, a girl who desperately wants to be a woman. She appears simple but she is no simpleton.
Tristan Cunningham knew herself to be a performing artist from a very young age. Through a tumultuous childhood of losing both parents too young and growing up in foster homes, Tristan has followed her inner knowing. She entered the circus when she was ten, working through acting programs and performing schools in the East Coast. A circus act brought her to the San Francisco Bay Area, where over time she established herself as an equity actress (https://www.backstage.com/tristancunningham/). Performance has been her outlet, her safe place, and her home.
Tristan is also a teacher. She works with teenage moms to find self-empowerment through performing arts. She also teaches at a circus skills life program that helps young people develop confidence, teamwork and perseverance. While she is focused on growing her own artistry, Tristan says, “I will always teach at places where I feel like I am needed."
Of her own tough teenage years, she says, “I was ready to bring myself and anyone else down with me. Thanks to some people who gave me specks of light, I worked my way out of darkness to live a very different life.” In gratitude Tristan gives back by shining her light on and off stage for others who may need it.
On the question of being enough, Tristan says that it’s a day by day thing. But in the end it comes down to this: “When someone has needed my help, and I was able to do that for them, those are the moments when I feel enough."