Former St Albans pupil proves teacher wrong by travelling the world as foot archer
- Credit: Archant
‘I’m going to be a circus performer’ were the words a 17-year-old A-Level student told her mother after she cancelled her university application three years ago.
Foot archer Orissa Kelly, who went to St Albans Girls School and later another sixth form which she did not want to name, had taken sick days at school to travel to Beirut to perform in the live shows of the Arabian X-Factor.
Orissa had just come off 15 metre high silks performing in front of millions of television viewers when she took to her phone to cancel her UCAS application.
She said: “So I came off those silks and I had about 10 minutes free WIFI. I thought, ‘ah I’m going post the best status update ever on Facebook telling everyone what I’ve just done’.
“Then suddenly I was like I know exactly what I need to do and I went straight on to my UCAS application and I cancelled it. I was like ‘that’s it, that’s it, done. I know exactly what I want to do, I don’t want to go to uni I want to do this forever’.
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“I phoned up my mum and I went, “Mum, I’m going to be a circus performer”.”
Orissa, now 21 and currently living in the Maldives, travels the world as a foot archer performing an act that is the first of its kind.
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Always a keen gymnast, Orissa developed the act after finding success as a silks performer and winning the UK aerial championships.
She said: “I was supposedly the best in the UK but how can you prove that? Then I thought why be the best when you can be the only one? So then I became obsessed with the idea of doing something different.”
Orissa’s brother had seen someone on the Internet performing an archery trick with their feet using a fake bow, and made a bet with Orissa that she couldn’t do it using a real one.
Having never had any training in archery, Orissa bought herself a bow from an archery shop and took to a local field to start practicing early last year.
She said: “It was freezing and I would train for six hours every day, actually even longer, until my toes were black with bruises, They were so sore.
“I was so desperate to get this trick, not because of the bet but because I wanted something to be my own.”
While training Orissa was hit with a double whammy - she could no longer train in the field and at the same time she broke her bow.
The landowner had told her she could no longer train out of concern for his livestock but as luck would have it, she took her bow to her local archery shop to get it fixed and the owner told her she could train in his warehouse.
Orissa said: “Some people don’t believe in fate, but I do, and it was fate. I turned up and it just happened to be the right guy on the right day and he’s helped me so much.”
She began doing corporate events, which included performing for the Manchester United team at their Christmas party, before it really took off in March this year.
Orissa received three calls in one day asking her to go to America, Denmark and Canada. She said: “It was just like a light bulb had switched on and it just exploded.”
Orissa then auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent and received four yes’s with the YouTube video of her audition currently racking up more than 2 million views.
Although she didn’t make it to the live finals, Orissa said the appearance has been great for business. She added: “Ever since it aired it’s just been mental.”
She travels across the world performing, but is currently living in the Maldives for three months as a resident performer at a resort.
Orissa says she is ‘living her dream’, but had she listened to one of her sixth form teachers she may not be in the position she is in now.
After Orissa cancelled her university application she got called into her teacher’s office who asked her what she planned on doing instead.
Orissa said: “I told her I planned on being a circus performer and she literally turned around and said to me “You’ll fail at life if you don’t go to university so you need to stop imagining this circus job.”
“I turned around and said to her “OK, watch me,” that was the last thing I said to her, “Watch me.”
“It’s only been three years since I started that career and a year since I’ve been doing archery and I’ve travelled to nearly every continent. I’ve performed for the Queen, the prince of Saudi Arabia, I’ve done Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor.
“I’ve done all these things and I think, do you know what? Don’t let someone force you into something. If you want to do something, do it.”