I just watched an inspiring documentary called “Being Elmo, A Puppeteer’s Journey.” It is the true story of Kevin Clash, a Jim Henson “Muppeter” who as a young boy was fascinated with puppets. Kevin did not come from a white-collar suburban neighborhood of Chicago, where the family sat down in front of the TV every morning before school and work, but instead struggled to feed themselves, keep the roof over their heads and fight to survive. The projects of Baltimore across from a polluted river were where Kevin practiced his craft under staggering odds. Upon seeing Sesame Street for the first time when Bert and Ernie addressed him directly (or so he thought thanks to the magic of Jim Henson), he was captivated and knew that this was what he was going to do for life. The New York Times called Kevin's life "A Single-Minded Pursuit of Excellence." I call it inspiring.
Imagine being a boy at age 8 sewing, playing with puppets and talking in a falsetto voice in the “hood” of Baltimore? Then imagine what it was like for him to be a 17 year old doing the same thing. He never quit. Imagine the pressure he felt, the “shoulds” he ignored, the bullying he withstood….why? Because he LOVED something so deeply and KNEW that it was a part of who he was.
Thanks to amazing mentors such as Kermit Love, the man who taught him to hide the seams in the puppets, Jim Henson who gave this young 18 a shot on Labyrinth, and his parents who instead of getting upset that he ripped the inner liner of his Dad’s coat out to make a puppet, supported him 100% in his dream.
I couldn’t help but be in awe of his dedication, his vision, and his belief that he would someday be on the Sesame Street set as a puppeteer. He did not change who he was, instead he went out and found a way to make a living out of his passion. And he never doubted himself.
He had thousands of external obstacles in front of him, but not one internal obstacle. Poverty, friends who disapproved, a million in one chance to meet Jim Henson and a one billion in one chance to work for him….but he did not doubt. He is a shy, unassuming man who admits that his own shyness has kept him in corners at parties and yet, if you have watched his Muppet, Elmo in action, you would never say he was scared or shy of anything. Elmo is full of life, love, and curiosity. What would it be like for YOU to live like Elmo? To live full of life, love and curiosity?
More importantly, what would it be like for you to live like Kevin Clash? Priceless.
So if you have a chance, invest in 58 minutes watching this move that will make you laugh, cry and get your courage up to live a life that is authentic and whole like Kevin has. And ask yourself when in doubt “what would Elmo do?”
Thank you Kevin for showing us what life is like inside of the most famous Muppet on the planet right now and what it means to live a true life. Enjoy….