By Brady O’Neel
When she’s in character as a clown, she’s not far from who she is without the makeup. She’s happy, joyful, and goofy but still unique. Early Childhood Development student Kelsey Koch has a love for kids and enjoys every second of her job. She lives to see the excitement on kids’ faces when she makes jokes or does a magic trick.
“In order not to frighten the children you need to get down on the same level as them,” she said, “It’s better than towering over them.”
She puts on her makeup and clown outfit, then she leaves the house and upon arriving to work she is bombarded by children. Her friends know her as Kelsey Koch, but at work, she is known as Bubbles the Clown.
The Bubbles origin story
In 2012, Koch was living in St. Cloud. When her roommate observed her impressive face painting and artistic skills, she suggested she enroll at clown school. At that point in her life, she was unsure of what direction she was going in her career.
And so Koch pulled out the big shoes.
“Me and my classmates would carpool to school and pile into a small car,” she said. “I thought it was pretty funny.”
While attending clown school she was shown different techniques to improve her quality of face painting and other clown skills like balloon-making, behavior and personality.
Koch loved the idea of putting on make-up and a costume and becoming a different person. She is not afraid to go out wearing her clown outfit and was no stranger to double takes while putting gas in her car before class.
Koch was in clown school for about a month before she decided to branch out and open up her own business, Fun Intended. She designed and stitched her own clown outfit, which she still wears, and purchased her own supplies.
On the day of “clowning,” she reserves the morning to get ready. When she is applying and setting her make-up, she’ll listen to happy upbeat music, such as “Get Your Head in the Game” from the High School Musical soundtrack.
She goes out of her way to make the kids happy by folding any type of balloon requests that they have, sometimes having to fold 300 balloons in three hours.
“My favorite thing to make are swords,” she said “It’s like making them a toy and they’re so excited when they pop it and come to ask me to make another one.”
She doesn’t forget the skill that originally brought her to clown school and enjoys painting childrens’ faces. Her favorite requests to do are butterflies and she loves painting whole faces.
She will go out of her way to make requests happen. At one gig, a child requested a painting of their favorite WWE wrestler. Koch, not having any knowledge of the sport, looked up what the wrestler looked like on her cell phone and painted him from there. She does not only do private gigs, but public gigs as well. One of her most memorable public events was at the grand reopening of Old Navy at the Mall of America.
After the gig, while still in costume, she went to Claire’s accessory store. The colors of her costume blended in with the colors of the store, she said. While browsing, she was approached by a security guard and told that the mall doesn’t allow full face paint.
Koch told the guard that she didn’t have the special remover she uses to take off her makeup.
This led to her being escorted out of the mall by security. As they went out parents stopped Koch and the security guard because they wanted photos with their kids.
“She always has a smile on her face and is always positive even if she’s down or sick,” MCTC student Antonio Stephens said.
Koch also has another form of visual entertainment close to her heart, hula hooping.
Koch has been hula hooping since she graduated from high school three years ago. She learned all she knows from YouTube videos and a local hula hooping group called Hoop Twin Cities. They would usually meet by Lake Calhoun and work on their skills by learning from each other.
When Koch sees a hula hoop laying around, she said seeing a hula hoop makes her go crazy and immediately wants to put herself inside it. The longest she’s ever hula hooped non-stop was for six hours at a music festival.
Koch said that hula hooping is difficult to learn and takes a lot of practicing and that she loves dancing with the hoop. She has also done hula hooping for the Minneapolis and Saint Paul farmers market. She didn’t do it to get paid, but she did it to entertain people.
“When I’m hula hooping it’s fun, I feel free to do what I want and it’s structured,” she said.
The next thing that she wants to do with hula hooping is to continue to work on her skills and perhaps one day compete.
Koch juggles everything she does from going to school to working, and what might be termed her circus life activities – hula hooping and clowning. Through them she shares smiles, and she does it in big shoes.