Kristin Finley, the lone black female trapezista, or trapeze artist, for the world famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus left a secure job to chase her dreams. As one of the few Black women to ever thrill audiences from the skies, Finley is a living inspiration to young people with similar aspirations.
Finley, a Los Angeles native and graduate of James Monroe High School, was a former member United States Air Force and a mechanic. While working for major beer company Anheuser-Busch, Finley was drawn to trapeze work after taking a class. After deciding to pursue a career as an aerial performer, Finley took classes five days a week while working nights.
Finley was considered too old for the trapeze, and she also lacked a background in gymnastics that most other aerial artists have. Finley perserered through those obstacles and willed herself into a trapezista. After stints at smaller circuses, Finley was hired by Ringling and is reportedly the only active Black trapeze artist.
Veronica Blair, the first Black woman to star as a trapezista for Ringling, paved the way for Finley. Finley recognizes her unique position as a Black woman in the traveling circus, saying in an interview that parents love to take photos with her and are excited to see someone who looks like them with the bravery to do all the death-defying acts the job requires.
Finley, who has dabbled in Hollywood as a stunt worker, will have a bit role in an upcoming film starring actor Gary Busey.