World Class Aerial Performer: God Made Me a Warrior
Jen Bricker says God made her a warrior: “A spiritual warrior...physical warrior...all over the world.”
Her rise as a world-class aerial performer was like every other accomplishment in her life – she had to fight for it. She was born without legs. But to Jen, that’s just a detail.
According to Jen, “I don't think of like, ‘Oh, my identity is because I don't have legs.’ Like, no, not really, it's just kind of a part of me like I have dark hair or I like to have my nails done. You know? So when you're raised like that, you just don't think of it like that, as some huge issue, because it never was.
She was born to a Romanian couple, who gave her up for adoption at birth. Sharon and Gerald Bricker, a Christian couple from a small town in Illinois, adopted her into their family. They taught Jen to tackle life using a simple rule: “never say can’t.”
Jen says, “They raised me with that kind of strength, it is a warrior strength. So when I came to them and said, ‘I want to play softball, basketball, power tumbling, I even want to go roller skating.’ And instead of them coming at me with negativity and questions and all the reasons why I couldn’t, they said, ‘Okay. I know you're going to figure it out. Oh, so we'll put the roller skates on your hands.’”
They gave her the courage to pursue her passion: gymnastics. As a tumbler, she insisted on competing alongside able-bodied girls. In high school, she even won the state championship. But most importantly, her parents raised her to be a woman after God’s heart.
Jen says, “I read the Word every morning, I pray, and that-when I started doing that and making that a daily part of my life, that changed my whole life. Everything stems from that.”
Jen was going on 16 when she asked her parents about her biological family, and why they’d given her up for adoption.
Jen explains, “They were poor immigrants, they already had one kid, and they didn’t know if there was going to be extra money involved because they didn't know if I was going to need medical care. AND I didn't have legs. My parents said, ‘It doesn't matter what the reason was, this is the way it was supposed to be. We prayed for you. You were our answered prayer, you were our miracle, and we wanted you. And you were supposed to be with us.’
She also discovered that Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu was her sister.
Jen recalls, “I knew that name, because as kid I watched her on TV. I knew she was Romanian and I knew I was Romanian. And we-we looked alike. And then I find out she's my biological sister and it's like, ‘Okay. But…what???!!!’”
She reached out to her and began building a relationship with her biological family. Her father passed away before they could meet, but she learned that he drove the decision to give her up for adoption.
Jen explains, “The thing I didn't know though, and that I did learn when I met my biological mother is she wasn't even allowed to hold me after I was born. And it was a really dark and sad time for her in her life, and something that she's still getting over.”
After high school, Jen did an internship at Disney World. It was then she decided to pursue a career as an acrobatic performer. It was a fight from the start.
Jen recalls, “I'm overweight, I'm the newbie. I'm not an aerialist, I’m not an acrobat. No one like me had ever been an acrobat or an aerialist. So nobody wanted to hire me. Everybody was afraid of how an audience would react, what people would think, how it made people feel.”
The one person who did believe in her was her partner, Nate Crawford. They pressed on and soon started booking gigs. Then in 2009, they got their big break – performing with Britney Spears on her world tour.
Jen says, “We were a featured act on the highest grossing tour in the world, when we were on, everybody was watching us. I had a choice to either totally succeed or fail miserably. They were not afraid to fire anybody. The pressure was unbelievable.”
The tour was a success. But afterwards, Jen would face one of the toughest battles in her life. Back into training, she started obsessing about her weight and appearance. She constantly looked into mirrors, unable to control the thoughts that told her she was ugly.
Jen says, “It didn't matter if everybody in the whole entire world would have told me that I was beautiful, you know? That wasn’t the point. The point was like what was going on in my own head. My quality of life was so low, and I just was not who I was, and I didn't know how to get out.”
Jen realized she needed to take action when a close friend asked her about her drastic weight loss. Lent was approaching, so she decided to cover up her mirror with a collage of pictures of family and friends for 40 days, and seek God for help.
She says, “The most amazing thing happened. When I did it, I realized that there was so much joy and excitement and happiness coming back from the mirror. No one could get me out of that. Only God. And literally repeating scriptures out loud, multiple times a day, choosing joy when I did not want to be joyful. Choosing that I was going to overcome that day and it was not going to overcome me. Choosing to love myself and feel beautiful when I felt so fat, even though I was so small. It was a long time to come on the other side of that. I learned so much from that, and I came out a warrior.”
Jen performs her act all over the world. She’s also a motivational speaker and recently released her autobiography.
Jen says, “God totally protected me from so many things to give me that strength and that backbone that I need today. And that is not something you think of when you say ‘warrior.’ But that is absolutely a warrior trait. It's just a spiritual warrior and allowing God to shine through me with His joy and His love and seeing how it touches others is unbelievable.