The year 1996 was a pivotal one for Cherokee Nation member Brian Jackson. For the previous four years he had been performing as Hallelujah the Clown in a Christian ministry called The Holy Jokesters.
Today, Jackson sees the clown act as a shortcoming. “It’s always easier to hide behind something,” he says. His inspirational message was in demand, but Hallelujah the Clown wasn't.
“I was speaking in a lot of schools and different functions,” he says. “I started having people call me who said, ‘We would like you to come speak to our kids with your message, but not as a clown.’ I pretty much had to get over my pride and learn how to do it without hiding behind the make-up. I prayed about a name, and I feel like God asked me ‘How do I feel about what I do?’ I said, ‘I believe in what I do.’ That is where ‘I Believe’ came from.”
Brian Jackson is now known as the "I Believe Guy."
You don't end up as the I Believe Guy—much less Hallelujah the Clown—without some personal tribulations. Jackson's tale is all too familiar: He was a star athlete as a junior in high school who ended up on a downward spiral of substance abuse and drug dealing in his hometown of Seminole, Oklahoma. He ended up in prison, where, he says, he found God and a second chance at life.
“A lot of us make mistakes,” says Jackson, who now lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma. “A lot of us do things that we shouldn’t do. Sometimes, when we get that second chance, it’s up to us what we can do with that second chance.”
As the “I Believe Guy,” Jackson still offers an inspirational Christian message, but clowning has been replaced by achievement. He breaks world records.
At five-foot-five inches tall and 200 pounds, Jackson says he doesn’t have a lot of physical gifts. But one thing he does have from his days as Hallelujah the Clown is lung power. “Even though it looks like I’m having a lot of fun making balloon animals—and I am—it also is helping me train,” Jackson says. “The more balloons I blow up to make animals out of, the more I’m training my lungs.”
That training has placed him in the Guinness Book of World Records five times and in the Record Holders Republic ("The Registry of Official World Records") three times.
Guinness Book confirms that Jackson currently holds two world records. The first is for the fastest time to burst three hot water bottles: His mark is 1 minute 8 seconds, set in an appearance on Lo Show Dei Record in Milan, Italy on April 19, 2008. The second record is for the most balloons blown up in an hour by an individual. On this occasion, Jackson blew up 370 balloons during the Bluejacket Public School Spring Carnival in Bluejacket, Oklahoma, on April 12, 2011. Jackson said there is a third record pending confirmation for lifting a car with his lung power, which occurred in July of this year.
Jackson’s feats have earned him multiple television appearances, including an early episode of this season’s America’s Got Talent and international editions of the Guinness Book of World Records show in Spain and Italy. In September, Jackson is scheduled to appear live in the UK on the Simon Cowell-created game show Red or Black?, and he will also be on an episode of the History Channel’s Stan Lee’s Superhumans in January 2012.
Jackson continues what he does because of his message of self-confidence to youth. Jackson said that early in his career, he would speak to groups for “baloney sandwiches and Kool-Aid.” Now he's sponsored by Cherokee Nation when he speaks within their tribal jurisdiction in northeast Oklahoma.
Jackson points to an appearance in Wyoming as his most memorable. When he returned from this speaking engagement, there was already a letter waiting for him at home. A teenage girl heard Jackson speak and wrote to him, saying that she had problems with drugs, alcohol and bullying.
According to Jackson, this girl was “on the verge of committing suicide,” he says. “Then the next sentence said, ‘then you came to our school.’”
“Believe in yourself,” Jackson says, is his primary message to Native youth. “I say this all the time: It’s really nice to make other people proud of you, but if you’re not happy with yourself, something’s wrong.”
Brian Jackson's official site is ibelieveguy.com