Johnathan Lee Iverson talks his past, his life, and his love for Ringling!
One of the greatest jobs in the world has to be the Ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I am lucky enough to know for many to be one of the greatest and most versatile Ringmasters, Johnathan Lee Iverson. I had the chance to sit backstage with Iverson in Tampa last week to discuss his childhood, about the circus life, how his wife is the real boss and more!
Iverson grew up in New York City and found his love for performing at a young age. His love for music grew at age 11 when he joined the Harlem Boys Choir. Iverson grew up with the appreciation of music and how the Boys Choir helped not only change his life, but also change the lives of the young boys around him. At age 13, on tour with the choir, Iverson had the chance to hear Plácido Domingo which gave him the mindset that a musical career where he could travel would be his life goal.
Iverson graduated from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School in May 1998 with a degree in voice performance. Shortly after graduation Johnathan had the chance to audition for Ringling Brothers 129th edition of the show. From his first audition, Iverson said that he knew he had the job. “I had this gut feeling. I had the job: not sure why I felt that way but I knew I had it!”
Johnathan met his wife Priscilla while working with Ringling. He met his wife over 14 years ago when she came to work at Ringling as a Brazilian dancer for the show. Iverson said ” I’m a guy, I was obviously attracted to her, but I fell in love with her power. She has a keen ability to capture people that she works with; a sort of power that one can only admire.” Priscilla is not only the boss at home, but is also the boss of Johnathan at work. Iverson said “we have a magical dynamic. We have been together for 14 years and if I ever run for office I will win just because of my wife. She is First Lady material!”
Johanthan and Priscilla have two children who have grown up in the circus. Matthew Felipe and Lila Simone travel with Johnathan and even go to school with the other kids who live and perform in the show. Iverson said traveling with his kids are a dream come true. “I get to live this amazing dream to perform and have my wife and kids by my side everywhere I go!” When I asked Iverson what the best part of having his kids grow up in the circus are he said that it’s the fact that they are worldly kids. “They grow up and get the chance to not only experience the world on tour, but get to experience the cultures of the others on the tour. They live in a beautiful bubble here. They take music lessons from a master musician, language from a trapeze star who is multilingual, and physical education from actual acrobats.”
Johnathan Lee Iverson said that his life in many regards have been thanks to the circus. “I never thought that I would end up married with two kids all thanks to this wonderful job!”
What is a typical day for Iverson? The answer is that there is no typical day for his life. Most of his days start with an early morning trip to the gym, press engagements, preparation for the show, time with family and of course performances. Even when asked about if the show is the same for him he said no. “No show is exactly alike. I have performed this show over 1000 times and no two shows are exactly alike. Sometimes the audience is pumped up and sometimes the audience is not. It’s my job to pump everyone up, make sure the show runs smoothly and that everyone has a great time! I live a blessed life. I have the chance to do what I love.”
When asked what he would do if he could not be the ringmaster, he said he would probably be a musician for the show!
Finally, when asked what the best part of his job was? His response was the connection that is made between him and the audience. “I get to share in people’s time and imagination!” He said that he loves to interact with first time adults. ” I love to see the look on the faces of the adults who have never been to the circus before! They see us through the eyes of a child for the first time and really believe once again that anything is possible!”
I want to thank Johnathan Lee Iverson for taking time out of his schedule to sit down and talk to me and for the backstage tour!
Make sure you check out Johnathan Lee Iverson during Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus presents Legends! Legends will be here in Orlando from January 14th-18th at the Amway Center. To learn more about the show and to purchase tickets click here!
I went to the circus for the first time when I was 32! I can’t believe I waited that long. It was amazing. It is so awesome that he found the love of his life while doing his favorite thing. Stories like this make me smile! I would love to bring my 2 children to one of his shows.