Featured photo: Amina holds four adult men during her Go-Big Show performance. (courtesy of TBS)
Krystina King effortlessly makes a burrito of a metal skillet when she bends it, folding it inwards like the pan owes her money, and she’s mad at it.
King appeared on the Jan. 28 episode of TBS’ “Go-Big Show” as Amina the Great, a woman with super physical strength. The “Go-Big Show,” hosted by comedian Bert Kreischer, showcases contestants’ unique talents as they compete for a prize of $100,000. With her big afro, winged eyeliner, bold maroon lipstick and sequined jumpsuit with a fringed neckline, King appears as feminine as can be. But her act challenges the old-school ideas of a woman’s strength, which geared more towards being caretaker rather than being physically strong.
“When I was growing up, I had to clean, learn to take care of kids, and my favorite, ‘Go in the kitchen and grab a pan or something,’” she says while raising the skillet on the show. “So I did.” She continues, “I’ll show you what I did with it.”
The celebrity judges — actress Rosario Dawson, singer Jennifer Nettles, professional wrestler Cody Rhodes and rapper Snoop Dogg — stared in awe and confusion as Amina leaves the stage and walks towards them, knocking on the pan to show them it was the real deal. While she regularly has hundreds of pairs of eyes on her during her acrobatic performances, a small audience of four celebrity judges, the host and her opponent had Anima feeling uneasy.
“It’s more intimate and it’s so awkward for me,” she says.
Ignoring the butterflies in her stomach and leaning on her left thigh for stability, Amina flawlessly alters the shape of the pan.
“Hold up,” Snoop Dogg says.
Without missing a beat, Amina replies, “Wait a minute,” unintentionally referencing his song with Dr. Dre, “The Next Episode.”
Anima takes the stage again with four men joining her, to which Kreischer hilariously guesses they will try to “beat her up.” She proves him wrong as the first man hops on her shoulders. Amina then raises her arms parallel to the floor and spins like a helicopter, showing that balancing the man is quite literally light work. The second man heads toward Amina with a running start but ends up turning backwards and wrapping his legs around her waist.
“That’s real strength right there,” says Snoop Dogg.
The final two men each place a knee on the second man’s legs and lift their remaining leg from the ground, as Anima raises the men with each arm, completing her act. Nettles pointed in disbelief, eyes wide and mouth agape. Rhodes gave props to Amina for maintaining the wheelbarrow position while holding the men, a task he personally knows isn’t easy.
“I know firsthand how difficult it is to hold that,” Rhodes says. “And you didn’t just hold it. You held three other people as well.”
King has been performing since she was around 3 years old, first taking the stage with her family as part of a rap performance. She soon realized she did not have a knack for musical talent.
“I cannot rap to save my entire life,” she says.
Instead, she realized her passion was dance, beginning lessons at 11 years old. She joined Kenya Safari Acrobats, her family’s traveling performance troupe of circus-style Kenyan acrobatics, at 15 years old to become a better dancer. Little did she know, in 2010 she’d end up as the troupe’s female base of the human pyramid.
During a show in Kentucky, King settled on dancing during the show when three male performers needed a base for their pyramid. Amina’s mother Karen surprised the group and said Amina would be the base, shocking her and the male acrobats who were against the idea because of personal beliefs.
“Traditionally with African acrobatics, females don’t do the heavy lifting,” King says. “You cannot be strong.”
Bending metal and lifting men may seem like a skill that requires strength training, but it’s natural to King.
“I don’t work out for my strength yet,” she says.
She relies on training to maintain her strength, not build it. Most of her strength comes not from the gym, but from her heart.
“I get all of my strength from my mom,” Amina says on the show. “She believes in me 1000 percent.”
Despite her mother’s encouragement to take part in the competition, King says her “Go-Big Show” appearance almost never happened. A talent agent at a Kenya Safari Acrobats show saw her perform and contacted Amina’s mom, who doubles as her agent, to see if she’d be interested. Amina felt apprehensive.
“I haven’t been training, and everything with COVID…,” she says she thought at the time.
Constant reminders in the following weeks from producers about how much they’d love for her to be there made Amina take Nike’s advice.
“Just do it!” she told herself.
Although she did not win against her opponent Leonid the Magnificent, an extreme burlesque performer who balanced swords in his mouth and on his head, she said she would consider doing something like this again, but for performance, not competition. Until then, she will be spreading her message: “strong girls turn into strong women” to young girls everywhere, shape-shifting cookware along the way.
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