USA TODAY: “Jewel Has a Cirque Show About Her Life”

Here’s something that might sound like a folksy fever dream: Jewel is starring in an Cirque du Soleil show about her life, told via acrobats dressed as animals.

But come March 2, that dream will be a reality at the Michael Jackson One Theater at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Jewel, the 43-year-old Alaskan songstress, is sharing her unconventional path to success in fundraiser One Night for One Drop. That tale includes a childhood without running water, parents who were absent and abusive, time spent homeless before making it big, losing everything again before learning to forgive and carry on. The show is on track to raise about $5 million for One Drop, the non-profit that provides access to water and sanitation to low-income populations.

Though Jewel wrote a memoir in 2015, Never Broken, about her atypical rise to stardom, she’s always “shied away (from letting) movie studios and TV networks tell my life story,” she says, sitting in an empty office at the theater, still wearing feathery lashes and stage makeup in between rehearsals for her show.

In a scene USA TODAY previewed last month, a bird-like character, (played by Marina Boutina) mimics a young Jewel, and embraces her recovering-alcoholic father (Gabriel Manta) before climbing a ladder, contorting her body and performing aerial stunts. Jewel, who serves as singing/strumming guide during the performance, appears at stage right, belting her song Mercy.

Jewel sat down with USA TODAY to talk about the show, why she’s long advocated for clean water and mental wellness, and how “having nothing” gave her strength

Q. This show tells your story with acrobatic dancers playing your family as birds. Why use a Cirque show to talk about your life, albeit in broad strokes?

It feels like the perfect medium for me, because it’s a very metaphoric, very symbolic medium. Very poetic. So you’re not going to get bogged down in the details that could be salacious.

Q. Why are you so passionate about clean water access?

When I was homeless (after) my boss fired me because I wouldn’t have sex with him, and I couldn’t pay my rent, I started living in my car thinking it would last two weeks or a month and I would get a new job. I grew up on a saddle barn with no running water, (so I thought) I was gonna be fine. And then when my car got stolen, (my homelessness) was really taking a toll on my body and my stress levels. Long story short, I had bad kidneys. I had to drink a gallon of distilled water a day and I couldn’t afford it. (Years later,) amazingly, my life turned around (and) I got in a position to help. So one of the first things I did was found Project Cleanwater. It’s been founded since ’97 and we’ve built wells in 35 different countries. My foundation has partnered with (Cirque’s) One Drop foundation on this event.

Q. Along with clean water access, another cause you’ve long championed is mental health awareness. Why has that been a focus of yours?

We all have a brain, and it can harass us. We can suffer from anxiety to addiction to worrying to depression to anger. When I was homeless, I had to overcome my anxiety and panic attacks. I realized when I was homeless, if all I perceive is the negative, I have a negative experience. If I start to see what’s good, I can start to have a better experience. At night, you just fall asleep, think about the good things that happened that day. Because you just notice them. Force yourself, because it actually forms neural pathways in your brain that teach you to see. If the glass is half full and half empty at the same time, they’re both true, but which would you prefer to experience during the day?

Q. Back to the One Show for One Drop performance. It features a character called “Clown Bear.” I’m guessing, unlike the other critters in the show, this one is not native to Alaska. What’s the story behind him?

When my parents got divorced and my mom left, I named my teddy bear Nedra (after my mom). That has to be one of the saddest stories. So I kept this little bear with me, and a bear just ended up becoming a favorite animal of mine, even as I grew out of my teddy bear stage. I would write little short stories where there would be animals talking and interacting with one another. It’s oddly kind of like this (show).

Q. What are you writing about these days?

I write poetry mostly, short-story fiction. Not as many songs since I’ve become a mom. Mercy, which is the song you heard (in the preview) is a new song. I’ll probably work on a record this year, most likely. I’m (writing music for) a Broadway musical based on a book called Lucky Us.

{ SOURCE: USA Today | }