Cirque du Soleil a ‘very poetic’ way for Jewel to tell her life story

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Jewel performs in 2016. | Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — 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 on Friday, that dream becomes a reality at the Michael Jackson One Theater at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Jewel, the 43-year-old Alaskan songstress, is sharingher 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 raiseabout $5 million for One Drop, a non-profit that provides access to water and sanitation to low-income populations.

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?

A: Itfeels 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: 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?

A: 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: Why are you so passionate about clean water access?

A: When I was homeless (after)my boss fired mebecause 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 monthand I would get a new job. I grew up on a saddle barnwith 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.

Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY

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