Mama Lou admits that when people think of “American Strong Woman,” the vision they conjure doesn’t fit her frame. She travels the world proving the adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover and something big can come in a petite, polka-dotted package.
Mama Lou, a five-time Guinness World Record holder, is performing this week at the Kids Zone at the Missouri State Fair. As the crowd settled in for Wednesday’s midday performance, she asked, “Do you have any idea what you have stumbled upon?” She promised to perform “feats of strength, danger and amazement” and to make the impossible possible. She also provided a motivational message that was aimed at the children in the audience, most of whom had gathered immediately in front of the stage.
As she tore through a deck of cards, snapped links of chain and bent a metal rod into a heart shape, Mama Lou said, “Anything you do that’s awesome takes hard work. You can’t give up because it is hard. … The only day you fail is the day you stop trying.”
Mama Lou’s feats change from performance to performance due to muscle fatigue or minor injuries, such as the scrapes she endured on her wrists from breaking out of handcuffs the day before. As she prepared to lift 10 pounds of potatoes with her tongue, she said, “I have the feeling this will be one of the weirdest things you will see all today.”
She stresses that her act is “totally legit,” and brings children and adults on stage to ensure there are no gimmicks in her work. Aaron Elwell, of Overland Park, Kansas, was brought up and tried to tear a textbook in half. After his failed attempt, Mama Lou shredded the Barron’s AP U.S. History book (she typically tears a phone book, but Sedalia’s was too thin to provide a challenge).
“I have never seen a strong woman or strong man at the state fair,” Elwell said. “I think she is an interesting and unique performer to have here for the kids. … I think it’s pretty amazing some of the things she can do. It’s a lot harder than it looks; she makes it look very easy.”
Mama Lou has been performing for 10 years and now tours three-to-six months out of the year. She started her act after crushing apples at a barbecue with friends; when the guys couldn’t match her strength, she realized she was stronger than she thought and that what she could do was entertaining. When not on the road performing, she operates an entertainment agency.
“I won’t be able to rip things in half forever,” she said.
She tailors her show to her audience, and enjoys sending a positive message to her younger fans.
“It is very important to me to be a super hero for the small,” she said, “and to challenge the notion that you can’t be feminine and strong at the same time. … I don’t like the idea that strength in women only comes in bodybuilder form. I really want kids of all sizes to understand that even though you might not look mighty, you can pack a punch.
“I want kids to walk through their day knowing they can do amazing things.”