Spotlight: Anthony Lena
This balloon artist takes the adage of “winners begin early” quite literally!
Showing Up Early Really Pays Off!
Anthony Lena entered this world much earlier than expected. He was born prematurely at Centennial Hospital in Nashville, TN, USA. When Anthony was 12, he attended the hospital’s annual Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Reunion. He had begun experimenting with balloons a few years earlier when a neighbor shared her balloon kit, and so for his NICU nurse, Anthony made a special delivery. He created two doves in a heart and presented the gift to her at the reunion. She was very impressed and said, “If you practice making your balloons all year, I will make sure you create balloons for everyone next year. We would pay you, too!” Of course, Anthony accepted the challenge. He practiced nearly every day for the entire next year. A few months before the next reunion, he called and said he was ready. He was hired. Armed with the homemade business cards made by his mother, “Anthony the Balloon Kid—Balloon Artist” was born in the most befitting of places!
An Inspired Imagination at Work
Still using the trade name, Anthony the Balloon Kid is now the owner of Balloons of Pure Awesomeness in Nashville, TN, USA, and works full time as a balloon artist and entertainer. Anthony says, “I truly love being a balloon artist. Even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I would still keep doing what I’m doing. The balloon profession is just so fun! Every single day I use my imagination, and then I see what I imagine become physically tangible. My favorite part about being a balloon artist is I help bring joy to people. Often times I am a part of a very special day in their life such as a birthday, baby shower, family reunion, wedding, or another type of celebration. When I see someone smile or laugh because of the balloon I made them, it brings me a great sense of happiness.”
Today, Anthony performs weekly at area restaurants, birthday and holiday parties, as well as libraries, churches and corporate events. He finds word of mouth to be his most successful form of marketing. “I have been doing balloon art in the same area for 18 years, and in those years I have made balloon art for a lot of people. I hand out business cards and network every chance I get,” he explained. Sometimes too, Anthony mentioned, he’ll pay to boost posts on his social media pages. He will also bring pre-made bouquets or sculptures to his performances, especially at restaurants, to show off his work and capture the attention of guests who may be thinking about party decor and entertainment.
A Specialization in (Sometimes Bizarre) Details
Over the years, Anthony has been careful not to become too specialized, and makes an effort to leave himself open to diversity in performances. “I believe my specialization is attention to detail, but I’m not only talking about the details I add to balloons. Let me explain, when I make a balloon for someone, I ask them about their interests, hobbies, favorite movies, TV shows, animals, food, etc. I pay close attention to what they say, and I find people have no trouble in telling other people what they enjoy! Asking these questions help me make the perfect balloon for them, and it also helps me have a fun conversation with that person about what they like while I create their balloon,” he said. And, over the years, these conversations have led to some unique and unusual party favors. These include:
- Internal organs – including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon, and small intestine
- Ceiling fan with dome light that actually could spin
- A piece of bacon
- A person inside of a vacuum cleaner
- A jar of pickles
- A cyclops unicorn mermaid
One day I may be inspired by something I saw in nature. Another day I may be inspired to make something after watching a movie. Another big inspiration to me is the imagination of the people I meet! I’m never afraid to ask, ‘What is something you would truly love to see made out of balloons?’ There are some sculptures I don’t think I would have come up with on my own if it were not for the child or adult who asked if I could make their request.
Anthony Lena, The Balloon Kid, Nashville, TN, USA
Anthony’s experience also drove him to create an original balloon print called Crying/Happy Baby Face 5” round balloon, which is sold by Continental Sales and is part of its Private Reserve line of products, and his DVD “Balloon of Pure Awesomeness Vol I.”
Conventions Drive Us Forward
Anthony is also motivated by attending conventions and competing. “The world of balloon art is constantly evolving. One just needs to look at the history of Balloon Magic the Magazine and you will see how quickly things change and advance. Conventions showcase the latest balloon techniques in classes, competitions, and in the jam room. By having hundreds of like-minded people in one location, there will be conversations, these conversations lead to actions, and these actions lead the entire balloon art industry to new heights. Not every convention is the same, and each has something very special to offer. I try to attend as many as possible,” he said. Throughout his convention career, Anthony has captured a collection of titles and awards, which include:
- 1st Place Through the Door Category—TJam on the Road 2007
- 1st Place Through the Door Category —TJam on the Road 2010
- 2nd Place Un-inflated Sculpture at Twist & Shout 2017
- 1st Place Small Figure at Twist & Shout 2017
- Team USA member, WBC 2018 3rd Place Large Sculpture, led by Connie Iden-Monds, CBA
- 1st Place Small Artistic Balloon Sculpture at Twist & Shout 2019
- 1st Place 12 Minute Sculpture at Twist & Shout 2019
- 3rd Place Small Artistic Balloon Sculpture at Twist & Shout 2019
In It For Life
With all this professional success, where does this ‘early bird’ go from here? Anthony says without hesitation, “No question, I’m going to be doing balloon art! I am in this business for life. I LOVE IT.”
Tutorial: Campfire with Marshmallows by Anthony Lena
"This is definitely one of my favorite sculptures to make for several reasons. I love the fact I can make this sculpture for kids and adults. Also, I love how it can be easily attached to a headband, and I absolutely love the reaction this sculpture receives! Even if I didn’t add an LED light, people still go nuts and say things like, “I’ve never seen anything so creative made out of balloons!” or “That is the coolest balloon I’ve ever seen!” If I make this in a setting where I am receiving tips, I can always count on this sculpture to get a nice tip. I remember the first time I came up with this balloon…it was at one of my weekly restaurants, and I came up with the idea for a Boy Scout who just got back from a camping trip. Trust me, this is a sculpture that really will impress people at your events."