Calgary fire eater Carisa Hendrix stars in new documentary Girl on Fire

Carisa Hendrix is the subject of a new, three-month long documentary project Girl on Fire — a behind the scenes look at Hendrix's life as she prepared for her debut show in Las Vegas.

'I was the least likely candidate to ever get involved in any of this stuff'

Fire eater Carisa Hendrix is a Guinness World Record Holder and award-winning entertainer who has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not and Vegas Strip Search. A new documentary about her screens in Calgary Oct. 19 at the Plaza Theatre. (Noel West/MVP)

With a film crew recording nearly every waking moment of her life, Calgarian Carisa Hendrix realized absolute strangers would share in even the most private moments of her day.

And they could string them together to tell the world whatever story they wanted.

"We were constantly being filmed ... and things kept going wrong."

The fire eater, Guinness World record holder and self-described "big nerd" knew the documentary makers would focus on her flamboyant career. 

Hendrix studied acting, dance, comedy, circus, prop manipulation, vaudeville, burlesque, modeling, and magic after being accepted to the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2007. (Jt Young)

But she soon realized they'd also be filming in her kitchen and at her mother's wedding, and they'd even share in moments of her polyamorous romantic relationships as a bisexual woman. 

"You get to the point where you forget the cameras are there, and you become really comfortable, which can be great ... but then also, they take all that footage, they put it into the editing room, and I'm here sitting here thinking, 'Oh my goodness, there must be 3,000 hours of footage. They can tell whatever story they want, and I don't remember what I said.'"

But they managed to get it right, she said, and she's impressed. 

In 2012, Hendrix became the Guinness World Record Holder for the fire eating stunt known as Torch Teething. The stunt involves using one's teeth to grip a flaming torch and hold it upright in the mouth without the use of one’s hands. (Dallis Swiatek)

Girl on Fire

Hendrix is the subject of a new, three-month long documentary project Girl on Fire — a behind the scenes look at Hendrix's life as she prepared for her debut show on the Las Vegas Strip.

"Anybody that knew me in elementary school, junior high or high school would think that I was the least likely candidate to ever get involved in any of this stuff," she told CBC's The Homestretch.

As a teenager, Hendrix had few friends, and she spent most of her free time volunteering around Calgary. 

She'd always been fascinated by magic, but only as an observer. She never dreamed of performing it.

Her community involvement and volunteering branched into local theatre organizations, and one night after a show she met a star performer back stage.

"I was like, 'You're the best magician I've ever seen!'" she recounted. 

"And he told me, 'No, that's all real. Fire eating, hammering nails in your face, glass eating. It's all real.'"

The revelation sparked something in then 14-year-old Hendrix. 

"It was a turning point. I needed to know how it was done."

Melting off her face

Since that day, fire-eating has become an "absolute obsession" for Hendrix, who says she eats fire roughly 2,000 times a year. 

But she admits things have gone a little sideways on occasion.

Hendrix says it's a mystery why anyone would want to feature her in a documentary. "Honestly, to this day, I'm like why? Why did anybody make this? It's such a weird thing." (Dallis Swiatek)

Early in her career, she accidentally set her face on fire in the middle of a Calgary show in late October. After quickly extinguishing it on stage, she thought she'd managed to escape unscathed.

Back in the makeup room, she discovered the truth.

"I go to touch where the burn is, and I put a little bit of pressure on the skin, and it all just wrinkles to one side of my face, like a layer of wet tissue paper."

"That is my flesh actually falling off. I have to go to the hospital now," she said to herself. 

But, as it was still early in the Halloween season, her clients convinced her that — with the aid of some fire-proof bandages — they could pass her off as a zombie, and she could complete the show's run. 

And she did, performing 17 more times to round out the show.

Girl on Fire screens Oct. 19 at the Plaza Theatre, and will air on Super Channel beginning Oct. 15. 


With files from The Homestretch