J is for Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse followers paint up

Auburn junior David Bradley has been a part of the Juggalo community for eight years. Juggalos are a sub-culture that follow musicians such as Insane Clown Posse, Krizz Kaliko and Twiztid. 

Liz Geiman

Among the clown face paint, horror-themed rap music and endless supply of Faygo soda is a family.

To Auburn junior David Bradley, the life of a Juggalo is more than “painting up,” which is a stereotype attached to the Insane Clown Posse followers. Bradley describes the Juggalo — and Jugalette, as females are called — culture as a close-knit group.

“We are so in tune with our friends,” Bradley said. “They are family even though there is no bloodline.”

Bradley was introduced to the culture in 2004, and within three years, he was certain he had found his niche.

“The deeper I delved, the more interested I got,” he said.

He described Juggalos as a group of people who generally stand for unity, diversity, freedom of speech and showing respect and love for strangers.

The Juggalo movement was originally formed in response to ICP’s music and live performances. The music, described as “horror-core rap,” connects Juggalos and Jugalettes everywhere.

“Music is the soundtrack to the lives of Juggalos and Jugalettes,” Bradley said. “It is the heartbeat of the culture.”

Bradley shares his interest with his Jugalette girlfriend, Jeana Bratcher. Bratcher, of Brownsville, said she likes connecting with many other people in the culture.

“It’s a place you can belong,” Bratcher said.

She said that it has given “weird kid(s)” a niche, where before they didn’t feel like they had a place to fit.

Bradley’s longtime friend Tyler Doetel, of Auburn, agrees that the culture provides a home for the “black sheep of families.”

“It’s a family of non-family members,” Doetel said.

Although those among the culture share a bond with fellow Juggalos and Jugalettes, the “family” doesn’t always receive the same support from the public.

Often for concerts or Halloween, Juggalos paint their faces to resemble clowns. Bradley said the public reaction to painted faces is typically negative. He said many give smug, dirty looks.

“People fear what they don’t understand,” Bradley said.

Juggalos paint up to imitate ICP, who originally painted their faces as clowns to detract from a slip-up on stage and write it off as just being a clown.

A place where Juggalos can escape criticism and ridicule from the public is “The Gathering.” Held in Cave-In-Rock, Ill., every year, The Gathering of the Juggalos is a multiple-day music festival with people from all over the world. Bradley has been to the festival five times and has seen doctors, lawyers and Charlie Sheen.

“It’s like a giant family reunion,” Bradley said. “But you don’t have to be a Juggalo to attend.”

Doetel said life for Juggalos isn’t always easy. He said the FBI released a gang report in 2011, and the list included Juggalos.

He said his car has the standard Juggalo decal of a man running with a hatchet, and police once pulled him over “for no reason.”

For those involved in Juggalo culture, it’s the only way of life. Despite public criticism and legal debates, the culture carries on.

“I’m a Juggalo until the day I die,” Bradley said.