In the early 1990s, Capps was still adjusting to life as a divorcee. Then she saw an ad about a clown makeup class being held in her building at BellSouth, her longtime employer.
Although the class lasted only half a day, it was life-changing for Capps.
“When I put the makeup on, I was hooked,” she said.
BellSouth’s community service organization, Pioneers of America, had a clown corps through which Capps received her initial training and made numerous appearances until her retirement in 2004.
At 68, Capps continues to share the love of God at local festivals, church functions and even in the streets of Honduras with local missionaries from AHMEN.
“I say a lot of times when I’m going somewhere, ‘Thank you for giving me the clown, Lord,’ because I think my life is different because of it,” she said.
The name Capps chose for herself reflects how closely her clowning is associated with her faith.
After her divorce, Capps began collecting butterflies when she heard a sermon about how they were a symbol of new beginnings.
Soon after she settled on the name Butterfly, she decided to add “Christian clown” as well.
At first, Capps worried that advertising herself as a Christian might make some people hesitant to hire her.
She decided that if she wouldn’t be welcome as a Christian clown, then she shouldn’t accept an invitation to the event at all.
Capps also points out that ethics are important to clowns who don’t identify as Christian.
For example, behaviors such as smoking and drinking are forbidden while in character.
“You don’t want to scare a kid or an older person. You want to be the best you can be, and when you go, they’re glad that you’ve been there,” Capps said.
Just as caterpillars become butterflies through metamorphosis and believers are encouraged throughout the Bible to grow in their faith, Capps has matured as a clown.
Through extensive training, Capps has learned that she is not an auguste clown, who is akin to a joker and a fool. Neither is she a hobo, the clown made famous in America by Emmett Kelly and Red Skelton.
Although Capps has tried on the makeup for both, her personality establishes her as a traditional whiteface, or straight-man.
Capps has honed her craft at various workshops, camps and cruises devoted to clowning.
Her appearance is one of many things that she has improved upon over the years.
“I can look back and I’m a prettier clown than I used to be when I started,” she jokes.
One reason Capps’s look is so unique is all three of her outfits were handmade by local individuals. Her role is mostly in the design process.
“You definitely need pockets because you work with so many little things,” Capps said.
As Butterfly, Capps makes balloon animals, paints faces and performs a few magic tricks, which she prefers to call illusions so as not to confuse impressionable young minds.
“I try to tell them, ‘Butterfly does a few illusions, but God is the one who is real,’” she said.
Although Capps did not see herself as a clown until that first makeup class, she is now quick to say that she will be one even if she never dresses up again.
“The clown is in the heart,” she said.
For Capps, clowning is not a career (she does not charge for her services) and it is more than a pastime. She views it as God’s answer to prayer during a difficult time in her life.
“God can work things out for us. I believe the clown is the one thing that God gave me as a way to help people,” Capps said.