Angel Wallenda, born Elizabeth “Lizzie” Pintye in 1968, was the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. When she was 17 years old, Wallenda watched a performance that would change her life forever. The girl was picked up among the crowd to assist Steven Wallenda while he was walking on a high wire (via The Buffalo News). A few weeks later, she became a part of the Flying Wallendas, a renowned aerialist group. Angel and Steven got married and had a son, Steven Wallenda II.
The Flying Wallenda’s legacy started in 1780 when the family traveled the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a circus troupe (via their website). They became famous thanks to their flying trapeze act, and the next generations would spend their lives improving their performance. Karl Wallenda, born in 1905, was the founder of the modern group that people are most familiar with today.
The family has used the high wire to cross canyons, waterfalls, and buildings, and has collected multiple world records. Unsurprisingly, they also have a significant number of injuries and tragic deaths. According to The New York Times, Karl Wallenda died in 1978 when he lost his balance while crossing a 750-foot cable strung between two hotels.
Cancer didn't stop Angel Wallenda
Angel Wallenda has established herself as a prominent aerialist. In 1987, she was diagnosed with bone cancer, and doctors had to amputate her leg and remove parts of her lungs. Wallenda didn’t consider it the end of her career, though. She was fitted with a prosthetic leg and learned how to walk the wire again.
“Having cancer and walking on the wire have their similarities,” she said in a rare interview with Los Angeles Times. “In both situations, you’re living for the moment. You try to be intensely aware of every little thing and nothing at all — all at the same time. And you always know you can fall at any minute.”
According to The Buffalo News, her husband became abusive while she was ill. They divorced, and she had a restraining order against him. Later, she married a man named Adil Shaikh, and they had a daughter.
Wallenda died of cancer on May 4, 1996. She was 28 years old.
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