Student Features

Balloons, modeling keep Payden busy

Jun 9, 2014

How many young women could make a dress out of balloons and look good wearing it, too?

Payden King, a pretty PA Cyber junior who lives, appropriately enough, in Venus, Pa., is an expert in balloon sculpting. She also has embarked on a modeling career, and every morning helps her dad deliver newspapers to earn money for her college fund.

Balloons, modeling and newspapers are means to an end for Payden. She wants to attend Penn State University and earn a degree in forensic anthropology. (She said "Bones" is her all-time favorite TV series.)

Her fledgling modeling career got a boost this spring when she won a "Fresh Faces" competition put on by Runway Teen Magazine. She was flown to California in March to shoot a photo spread that is to appear in the second issue of Runway Teen, a teen fashion offshoot of the well-established Runway Magazine. Runway Teen is published in both print and online editions.

The idea for the balloon business came after the family attended a 4-H fair. "I was 11. My little sister got a balloon, and in the car it came untwisted. I started twisting it in an attempt to fix it and have been doing it ever since," said Payden.

"My aunt, Kathy Henderson, used to own a balloon business but it closed when she became ill with breast cancer. She taught me to make arches and walls and other things, and gave me all her supplies and equipment."

She calls her business Twisted by Payden. "All the money I make, I save for college," said Payden.

Payden has taken balloon art to new levels, making not only special occasion decorations but all kinds of animals, objects such as hats and Christmas trees, just about anything imaginable out of balloons. She started a Facebook page for her business, had business cards printed, and for the past five years has been making balloon creations for anniversaries, fairs, birthday parties, banquets, business events, and other special occasions. She often donates her balloon art to enliven local charity events.

The inspiration for modeling came from dance studio instructor Nina Johnson, who told her she has what it takes to be a model. Payden took classes from a modeling school and hired a photographer to shoot a portfolio. One of her teachers in modeling school at Pittsburgh, Gwendolyn Kiste, has continued to be a mentor and good friend, guiding her to competitions and prospective work.

She found that going to cyber school allows her to spend more time with her family as well as on her business and community volunteer work.

Payden transferred from her local school to PA Cyber three years ago. The reason, she said, was that "I had a huge bullying problem in school. I even had teachers picking on me. One actually stood me in the corner of the room and I was 14." She was hassled by peers over the color of her hair, for her clothes and for wearing a bracelet for breast cancer awareness.

"I decided I was done with everyone bullying and picking on me," she said. Her grades, which had been failing or marginal because of all the distractions, turned around in cyber school. She takes a combination of virtual and self-paced classes in PA Cyber. Payden's instructional supervisor is Joyce Rose.

Last year the owner of a regional car racing track chose Payden as "Miss Allegheny Motor Speedway," and she planned to use her notoriety to campaign against bullying. Unfortunately the track closed and her campaign fell by the wayside, but she is using the research she did on bullying to advise a local Girl Scout who is working toward the Silver Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.

Payden lives in Venus, a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania, with sisters Caitlyn, 7, and Reagan, 11, and their parents, Tom and Heather King.

As if school, modeling and a balloon business weren't enough to keep her busy, Payden gets up early every morning to go with her dad on a newspaper delivery route, a second full-time job he took to build up his daughter's college fund.

Heather King said that Payden deserves recognition for her hard work and good character.

"I can honestly say that I don't know anyone her age, or older for that matter, who works as hard as she does or has such a giving heart. Her father and I couldn't be more proud of the young lady that she has become at only 16."

About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.