Fans of the Detroit rap-duo known as the Insane Clown Posse are infamous for their elaborate clown makeup and their rowdy behavior at concerts. Known as Juggalos and Juggalettes, these people have managed to build an entire community around a single band, and that community has developed a rather poor reputation among mainstream Americans. In 2011, Juggalos were officially designated as a "loosely-organized hybrid gang" by the FBI, further solidifying their unsavory rep. Because of their overwhelmingly negative portrayal in the media, a lot of Juggalos feel like their eccentric family is being misrepresented.
The truth about Juggalos is that they are nowhere near as psychopathic as their musical tastes and clown makeup suggests. They are people like anyone else, and they've managed to foster a community of love and family that is seemingly invisible to most outsiders. Every year, they come together to celebrate the Gathering of the Juggalos, a music festival centered around ICP and the Juggalo lifestyle. To some they may seem scary, but most people have no firsthand experience and are unable to judge what Juggalos are really like.
The reality is that being a Juggalo or a Juggalette goes beyond ICP, it's a family that looks to create lasting bonds within the community and celebrate weirdness in all forms. It's about homies, relationships, and building a support system for people who have been treated like outcasts for their entire lives. Being down with the clown means being a part of something larger than yourself, and the vast majority of Juggalos and Juggalettes are just people looking to have a good time without the fear of society's judgement.
In July 2018, Juggalos were more than happy to welcome Bunk Police to their annual Gathering of the Juggalos. Bunk Police, founded by Adam Auctor, is a freelance drug-testing company that checks festival drugs for opioids like fentanyl. Auctor attended the festivities in Ohio, a state in the thick of the opioid crisis, and made sure the Juggalos' drugs were safe.
The Juggalos were happy to comply, wanting to make sure the party drugs were safe. While many people chastise drug users, the fact is people use them, and keeping people from using tainted drugs can save lives.
Auctor discovered one Juggalo dealer had cocaine laced with fentanyl, and the dealer was beyond distraught. Juggalos care deeply for their community, and they are not looking to make a quick buck at the expense of someone's life. When the dealer received the positive results, he was visibly shaken, threatening physical violence against the person who sold it to him.
Above all else, respect among peers is one of the most important philosophies in the Juggalo community. The group is like a second family, one that you can choose and will always have your back. A lot of Juggalos and Juggalettes identify as misfits or outcasts, people that the rest of the world would judge for their eccentricities.
This is not the case amongst Juggalos, who leave their judgement at the door when it's time for a Gathering. It's almost impossible to find a Juggalo who doesn't feel like a part of a family whenever the fans get together.
The sad reality for a lot of Juggalos is that, without their adoptive family, they would feel much more alone and rejected by society. Many are victims of abuse, including ICP themselves. Violent J claims to have barely escaped sexual abuse multiple times throughout his childhood, with one incident involving his stepfather's grandsons being particularly haunting.
The sense of comradery through music among Juggalos has saved the lives of some of the most vulnerable members. A Juggalo going by the name of Moon Brown spoke to Rolling Stone about what ICP meant to him, and he credits the Juggalo community with helping him push passed his suicidal thoughts by giving him a family. In his words, "ICP built a family for those who didn't have one."
Feminism in the world of hip-hop is still in its infancy, and the Juggalo community is no exception. For years, the hyper-sexualization of Jugalettes has overshadowed the talent and character of the women who support the Insane Clown Posse, but that is beginning to change in a big way.
A new movement, known as Lette's Respect, is aiming to create an atmosphere in the community where women can be celebrated for more than their physical appearance. The movement's founder, Rachel Paul, has already brought significant change to the annual Gathering of the Juggalos. She was able to rally support behind an effort to revamp Ms. Juggalette pageant - which was once hosted by Ron Jeremy and glorified degrading sexual acts - into a contest that celebrated talent and artistic expression among Juggalettes of all body types.
While there are some backwards-thinking Juggalos who oppose these changes, they are not enough to stop the coming wave of Juggalettes who are committed to fighting for equal treatment.