Any child who grew up in the ’90s remembers Barney, the giant lovable dinosaur who taught us about friendship, caring, and love. The actor beneath the suit has revealed his true identity, along with a secret which could change your childhood forever.
The Man Beneath The Costume
David Joyner spent ten years performing as Barney. While he will always be remembered as an endearing and lovable figure who influenced the lives of millions of children from all over the world, a recent discovery may permanently tarnish his reputation.
Things Weren’t Always What They Seemed
Joyner’s bizarre current-day lifestyle actually began while he was on the set of Barney & Friends. What initially began as a method for coping with the stress of long, and exhausting days in the hot, 70-pound Barney costume, quickly became an obsession for the actor. Joyner’s unique passion has garnered its fair share of criticism and disapproval from individuals who believe that someone who once had such a strong influence on children should be held to higher standards.
I Love You, You Love Me
In the early 1990’s David Joyner decided to change his career path and become an entertainer. He landed the role of Barney in 1991 and soon made a name for himself as the endearing purple dinosaur which we all came to know and love. While the show’s producers were impressed with the way Joyner drew kids in, no one could’ve predicted the strange hobby of the man who once sang “I love you, you love me. We’re a happy family.”
A Natural Entertainer
Ever since Joyner was a child, he had big dreams of stardom. “Even when I was a kid I always knew I was going to get into entertainment. As a matter of fact, I used to stand in front of the television and lip sync the things that were on television,” explained Joyner. “If there was a news reel or television show going on, I would literally stand… in front of the TV and… actually become that person. I know it sounds bizarre.”
He Needed A Change
Before putting on the giant purple dinosaur costume, Joyner was on an unexpected career path. After getting his associate degree in electronic engineering from the ITT Technical Institute of Indianapolis, Indiana, Joyner began working for a major electronics company. “I was working at Texas Instruments in Dallas, and this was in 1990 when I was deciding to give that up to pursue entertainment full-time,” said Joyner. He had also previously worked as a software analyst before turning his entertainment dreams into a reality.
He Was A Live Mannequin
While Joyner may have recognized his passion for performance at a young age, the possibility of turning that passion into a career probably didn’t occur to him until he was working a unique job several years later. “Years ago, I used to be a mannequin. I would stand in store windows and I would stand there as a mannequin, just frozen. And I would go out and study different mannequins, different poses, so I wanted to look as real as possible,” said Joyner.
Dreaming About Barney
Joyner has admitted to having “clairvoyant dreams at times when I’m really trying to figure something out or solve a problem.” After preparing for his Barney audition by watching early Barney footage, Joyner went to sleep, hoping he could find some answers in his dreams. Joyner explained, “…in the dream that night, Barney passes out. And I run over to Barney and give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Of course, I wake up the next morning, realizing the dream, going, What was that all about?”
Breathing Life Into Barney
Joyner knew that his dream had a deeper meaning, but he just couldn’t figure it out. “…as I’m driving to the audition, I stop and see this billboard… Southwest Airlines. Breathe life into your vacation,” said Joyner. “I get to the audition. I park my car in the parking lot, I look up, same billboard… (then) it dawns on me—breathe life—I had to breathe life into Barney!… To me, Barney was boring and didn’t have a lot of life.”
He Knew He’d Get The Part
Once Joyner had completed his audition, all he could do was wait for an answer. While most actors would probably be nervous at this stage, Joyner was calm and collected. Deep down, he knew that this was the role he was born to play. As an incredibly spiritual person, Joyner knew that the dream he had and the signs he received were no coincidence. “I knew I was going to be Barney, but it was great getting that phone call,” said Joyner.
Barney producers initially selected Joyner as a back-up for another actress, who had a difficult time with the costume. Joyner realized that playing Barney would require stamina. “The young lady didn’t work out. They did a live appearance and she needed to take a break… She was bombarded by kids, couldn’t take her break at the time, just really needed to get out of the costume, and couldn’t do it… After that first event, they never heard from her again,” said Joyner.
Up For The Challenge
Despite learning that the suit was too much for the original actress, Joyner still wanted the role which he felt he was destined to play. That being said, Joyner soon discovered how difficult it truly was to perform in the dinosaur suit. “The costume is really heavy. It’s about 70 pounds. It can get over 120 degrees inside,” said Joyner. “You have to be very comfortable with yourself and your sweat because you’re going to be sweating profusely. You cannot be claustrophobic at all.”
Big Costume, Big Problems
Joyner continued sharing the details of the physically-demanding costume. “The only [place] you can see is through the mouth, and when the mouth is closed, you see nothing. Your peripheral vision is basically where the mouth opens. So you’ve got this huge costume that’s 6’7″, you’re looking out of the mouth, you’ve only got these short arms to deal with, and you’ve got a long tail behind you and these big feet that you’re wearing.”
Imagine spending countless hours each day in a hot, heavy suit from which you can barely see the world around you. To teach himself how to deal with the challenging costume, Joyner dedicated himself to preparation, even during his downtime. “I would walk around my apartment as if I was blind,” he said. “I would close my eyes, and I would try to feel energy. And try to feel the energy of anything that was around me. And then try to pick things up.”
He Turned To Meditation
While Joyner truly loved working with children, the challenges of the wearing the costume with few breaks took its toll. Joyner once told Business Insider that when he had particularly difficult days on the set of Barney & Friends, meditation helped him cope with the intense heat and weight of the massive costume. “I’d sit down on an apple box, and I’d put my hand on my knees, and I would just close my eyes. So I would literally meditate,” said Joyner.
Because the voice for Barney was provided by an actor by the name of Bob West, Joyner needed to work together with West as a cohesive unit to make the movements and vocals appear realistic. “We would do what we call “dinosync.” As I have my headphones on, I can literally hear him taking his breath. And knowing that as he’s about to speak, I’m almost inside of him, knowing exactly what he’s about to say,” Joyner told Business Insider.
Barney’s Love Life
Believe it or not, playing Barney worked wonders for Joyner’s love life. “If I ever mentioned that I played Barney, (women would be) like, ‘Ooh wow!'” Joyner admitted that, “You’d be surprised how well that works….not that I would use it as a pick-up line… I think it’s something that has to do with women and… (their) nurturing instinct.” Joyner claimed that many women were interested in him because they saw “…a guy who has a love for millions of children.”
You probably never recognized them at the time, but numerous celebrities got their acting start on Barney & Friends. The most notable childhood star of Barney, Selena Gomez, got lots of face-time alongside the big friendly dinosaur while she was on the show from 2002 until 2004. Additionally, future Disney rock star Demi Lovato was on Barney & Friends as a child. Debby Ryan, Trevor Morgan, Malese Jow, and Madison Pettis were also among the Barney kids who would go on to successful acting careers.
A Strong Influence
Joyner is thrilled to have taken part in a show which has had such a strong and positive influence on children all over the world. “A lot of the fanbase that grew up with Barney are in their twenties now. I still get compliments on Facebook and different places, said Joyner “They talk about how Barney was a huge influence in their life… I’m very excited for the fact that it has had a huge impact on a lot of people…”
Too Old For Barney?
Joyner knows that children grow up and lose interest in shows like Barney. Nevertheless, Joyner is confident that the lessons instilled in kids from Barney & Friends resonate with them for the rest of their lives. “When the kids got to that 6-, 7-year-old age range, and were all, ‘Oh, I hate Barney, I can’t stand Barney,’ it never really affected me. Because I knew what we were doing. And the message that we were spreading was just so powerful,” said Joyner.
Hip Hop Harry
After starring as Barney for ten years, Joyner decided the time had come to move on. “Barney was beautiful. Barney was very, very good to me. I loved being Barney,” said Joyner. Luckily, Joyner found himself a gig that wasn’t too far off from his character on Barney & Friends. From 2006 until 2008 Joyner performed as Hip Hop Harry, a big furry bear who used hip-hop music and dance to teach children the importance of social, educational, physical and creative skills.
A Legitimate Actor
Over the course of his career as an actor, David Joyner has also taken his talents to numerous roles which don’t require a giant costume. Joyner has appeared on episodes of The Closer, Southland, House, Crossing Jordan, General Hospital, ER, That ’70s Show, 24, The Young and the Restless, Switched at Birth, Shameless, and Veep, among others. Joyner has shown no signs of slowing down as an actor, and his impressive resume is sure to grow in the coming years.
Before he revealed his true identity, Joyner was the victim of various rumors about “the man who played Barney” which made their rounds on the internet and were later proved to be false. One of which claimed that the man in the dinosaur costume had a substance abuse problem and that he kept illegal substances in the tail of his costume. Another false rumor that circulated the internet stated that the Barney actor committed suicide while wearing his complete Barney costume.
In September 2001, Joyner attended a Boston event. After his flight to Logan Airport was delayed, he was given the option of changing his flight back to Los Angeles from Monday to Tuesday. “I don’t know if it was a voice speaking to me or what, but I decided not to change the flight,” said Joyner. The flight which Joyner considered switched on to was United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to hit the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks.
Banking On Barney
While you might think that an actor who only appears in a costume and never shows his face probably doesn’t make a whole lot of money, Joyner actually does quite well for himself. Even though the last episode of Barney & Friends aired nearly two decades ago, the actor is still reaping the financial benefits of his days in the purple dinosaur costume. From just his residual checks alone, Joyner was able to pay for his white stucco dream house.
A Secret Business
Back in 2004, just three years after the final episode of Barney, Joyner started a business which many believed to be inappropriate. His business was so controversial that Joyner kept it a secret for over a decade. In January of 2018, Joyner finally came forward and publicly announced his hidden passion. To say that fans of Barney & Friends were shocked would be a gross understatement. As the details emerged, people began to question how this could have been kept secret for so long.
The Truth Comes Out
It turns out that Joyner learned to cope with the long and difficult days on set by turning to a specific type of meditation training called Tantra. He first began practicing Tantra in the late ’80s, while he was training in Swedish massage to make some extra money while studying. While Tantra has been recognized as a method to achieve mindfulness, it has also been associated with intimate behavior between man and woman. Joyner has admitted that his preferred method of massage is often intimate.
Keep It Quiet
The secret business which Joyner opened up in 2004 was actually his own tantric massage practice. These days, Joyner has 30 clients, all of whom are women. He refers to these women as his “goddesses” and typically “unblocks the energy” of two to four “goddesses” per week. When Barney & Friends producers discovered Joyner’s interest and business pursuits in tantric massage, they requested he keep it as quiet as possible, fearing that it would ruin the reputation of the popular kids’ program.
Love Will Prevail
Joyner insists that his job as a Tantric massage therapist is no different from his Barney gig because in both cases, love is the driving force. “The energy I brought up in the costume is based on the foundation of tantra, which is love,” he says. “Everything stems, grows, and evolves from love. Even when you have emotionally blocked energy, the best way to remove it is to remove it with love, and then replace it with God’s divine love.”
A Side We Didn’t Know
Even though not everyone approves of Joyner’s current business, his close friends and co-workers have always stood by him. Stephen White, head writer of Barney stated that, “When I found out the detail of what’s involved in tantra, I was surprised. I thought it was an interesting transition for Barney. It’s kind of still the ‘I love you, you love me’ deal, but different. I don’t judge or anything, but that’s a side of David I didn’t know.”