Sitting down with Kenny Blair, even when he isn’t wearing one of his bespoke Santa suits, is enough to make you feel a little Christmas magic in the air.
His eyes gleamed as he said, “I think I always had Santa in my heart; I just didn’t know it. I loved giving gifts. I was always collecting used clothes to give away through churches. Around 20 years ago, I started going to day cares and elementary schools as Santa. It started there.”
Today, Blair is busy throughout the fall and Christmas season, making trips all over Oklahoma and beyond. He credits his adult daughters, Ryan and Sydney, with running his business calendar and website, and scheduling his events: Blair visits numerous hospitals, schools and other public gatherings for the holidays, and especially loves the yearly tradition of the downtown tree lighting with Mayor Holt.
Last year, Blair was selected to be one of the Santas at Disney World, which had been a long-held dream of his. At Epcot, children were brought to him in wheelchairs and even on hospital beds. Blair’s eyes were tearful as he remembered, “Sometimes kids ask me for things that break my heart. They want to be healed, or they want something bigger than a toy for a brother or a sister. Or for their parents. I have to tell them that isn’t a thing Santa can do. At times I have prayed with families.”
Blair is passionate about being a positive part of Christmas for children, partially because he had a tumultuous childhood himself. From the age of 7, he and his siblings moved to different foster homes and shelters. Their grandmother, whom they affectionately called Sweet Mama, visited as often as she could. Blair credits his grandmother with getting him and his younger brother and sister through high school, and continues to be inspired by her loving spirit.
“I’ve had a lot of negativity come toward me for this,” he said. “People ask me, ‘Why are you lying to children, trying to make them think there was a Black Santa?” I say to them, ‘Bless you. I’m not doing it for you, but for these children.’ If someone has a problem with a Black Santa, they don’t have a problem with me — they don’t know me. I respond with love, the way my grandmother taught me to. The children are what matter. All the different Santas, we are a Brotherhood of Goodness. I’m not in competition with anyone. We are all here for the children.
“I am not Santa Claus — I am Santa Blair. Santa is a character. And when I grew up, Santa was white, and I loved Santa. To most kids, they just see Santa. I want to be a Santa for all children. I am in the people business. The smiling business. The toy business. And I’m so thankful for that.”
Even when Blair isn’t making appearances as a symbol of Christmas, he is still working with Oklahoma students, teaching financial literacy and health classes at Douglass High School. “I want to teach students how to do something today that their future selves will thank them for,” he said. After school, he coaches football at Del City High School, where he was recruited by head coach Robert Jones. “We’ve been having a good season so far, but we’re trying to instill character just as much as win games. I want them to believe there is a way to win even when you lose.”
Spend some time with Santa Blair this Christmas, and you may find that you believe in all the good things about the holiday again.