Should We Be Concerned About Fiona the Hippo's PR Machine?

Fiona the Hippo’s entrée into high society was all but secured on Saturday by a 2700-word New York Times Style Section profile on the social media star and her “hype machine” (Jezebel gets no credit, but will hype her nonetheless, always). Reported from Fiona’s $7.5 million Hippo Cove, the profile provides some insight into the power players behind the Fiona Story: an inspirational premature hippo baby who beat all the odds? Or a child thrust into the spotlight too young? The Times points out that merchandisers have made a fortune with Fiona ice cream and apparel and “Fionamania” has spun off into a book and reality show. The Cincinnati Zoo’s marketing VP is, frankly, waiting for a movie deal:

Facebook came to us about the show, which was a perfect fit. I’m surprised Hollywood hasn’t come to us about a film. I feel like an agent with a very famous client. I feel like I represent Beyoncé. When she comes around the corner in her pool, crowds lose their minds. Every single time. People cry. People fly across the world to just catch a glimpse.


Here, via the Times, is your insider view of the world of the high-powered “good-news” business that is zoo entertainment. From Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard, speaking from a “giant boardroom” “featuring a lacquered mahogany table”:

We don’t need to be in the bad-news business. People love a story where everything looks dark and then heroes save the day. Fiona came here in the year 2017, a year when we need a lot more good news. And there she is, our good-news emissary.

Christina Gorsuch, curator for African mammals, Fiona’s workaholic round-the-clock attendant:

I’ve been in this industry over 20 years and I’ve never seen or experienced or heard anything like this. She loves the camera. She has the biggest personality.

Darin Overholser, co-founder of “Cinsy T-Shirts,” the small business which made a fortune off Fiona merchandise:

Mr. Overholser told me that he is thinking of expanding the Fiona gear into a full-fledged, national brand. “We made polo shirts with a hippo embroidered on them, like Lacoste,” he said.


This is an industry that chews up and spits out a lot of baby pandas in order to make its bottom line. Fiona’s got staying power.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter because as far as she’s concerned, rolling around and eating out of your mom’s mouth is good enough.


Or maybe this is all too much, because I just came here for my favorite baby hippo. Go Fiona!

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo


Pumpkin Andy is Orange

Fiona is brightening our dark, dark world, plus she’s a girl hippo, and girls are coming into a place where we are going to rule this world and make it brighter and better.