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