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Meet the Team: #TeamFiona

We spoke with some of the team members behind Rookwood Pottery’s “Cheers to Fiona” commercial and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s dedicated staff to get a peek into the incredible story of how baby Fiona became the icon that she is today. Here’s what we learned:

Ernaisja Curry

Actress, Team Fiona Member:

Q: How do you think Fiona inspired a community behind her?
Ernaisja: Fiona is a symbol of hope and love that was born at the exact time the world needed something positive to cling to.

Q: As a role model, what kind of message do you think Fiona gives to her fans?
Ernaisja: Perseverance. Fiona literally wasn’t supposed to survive, BUT SHE DID. Any of her fans that may be struggling will hopefully be inspired to Never Give Up.

Q:  What is your favorite Fiona moment?
Ernaisja: I love the absolute joy and elation on my friend’s faces every time a new Fiona video or article comes out. Fiona makes them beyond happy, and I am all for that! My best friend even claims Fiona as her spirit animal!

Q:  What was your favorite moment of the commercial?
Ernaisja: The commercial was so much fun! I felt like a Stand-Up Comedian/Cheerleader because I was making sure everyone was laughing and having a good time while being comfortable on camera. I think I did that job well!

Christina Gorsuch

Care Team Lead, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden:

Q:  What has Fiona taught you about overcoming obstacles?
Christina: Fiona has taught me that anything is possible with enough determination and spirit. A strong will to survive can go a long way.

Q: What qualities about Fiona shaped her into a cultural icon?
Christina: Fiona has everything we love in a celebrity: humble beginnings, beating the odds, off the charts cuteness factor, and a sassy attitude.

Q:  What is your favorite Fiona moment?
Christina: My favorite Fiona moment was introducing her to Bibi and seeing her sit right next to her mom like they had never been apart.
Annnnnd Fiona using me as a pillow/raft when she would get tired from swimming!

Chad Yelton

Director of Marketing, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden:

Q:  What has been the big picture impact that Fiona has had on the city of Cincinnati, the local economy, and even the world?
Chad: Fiona has been a huge economic boost for several retailers within Hamilton County.  We are thankful that these local businesses chose to share a portion of the proceeds that they have received.  It’s great for their business and extremely important to the zoo. As one of the oldest non-profits in the city, we rely on these great local partnerships.

Beyond the economic boost to this community, the amount of publicity Fiona has brought to the County, the City and to the Zoo is priceless.  And, the positive spotlight she’s put on our industry as a whole is invaluable.  Millions more people are now inspired by the work that our staff does every single day.  We should all feel proud that Fiona’s calls Cincinnati home.

Q:  What was your first experience with Fiona? 
Chad: I remember walking into the room just a few hours after she was born and witnessing an incredible team of Zoo vets, neonate staff and hippo care team working together to help the premature calf.   This inspired my team to share this story with people from around the world and highlight the lengths we go to for the animals in our care.  The work that our team was doing to save Fiona was incredible and unprecedented.   The public got to ride the emotional roller coaster along with us and, consequently, became emotionally invested.

Q:  What is your favorite Fiona moment?
Chad: The moment when Fiona took her first wobbly steps was a huge milestone.  It was inspiring.  She became a symbol of hope.  We knew then she was a fighter and a survivor.  We shared her struggles and celebrated her successes and everyone fell in love with this underdog story. We’re glad that she’s popular because her superstar status has made her an incredible ambassador for her species.
I’ve never experienced anything like this in my 20-year career.  She’s a rock star and people from around the globe love her.  She’s been made Honorary Deputy by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department.  She received her own library card.  She’s witnessed a marriage proposal.  She’s been in books, on a cookie, beer label, an ornament, a shirt, ice cream.  She’s a brand.  There was even a movement for her to be Time’s Person(ality) of the Year.  2017 was definitely the year of Fiona.

Brad Wise

Commercial Director, Rebel Pilgrim:

Q:What about Fiona’s story inspired you to write such a compelling commercial?
Brad: To quote my co-worker and producer of the commercial, Isaac Stambaugh, “Fiona is an underwater underdog story. Everyone loves an underdog story and this one came at the exact right time. The country was so divided and along comes this adorable hippo fighting for her life. It was something pure and good that we could all root for. She brought us together when we needed it most.

Q: To you, what does it mean to be apart of #TeamFiona? 
Brad: I think it means being part of a community of people that dares to hope together and will do whatever it takes to write a better story. Together.

Q:  What is your favorite Fiona moment?
Brad: I love the moment when she’s just a lil’ thing in the baby pool and she tries to chomp on her keeper’s leg. That gets me every time. She’s been fiercely adorable from the get go.


Fiona’s story has captured our hearts as an example of the power of determination, positivity, fearlessness, and teamwork!

Our #TeamFiona members from the Cincinnati Zoo and beyond are proud to be a part of Fiona’s story. 
Do you love Fiona as much as we do? Let’s give a toast to #TeamFiona!

Get your own Rookwood Pottery Team Fiona Ornament or Hippo Cove Coaster to show your team spirit — Share yours by tagging #RookwoodFionaFix to show your hippo pride! Go, Team Fiona, go!

To provide continued support for animal families like Fiona’s, Rookwood donates 20% of the proceeds from each Fiona piece purchased to the Cincinnati Zoo Conservation Fund.