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Conversations with Iris Hill

Today we’d like to introduce you to Iris Hill.

Hi Iris, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
It all started on a farm in Alabama… Tuscaloosa to be exact. But it wasn’t just any farm, it was my home. There was always something with me and the outside. I liked the grass, the dirt, the animals, the trees: I. Was. Curious. About. Everything. And, it was the place where I felt at ease like I belonged.

But it was also where my dad was, and I loved that too. A doctor and a keeper of the land, he was wearing lots of hats (I see where I get my multiple interests from.) Everywhere he went, I was there and so was his shadow.

Not only was I outdoorsy as a kid but I was adventurous and I had plans to be on TV! I would watch that show Kids Incorporated and let my imagination run wild. They were having fun and being larger than life, singing and dancing, and I’d think to myself, “I want to do that.”.

So there was something about the outside and something about expressing myself that grew during that time, but life being life, I grew up and just took the natural next step… I went to college.

The plan was to study Theatre and Zoology, but my science and math classes soon curbed that double major dream. And so, I kept to the straight and narrow, only taking theatre and dance class for fun.

It was during my pHD journey, after college, that I could no longer silence my need to express myself artistically… I flipped the script. I dropped the pHD for Acting and Auburn, Alabama for Los Angeles, California.

I did acting in L.A. and I hosted a nature show on PBS for kids. It felt right, but I wanted more. More than being in someone else’s show, I wanted to produce my own and bring to light all of the magical ideas swirling around in my mind… That’s where Storytellers & Scout Ants came in.

The idea for Storytellers and Scout Ants actually started in college. Not the company, but the idea of what I wanted to do. I would drag my college friend and fellow nature lover, Marla, on hairbrained adventures, Lucy and Ethel style, around my family farm dreaming of hosting my own nature show. I knew I wanted to be the next Jack Hannah, Steve Irwin, David Attenborough…

Storytellers and Scout Ants is Kids Incorporated meets David Attenborough. Children’s entertainment: the fun, light, joyfulness, playful freedom found there with the knowledge, passion and stories that Attenborough brings to everything that he does. In creating for Storytellers and Scout Ants, I get to combine my silly goofy playful side with my serious, passionate love of knowledge and nature and share it with the children of the world.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I think you can tell from the story that I just told that it hasn’t been smooth. But it has been fun, adventurous, deep and fulfilling. I’ve always known what I wanted, but the struggle was giving myself permission to have it, go for it, and to be as unapologetically and fully myself in the working world as I am when I am with Mother Nature.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’m the Chief Exploring Storyteller & Creative Director for Storytellers & Scout Ants Inc. SASA exists to inspire an uncountable amount of children to find their place in nature through magically curious stories, films, characters and educational materials. We help them face their fears, experience magical moments in nature and explore the natural world with loving curiosity.

I’m known for my great stories, vivacious spirit and endless stream of random facts.

What sets me apart from others is that everything I do is guided by audacious curiosity. Audacious Curiosity! It leads me to a lot of fun and interesting places that a lot of people would consider terrifying.

Take last year for example. If you look at my Instagram page, you’ll see a picture of me holding a snake of all things. Being raised in Alabama, there are a lot of venomous snakes that can harm you. The guys at our farm were constantly telling me… “The moccasins are out there! A copper head’s gonna get your ankle!”. It was a lot of fear-based thinking. I refuse to allow fears to control me. So, I decided to learn how to wrangle snakes so the guys could zip their lips, and I could venture out in nature safely. Opportunity presented itself and my sisters’ friend knew a guy who was a game warden in Texas. So, for my birthday, I drove 14 hours and got a speeding ticket just to wrangle snakes in the middle of nowhere Texas. And now I can check that off my list. ✔

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
I learned that it’s okay to take a break. You’re not going to fall behind. Many of us get taught that you always have to say yes to everything. Especially in the entertainment industry, you’re encouraged to take everything that comes your way. But this isn’t true. You don’t have to keep up with the Jones. You’re not going to miss out on anything. Covid forced me to take a break. And that break was a blessing because it allowed me to create and develop my wild ideas into Storytellers and Scout Ants. Beautiful things come from times when you’re allowed to rest and unplug and give your ideas a safe place to come and play.

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Image Credits:

Iris with two girls – Karole Johnson Hands with Sea hare – Mony Nation

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