Auntie Bellum talks with South Carolina-native and current California girl, Ginger, in the second in a series of interviews with Southern women about their dreams and adventures outside of the South.
When did you move to Los Angeles? Why leave South Carolina?
I moved to L.A. almost 13 years ago. I left SC because I needed a change of scenery. I was tired of people in my hometown (Florence) commenting on the way I looked: brightly dyed hair, piercings, the clothes I wore, etc. I was fresh out of college and felt that I just wasn’t cut out for small town life.
What all have you been up to there?
I’ve taken advantage of the numerous and interesting classes that are offered here: burlesque, sewing, quilting, and knitting, to name a few. I played roller derby with the Angel City Derby Girls for several years. Most recently, I’ve been volunteering with the Big Brother and Big Sisters program, as well as, at the Braille Institute.
Was it tough to make it out there? Do you live in the L.A. or one of those countless surrounding communities?
For me personally, it hasn’t been tough to make it out here. I’ve always been able to find work in the animal care industry. Obviously, it’s a lot harder for people trying to make it as actors and actresses. The cost of living here can make it difficult to survive as well. I live in Glendale, which is about 5 minutes outside of L.A.
What one thing did you have to learn in order to survive in L.A.?
How to parallel park!
Was there a goal from the beginning? What was it? Has it stayed the same?
From the beginning, my goal was to become a zookeeper at the Los Angeles Zoo. I worked really hard to make that goal a reality. I’ve now been employed at the zoo for eight years.
Did you miss South Carolina? Do you just plain miss the South?
Overall, I don’t miss the South. Some of the things I do miss: 1) less traffic 2) seasons 3) sweet tea. Looking back though, I do believe that I had to leave the South in order to appreciate it.
Is there a Southern stigma in L.A.? Politically or culturally? Do people assume things of you when they meet you and learn where you’re from?
I’ve had people think that I must have grown up on a farm or that I rode a horse to school since I grew up in the South. It’s hard for L.A. natives to grasp the concept of what it’s like to grow up in a small town. It’s really difficult for them to wrap their heads around it. People are usually surprised when I tell them that I’m from the South as I seem to have lost my accent over time. But I would say there isn’t a stigma about the South here in L.A. Here, it’s such a melting pot of people from all over the world.
Generally speaking, how have things changed since you moved there?
My whole life changed so much that it’s hard to put into words. I’ve been exposed to so many different things and people since moving here. It was a culture shock, but in such a fantastic way.
Finally, tell me all about your work. How long have you been there? Are you happy?
I absolutely love working as a zookeeper at the Los Angeles Zoo. I started out as a volunteer and then eventually was hired as a part-time keeper at the hospital facility at the zoo. This was a great area for me to start in as I got to learn a lot by working with so many different species of animals. After a couple of years as a part-time employee, I was hired on as full time in the bird section. Most recently, I made the move to the nursery section. I now work with the infants that are being hand-reared, as well as the animals that are used for our education programs.
Any changes on the horizon?
I don’t plan on making southern California my forever home. I have fallen head over heels in love with the Pacific Northwest and hope to make that my new home in the not too distant future.
“I’ve Been Everywhere” is a series of interviews with women who have left the South. Ginger is our second interview, and Maegan Hayward was our first.
“I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere”
– Johnny Cash