It’s been nearly one year since Chattanooga, TN, native Veronica Nash achieved what most of us never will: she became a viral video star with her PSA warning to oblivious beachgoers — and more specifically, ocean swimmers — to “stay outta the shark’s house.”
The video, just one of several she had posted on Facebook for her friends to enjoy, was part of what she calls her Common Sense Crusade, a heads-up to viewers in response to last summer’s frenzy of shark attacks up and down the East Coast. Her message was spot-on, but it was her personality, the perfect blend of serious and sass, that struck a chord with viewers. One Facebook share led to another, and suddenly Veronica was an overnight internet sensation.
“I thought maybe a few friends locally would see it,” says Veronica, who is more widely known by her self-appointed nickname “Sister Pooh.” “It’s still kind of surreal. An old classmate inboxed me [on Facebook] and said they saw me on ‘Tosh.0.’ People were screenshotting me like when I made the top 100 videos of the year. Kevin Hart mentioned me — he called me hilarious. It’s amazing!”
I fell in love with Sister Pooh from the very first time I watched her shark PSA. It was equal parts common sense and humor: if you go in the shark’s house (i.e. the ocean), well, you’re up for grabs. Pooh puts it in perspective in the video, saying, “When chickens come in my house? Guess what? They get ate. When pigs come in my house? They on the plate!” Good points, both.
My curiosity got the best of me, so I reached out to Sister Pooh, a school counselor in the Hamilton County, TN, school system who’s armed with a master’s degree and an undeniably contagious air of positivity. I asked if she’d be up for an interview; I wanted to learn how this new celebrity status has impacted her life over the past year, find out if she has any regrets about posting the video and the resulting rise to internet fame, and to find out what she has done — and hopes to do — with her new platform in front of a still-growing and highly dedicated fan base. Here’s what she had to say.
We’re coming up on one year since you made your video that went viral. When you reflect back on the year since “Shark’s House” took off, what are your thoughts?
I’m still looking at it — I’m like that lady is crazy. I had no idea — I get tagged on everything, and I look at every tag and like them and I might comment. They’re asking me questions. These people really think they know you personally. Some will freak out — “She liked my status!!” I want them (fans) to know that I’m a person, and I’m on a common sense crusade.”
How has the past year impacted your life both personally and professionally?
Personally, it has let me know what a need people have for something positive. Everything I do is positive. It’s just who I am. My blood type is B+ (be positive). There’s so much negative going on in the world — there’s always something negative. But when you put something positive out there, people gravitate to it. I’m not acting; it’s just who I am. To be able to reach people like that, it’s just special. You can’t put a price on that. I’m giving people permission to just laugh at life.
Professionally? I’m still just Ms. Nash. A few kids will say they saw a video, or “my mom showed me a video,” but it’s business as usual at work.
What has been the most positive thing about being a viral video star?
Connecting people. Seeing people connecting positively. It’s not bickering. It’s not negative. Even if they have disagreements or a difference of opinion, they can agree to disagree. It runs itself (referring to her fan base and her Facebook group page, Meat Ministry Chronicles), and people have made connections and friendships.
What has been the most challenging part?
I’m getting pulled in so many directions — I get so many inboxes, so many “can you come here and do this?” and “can you send this?” You have to use your judgment and really pray about it and be led. I wish I could go on a world tour and meet everyone in person, because I do feel like I know these people, and people have serious issues. I feel for them.
Do you get recognized wherever you go?
I do. It’s cool. What I don’t like is if they say [on Facebook], “I saw you at Wal-Mart.” Well then why didn’t you come say hi?
One of your trademark lines is an amended version of Psalm 118:24: “Today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and eat meat in it.” Tell me about the Meat Ministry. What is it? How did it get started?
The Meat Ministry started years ago. Every year, the high school I went to, we have an alumni picnic. Year before last we were there, and when you see people 20 to 30 years later, people have gained weight. They’re not as thin as they were 20 years ago. And of course we have food, and I told them, I was born fat — this is my birth weight, but this (gesturing toward her body) is a ministry. God trusts these bones. It’s a meat ministry. I’m gonna welcome all of you who have gained weight to the Meat Ministry. The group has two rules — no discrimination and no judging … it’s a safe place. It’s international. People from all over the world have joined. As long as you enjoy what you eat, then welcome. They (members of the Meat Ministry Facebook page) post recipes and pictures of what they’re eating for dinner. I want people to think about things differently. Just because you’ve always done it this way, there’s a different way of doing things. Whether it’s a recipe or how you approach life.
Tell me about your signature sign-off — “I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Where did that originate, and what does that mean to you?
We used to say it at church. It was just something that was almost cliché. But then I’d say it, and people started responding to it … people would say, “Thank you. I needed to hear that.” For me personally, in my family, I’m the baby. I have two older sisters, but it’s such an age difference that I was technically an only child. My mom was a single parent, so I was very independent. Her love language was gift giving, so I think the first time I heard her tell me she loved me, I was a junior in college. I knew she loved me, but it hit me. You know what? People need to hear that. For me personally, that’s why I was like, if you don’t hear it, you need to hear it. People need to feel love, and as the human race, we are so giving by nature, most of us, and we want to help each other. We have enough things trying to divide us, but at the end of the day, we are better together.
What advice would you offer your pre-“Shark’s House” self?
Get ready, get ready, get ready. Not even the sky is the limit. Take your limits off. Take the stops out. When I posted that video, I just put myself out there. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. It’s not for you anyway — think of all the people you’ll help. I’m just crazy enough to post the video!
If you had it to do all over again, would you?
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Laughter. Gotta have laughter in my life and find the humor in it. You’ve gotta search for it, but you’ve gotta have laughter.
Good food. Gotta have some good food. That nourishes your soul.
Music. I’m a music person. I need some good music. I love music and I sing. (Sister Pooh is a member of HiPraize, a group that just released their first single, “Life’s Hallelujah.” Click here to listen.)
Is there anything else you think our readers need to know?
I do wanna tell people — the sharks are just banking on people being slow learners. You’ve been warned. You’re coming up with sharks attached to you, and now you’re coming up with sea lice. I was just watching “The Doctors,” and they were talking about how this year, they’re predicting more shark attacks, and they were explaining how to avoid them. That’s simple. Stay outta the water!
Thank you to Sister Pooh for spending time with us at the Tennessee Aquarium, indulging our curiosities and answering our questions.
And thank you to Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography for the fabulous photography. See more of her work here.