As I scrolled down further I noticed that the headline read that Virginia Hankins was the first ‘lady knight and jouster’ of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, in Irwindale, California.
Strong, beautiful, and emblazoned with ginger hair, I knew I had to interview Virginia!
Freshly returned from tour in Europe, Virginia has many amazing projects coming up with one of our favourite embodiments of a redhead: mermaids!
Read on to learn more about this amazing ginger, and how she’s shining her way into the spotlight and making fellow gingers proud…
How did you get into the stuntwoman industry?
I started back in college. I went to the University of Southern California (USC) and worked with Traveler, the school’s horse mascot, and his rider on the football field. Working on the field and learning how to perform in front of 70,000 people was an absolutely incredible experience that left me with a desire to both perform and learn more about ancient history as it related to horses.
That led me to develop my medieval horsemanship skills which were then picked up by Hollywood as I became known for my unique skill set.
How long have you been doing archery and why did you start?
I started as a child at camp during the summers, where I discovered that I had a natural ability with shooting weapons and enjoyed the challenge of the sport.
In college, my mom discovered an archery range near where I lived and told me about it. I went, loved the place and its beautiful outdoor location, and was hooked.
I went on to train under my long-time coach and world champion John Norberg, co-founded the modern archery team and program at USC, and now work as a coach specialising in women’s archery instruction.
[Image: Brenda Stumpf courtesy of The Mermaid Project]
What has been your favourite role?
Joan of Arc on Deadliest Warrior – it was a blast! I was able to run around with my own mini army while using swords, cannons, and crossbows. It was a dream come true!
Have you always been proud of your hair colour?
No, like many redheads I was an outcast growing up. I wanted to be blonde, able to be tan, just look like everyone else so that I wouldn’t be picked on all the time.
The weird thing was that once I turned 18 it all changed. Men considered me attractive and I’d get compliments. In college I would be asked out on dates and I would be suspicious that it was all a prank because that was what it was like in earlier grades.
I only really embraced it in my 20s because that is when I really started to accept myself. Now I love it and am absolutely proud to carry the look of my Celtic ancestors. My heritage is amazing and I love to learn about where my people came from and the incredible things that they did.
It’s also interesting because I now look at what happened to some of those girls that I wanted to be like. Some of them have now had skin cancer from all the time that they spent tanning in the sun that my own fair skin simply couldn’t take. By protecting myself from the sun I’ve been able to lead a healthier lifestyle.
How do you think your hair contributes to your personality and identity?
My hair instantly makes me memorable. As a professional mermaid it’s even more of a stereotype which works to my advantage in getting work. Overall I love some of the stigmas too. Redheads definitely have more fun!
Is there anyone else in your family who has red hair?
Yes, my mom does too.
[Image: Chanty with Virginia Hankins]
Were you ever bullied in school?
Yes. Kids would say and do the most horrible things because I wasn’t blonde and in to sports with a mom in the PTA like everyone else seemed to be.
It’s hard growing up different and harder when you act different and look different. Passion for any kind of non-running sport where I grew up was considered to be weird.
Being smart or wanting to do well in school was looked down on. Team those with being gangly, ghostly pale, and with an unusual hair colour and you have a bully’s jackpot in potential things to verbally attack.
I’m sometimes surprised that I turned out to enjoy people as an adult. There were a few people who were nice to me in school but overall kids were cruel and the teachers simply didn’t care to stop it.
In many ways that shaped who I am now and why I have such a low tolerance for bullying today. It’s simpy not right and is so utterly destructive.
I work with children of all races, economic classes, abilities, and orientations now through Sheroes Entertainment and try to instill empathy in them instead of criticism when relating to others.
I think that when a person takes the time to really understand another and where they come from they can start to find their similarities and find friendship and understanding in other people. Friendship is such a gift – and one that is free to any of us when our hearts are in the right place.
It seems like Ren Faire Queens always have red hair. Is that your ultimate goal?
No, I’ve thought about it but I’m more of an action type of woman. I like being active and doing things. If I was to play Elizabeth it would be a version more like ‘Elizabeth the Golden Age’ rather than the more typical parades and staged photo opps that I see at most fairs.
Who is your favorite ginger actress/actor and why?
Nicole Kidman. She’s classy, eloquent, talented, and extremely funny in some of her movies. I loved her in Australia.
Who is your favorite ginger musician? Why?
‘The World is Not Enough’ by Shirley Manson (under the band Garbage) is one of my all-time favorite music videos. Her character is classy, sexy, stylish, strong, and smart… all the best elements of a redhead!