Fierce Female Interview No. 4: Juliana King — Fierce Mermaid with a Message
• • • Juliana King, founder of Mermaidwithamessage.com.au, lifeguard, and paddler shares with us the drive behind her successful journey. This fierce female has proved that there you can overcome struggles and personal battles through focus and by using your voice. To this day, Juliana is still spreading her message to encourage and empower other females to use their own voices.
We have loved reading about everything you’ve done! Let’s begin with what got you into the lifesaving? I’ve always been passionate about the beach. But it wasn’t until I was 12 and I met some cousins through extended family. They were heavily into surfing and, through them, I kind of gained more of an interest. Basically, what got me into it initially was the image in the lifestyle. I was like, “whatever these people are doing, whatever that’s about, I want in on that”… The golden glowing skin, the vibes and the energy that these people are emitting. I want that.
So initially as a young kid, that’s what I set out for. It was such a competitive thing. I was like, “Oh, I want to compete in this cycle… I want to do really well and I want to make it in this industry”.
So it was surfing that got me into the lifesaving because Mum said I wasn’t allowed to learn to surf until I’d done my bronze medallion ocean rescue time!
That’s a good motherly piece of advice! Ha! Yeah, she was like, “you’ve got to know what you’re doing and have good safety behind you before you just get on a surfboard and start paddling out”. And I thought that was the worst kind of thing she could say. So I thought, “you’re stalling my dream, mom. I’m not allowed to do that until I’m like 14, that’s years away!”. But we kinda compromised the end haha. And yes I started doing surf rescue certificate.
What’s it like being a female Lifeguard? Oh, it’s an incredible job! The guys that I work with, we’ve just become such a huge family. The shifts that I work are 13 hours long, so I spend so much time with these guys that it’s like I’ve inherited 40 brothers, haha. So we all look out for each other. We all have our flat days and we all have our high days at work, but we kind of pull each other through everything. It is definitely testing. I mean, it’s the busiest beach I’ve ever worked at. What goes on, it’s not just in the water. It’s on the sand, it’s on the promenade,
what would you say has been the most significant moment as a lifesaver? it’s on the main busy street behind. You never know what you’re actually going to deal with. It’s really cool. There are heaps of moments that really test you physically and mentally. There’s always the moments that really get your heart. When there are missing kids and they are just so distraught and you’re doing whatever you can to help locate their parent while keeping them calm and collected. Some of these kids don’t even speak English. That really pulls on the heartstrings.
Then there are other times when you really keep yourself in check because you’re trying to help the kids through their injury or the accident or whatever happened… They’re big ones. Other than that, there are times when the surf’s huge or those stormy crazy winter days, when there’s not much happening on the beach. The guys have definitely pushed me to get out there and push myself more.
You surf as well, don’t you? Yes. I love my surfing. I don’t surf a huge amount at the moment. That’s just because I’m a big time paddler. But whenever I’m surfing I’m just in yet another world.
I'm trying to be the role model now that would have benefited my younger self
Doing it For Something Bigger and Better
Could you tell us a bit more about the paddle you did and the causes that you were peddling for. It was a thousand kilometres, wasn’t it? Yeah. So it was Newcastle to Noosa, 1,000KM. Initially, I lived in Noosa and I was about to move back there. Noosa got my heart. It’s one of the most beautiful kinds of hidden gems on our coastline, and I just wanted to go back there. So I thought, “Oh how funny… I can send up the removalist’s truck and I’ll paddle there. How good would that be, really moving back in style!”. But then I thought “well actually that’s not a bad idea”. The more I thought about it, I thought, well, you can’t just do something like that.
And then, I research it and I was kind of going, “No…there’s so much planning and logistics behind this. If I don’t have a sole purpose
and calling to do this, I can’t physically achieve it”. And then, I just thought I need to do this for something bigger than me and to use this as a platform to reach people. And that’s when I thought I’ve definitely got something in my history worth talking about, so why don’t I just kind of bite the bullet and let it rip in and start speaking out. There were very few people that knew my history and my connection with domestic violence.
For me, speaking out was incredibly uncomfortable. Nothing about it felt easy or natural. It wasn’t something that I appreciated. Every interview, every media write up, or TV interview, I just cringed and sweated my way through it because it’s not something that is easy to talk about with people.
It’s not a black and white issue. None of it’s an easy fix. There’s no step one, two, three to resolve any saying or come up with a beautiful resolution to individuals in domestic violence circumstances. So yeah, that was my big push. For pretty much all the other charity things I’ve ever done, there’s always a big message and driver behind it. I just thought I’ll develop my own name. I came up with Mermaid with a Message. Through that kind of business that I created, I co-represented the two charities of my choice which at the time was the White Ribbon Foundation, which is Australia’s biggest domestic violence campaigning foundation; And I also represented the Surfrider Foundation, which is a global organization developed in California.
One of the guys in the bunch goes —I can tell you've been through a lot, it's the way you ride with so much soul. That can't be trained, that can't be taught — and I just broke down in tears, that really hit my heart because it's true.
The Drive Behind the Success
It’s really great to hear there’s people like you raising awareness. Can you suggest ways in which the public could help or be helped with these causes? Have you kind of been asked these difficult questions before? And how have you got around that?
I think, for a lot of people, it’s about just recognising your surroundings and your situation. A lot of people only cope with surviving or with domestic violence without being aware. For me as a kid growing up, I had no idea because as a child you are so innocent and naive. You don’t know any different. I thought that my upbringing was the same as every other kid that I went to school with. It wasn’t until I get older that I learned more… Maybe a political twist on right and wrong. Then I studied teaching. Through that, I dived into psychology, human behaviour, and cognitive development and all this sort of stuff. It was in these classes that I was having these really conflicting light bulb moments going, “what I had gone through in my life and put up with was not okay”.
It’s not normal. It’s not right. For me, it’s like my whole life I’ve been putting together jigsaw puzzle pieces and this is why my personality is the way it is. It’s because I’ve dealt with all these things and I’ve got all these coping mechanisms, all these strategies. I’ve developed myself from a very young age.
To survive? I don’t want to say survive but it’s kind of appropriate. If you don’t have mental health, what have you got? So they all were survival kind of things, I guess. I wouldn’t have spoken out about this if I didn’t do that paddle. I would have just kept on living my life and I wouldn’t have broken the stereotype because I think a lot of people look at me and go, “Oh my gosh, look, she’s on TV. She’s a lifeguard, she’s all ‘famous’, everything looks so easy and cushy for her.” People have looked at me and gone “you’re such a successful athlete”. I’ve I had people telling me when I was cycling in America, “people can’t ride like you”, or, “sheer talent!”, or “there is so much heart behind what you are doing”.
I’ve done a ridiculous amount of sports at a high level, but the thing is I had so much drive and heart behind me doing everything because of what I’ve been through.
And one of the guys in the bunch said to me, he goes, “I can tell you’ve been through a lot and it’s the way you ride with so much soul —that can’t be trained that can’t be taught”. I just broke down in tears when he told me that. I was thinking, “ you barely know me, you know nothing about me, but you’re aware enough to pick up on that” – that really hit my heart, because it’s true.
It’s kind of like this ‘easy-go-lucky’, chilled out person that everyone thinks I am, I am here to break that stereotype because I’ve had a lot to deal with and get through and I’ve created the person through sheer hard work. Breaking stereotypes is a huge thing. I don’t want people to think that domestic violence is purely for low socio-economic people or households. It’s just not the case – it’s everywhere! So yeah, to bring it back, if I hadn’t done this paddle I wouldn’t have spoken out.
‘Your past does not dictate your future'. Whatever you've been through, whatever your past is, however rocky or smooth, or whatever it was, it doesn't predict where are you going because you can go wherever the heck you want.
Live the Life you Choose Yourself
If you had a message for younger women who look up to you what would that be? Well, the message that I put on is my mission statement with my Mermaid with a Message, in which I just threw out everywhere. It was ‘Your past does not dictate your future’. Whatever you’ve been through, whatever your past is, however rocky or smooth, or whatever it was, it doesn’t predict where are you going because you can go wherever the heck you want.
Oh, that’s lovely. Everyone needs to hear this sort of stuff. There isn’t enough kind of holistic education for young people. If you look upon people speaking out about domestic violence or really representing it or taking a stand. How many young people are there? There’s none! How many young women are there? None! How many people lack influence that you can relate to? I know there’s celebrities and Hollywood stars and models in the hashtag #Metoo,
and that sort of stuff. But they’re doing a hashtag, they’re not speaking out. So it just kind of baffles me that there is no one speaking out. So, I’m going to continue speaking out and saying what I wish the eight-year-old me had have been told. I’m literally saying and doing everything that I wish I had been exposed to as a young girl. I’m trying to be the role model now that would have benefited my younger self, if I had someone in my life, or that I heard of, or that I was able to listen to or connect with. So I’m just doing what I wish I had and hoping that that touches the lives of others. I just want to create positive change, or influence, or become a role model for them so that they know that they always have options.
what’s the next project for you? Well, I just completed a 33km paddle and run event on Sunday for a children’s hospital. Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick is one of Australia’s
leading specialist medical centres for children, offering a safe and friendly healing environment for children from NSW and beyond. The Hospital’s expert medical staff care for more than 69,000 critically ill and injured children every year. We covered 33.3km in distance over about 4 hours!
Late last year, I went to this incredible movie screening for water athletes. The movie is called ‘The Map to Paradise’ and it’s all related to environmental conservation issues. But it was a conservation movie that was positive, rather than negative. It was during this movie that I was inspired to do even more environmentally-focused work. Other than that, I’m also looking into more study at the moment, it would likely be counselling to add to my teaching degree!
• • • Well, keep us posted on that because we would love to support anything along those lines!