Brisbane’s Julia Baker is the Snake Sheila, and thanks to a deal with the Discovery Channel, this fearless glamazon might just be the next Steve Irwin.
It was 10 years ago, on a trip with her family to Australia Zoo, that the English-born mother of two had her first one-on-one encounter with a snake, whilst having her picture taken with a Boa Constrictor. “When they put the snake around my shoulders,” she remembers, “I literally just fell in love with it.”
Completely consumed by the snake’s beauty, Julia was gobsmacked by the reactions of the people around her. “They were all freaking out and some of them were grossed out and I just couldn’t understand it!”
Following a difficult few years coming out of a divorce and dealing with depression, she truly connected with these animals and their struggle. “I felt this connection because they are so misunderstood, and I guess I felt like maybe my life had been like that. Like people hadn’t really understood me”.
It was then and there that Julia decided to stop feeling sorry for herself and try to better her situation, one tick off her bucket list at a time. “I looked at my two daughters and I thought, well, I can’t be a victim anymore. I’ve got to make the best out of the situation. I’ve got to be a role model for them. And I wrote a bucket list of all the things I’ve always wanted to be.”
The list included riding Harley Davidsons, getting a pet snake and becoming an actress. It was after being inspired by a friend who had completed a snake catching course, however, that her journey really gained momentum.
Within a few years she had ticked off her list, purchasing a side-car for her motorbike, finding her dream man, and eventually setting up her own snake catching business (if you’ve ever called 1300-Catch-It, that’s Julia).
This utter determination for achieving her goals didn’t stop there, either. “Every year this is what I do, I write a list of about five goals. Once your subconscious starts to believe it, things just start to happen and I guess you start to act differently and you attract different things. One day I had this idea – I could do a reality show for snake catching!”
With the help of Screen Queensland and the team at Flick Chicks, The Snake Sheila came to life. It’s currently being filmed and is due to hit Australian and New Zealand screens early 2016 on the Discovery Channel. On the strength of her larger-than-life personality and the animal magnetism of her scaly co-stars, the show might just end up being our next international phenomenon.
Contrary to what you might think, Julia insists that there’s nothing inherently ‘masculine’ about snake-catching. “I’m a bit more glamorous. I do like to look good on the job. I’ve always got my nails done and heels on. You don’t have to turn up scruffy. You can still be feminine and do a man’s job. You don’t have to look like a man to do the job!”
Because Julia has always felt that snakes are misunderstood, the show’s mission statement is to lift the stigma that surrounds these infamous reptiles. “My number one goal is to educate people that a good snake is a respected snake, not a dead one. We need to lose the fear and we need to gain respect. We can’t induce fear because fear becomes hate. We need snakes in Australia because if we got rid of them, then we would be inundated with rats!”
Beyond educating Australians about snakes, Julia really wants her story to be heard in order to motivate others who are stuck in a bit of a life rut like she was.
“I want people to go out and follow their dreams. Even if it sounds silly to everybody else, go out and do it. People probably thought I had rocks in my head when I wrote my bucket list, but look at me now!”
You can follow the production of The Snake Sheila at facebook.com/snakesheila.