Who says people who live in rural Texas County can’t excel in show business? Certainly not a member of the Herrington family. Just ask Heidi Mae, Joseph or Miranda.
The trio is becoming well known for producing humorous music videos that parody popular songs, TV shows and movies. On top of that, Heidi Mae, 27, and Joseph, 26, recently won a big-time “Cosplay” contest sponsored by a major book publishing company.
The three Simmons residents are no strangers to show business. They grew up performing with the Caboodlestoppers, a traveling group of family members that included their father, Jim, mother Lory, brother, Gabriel, and sister, Rachel, that for years made appearances at venues in several states.
Included were shows at multiple Emmett Kelly Days festivals in Houston.
“We did our first show at an Emmett Kelly festival in 2003,” Joseph said. “I remember how cool it was to have all those people from our church and others who knew us come out and watch.”
While Gabriel and Rachel have taken different life paths, the remaining trio of Herrington siblings with Caboodlestopper backgrounds love making funny music videos featuring re-worded songs by artists including Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and more, and imagery that pokes fun at movies like “Suicide Squad” and television programs like “The Walking Dead.” Costumes worn by actors in the videos and sets used in various segments are all made by the Herringtons, while music basically comes from karaoke tracks, with the Herringtons doing the singing.
“We come up with an idea and pair it with a song we love that has the vibe we’re going for,” Joseph said.
Props are all homemade, even the elaborate jail cell set in their latest video, “Dangerous Villain,” that features “Suicide Squad” characters “Harley Quinn” (played by Heidi Mae) and The Joker (played by Joseph), as well as Miranda, 20, as the Batman character, “Poison Ivy.” Materials used to construct the cell included tent posts for bars and construction-grade plastic sheeting to create a backdrop with the right atmosphere.
Heidi Mae really wanted a full-size, 8-foot by 10-foot, realistic-looking cell. At first, Joseph had some doubt about getting it done.
“I’ve never done anything like that in my life,” he said. “I said, ‘I don’t think this is possible.’”
“I said, ‘Dude, I know you can do this,’” Heidi Mae said.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you just put your mind to it,” Joseph said. “We have these multi-million-dollar ideas, but we don’t have that kind of budget yet, so we just figure ways to do what we can with what we have.”
The final product doesn’t reflect the behind-the-scenes reality.
“You can’t see it, but behind all that plastic sheeting you see in the video is a couch left in storage, a hutch my mom was painting and a lot of other stuff,” Heidi Mae said.
The Herringtons do their own lighting, filming and directing. Joseph does the sound and video editing, while Heidi Mae does the still-photo editing.
“We do everything you see in the videos,” Joseph said.
Learning how to do “everything” was a byproduct of being part of a traveling family of entertainers.
“We taught ourselves how to do it because we weren’t in a position of being able to have someone else do it,” Heidi said. “Now we can produce all this content ourselves.”
Online resources proved to be a valuable tool along the way.
“You can learn how to do anything on YouTube,” Heidi Mae said. “When Joe didn’t know something, he would go there and learn about it.”
Due to the location of their country home, using the Internet sometimes required help.
“We would often go to the Texas County Library in Cabool where we could use their wi-fi to figure things out and then come back home and film,” Heidi said.
“That might have proved more effective for us than taking a college course, because we learned so hands-on,” Joseph said.
“Our Internet is so bad, we even have to upload our videos at the library, and they were always so great about it,” Heidi Mae said. “We would tell them, ‘This is going to take longer than the two hours you typically allow, so can you give us more time?’ They were like, ‘Absolutely.’”
When they’re not producing entertaining videos, Heidi Mae and Joseph work in “experiential marketing,” often for a large insurance firm. They made their first parody video about five years and now have more than 20 in their repertoire.
They hope their efforts eventually somehow translates into full-time employment.
“We started making home videos when we were kids,” Joseph said. “Even then, we did parodies of things we had seen because that’s just the way our minds work.”
Making the videos and wearing costumes in them led the Herringtons headlong into the realm of “cosplay” (short for costume play). In a scene in the “Dangerous Villain” video, Heidi Mae –– as Harley Quinn –– hangs from top of the homemade jail cell donning a flowing homemade outfit. In other scenes, The Joker –– Joseph –– is seen in the cell flipping a deck of cards to the wind and lying amongst a group of guns (his “toys”).
Through a series of events, photos of each character were submitted to a cosplay contest sponsored by DC Comics for best recreation of a Suicide Squad outfit of one of the 11 characters in the movie.
Amazingly, among thousands of entrants from the U.S. and Canada, both Heidi Mae and Joseph won in their character’s category. For their victories, DC Comics flew them to San Diego on July 24 for the annual Comic-Con event.
While there, they met the other winners, but also got to meet the cast of Suicide Squad, including Jared Leto (The Joker) and Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn).
“You never think you’re going to win a contest like that –– there’s just so much talent,” Joseph said. “It was surreal.”
Having the music video set in the photos didn’t hurt.
“I think that in the end, having our own jail cell really helped us stand out,” Joseph said. “It gave us these really unusual over-the-top shots you wouldn’t normally get even if you paid a photographer.”
The Harley Quinn shirt Heidi wore was purchased for a dollar at a local thrift store. It gave her a look unlike most of the entrants who went with the more obvious shorts and baseball bat look.
“I cut it and painted it and it worked perfectly,” she said. “I took a gamble with using a different look than most of the entrants, but I was told it was the right gamble.”
As a follow-up, the trio and some of the other contest winners were invited to attend a Suicide Squad premier event Aug. 3 at a theater in Dallas. Then they were unexpectedly invited to host DC Comics’ Instagram page for an entire day.
“We were like, ‘You mean your Instagram page with 3 million followers?’” Joseph said.
“They were like, ‘Yeah, that’s the one,’” Heidi Mae said. “We asked if they wanted anything specific, and they responded that they already loved what we were doing and they just wanted us to do it on their page for a day.
“I was blown just away.”
Through another series of fateful events, Heidi Mae, Joseph and Miranda were photographed in their “Dangerous Villain” garb by representatives of “Cosplay Culture” magazine and appeared on the publication’s August 2016 issue cover.
“They basically feature famous people on there,” Joseph said. “So being on there was mind-blowingly awesome. For a long time I’ve said we would be on that cover, but when you finally do it, it’s like, ‘Wait, how did that work out?’”
DO IT WHERE YOU ARE
The Caboodlestoppers experience has no small affect on the Herringtons’ current work.
“What we did then was like country music and a kids’ show,” Heidi Mae said. “It was completely different than what we do now online, but the building blocks of what we do now can all be traced to being on stage wearing straw hats and singing country songs.”
“That’s where it all started, and that’s what got us where we are now,” Joseph said.
Where they are now stems from a rapid succession of dreams-come-true taking place in the summer of 2016. Now the trio of Heidi, Joseph and Miranda have a combined total of more than 200,000 followers on social media. They’ve opened a P.O. box in Cabool specifically for fan mail.
“All of this happening so fast was just amazing,” Joseph said.
And where they are now is largely because of –– rather than in spite of –– living in rural Texas County.
“We used to think we had to be in Los Angeles to do what we loved,” Joseph said. “But we were like, ‘We’re not, so what can we do where we’re at?’ We started doing our photo shoots and music videos and before we knew it, we were at a place where we got the attention.”
After an experiment with living and working in Branson, the trio realized home was all they required.
“Everything we needed was here,” Heidi Mae said. “We had time, space, the country and a close-knit community. A lot of people think you have to go to the big city and work your way in, but we realized we had more going for us back home where we grew up.”
“We pretty much turned our house into the studio,” Joseph said. “Everything you see now in our videos is either done here or in the local surrounding area.”
Not surprisingly, Jim and Lory Herrington are proud parents.
“It’s amazing, and I’ve always believed in them,” Lory said. “Even when we were touring, I always felt they would springboard off of what they learned. The joy of a mom is to see your kids do well, but it happened so fast when it did. But there really is no overnight sensation –– it was a lot of hard work. I’m amazed, but not surprised. They really are amazing young adults and they’re very unselfish and well-grounded. It was their turn.”
Never mind that they live way down a dirt road in Simmons. The Herringtons more than just believe they can achieve their dreams –– they know it. And they’re living it.
“This is what we live for –– making content that people hopefully enjoy,” Joseph said. “If you just do what you love where you’re at, and get involved in the community that shares the same passion, you never know what’s going to come out of it. You really don’t have to be in the big city; you can do it wherever you are.”
In addition to everything else, Joseph and Heidi recently taught a class in Springfield on maximizing the use of social media. In terms of “content,” Heidi is now drawing and selling sketches, the trio has an album in the works and a TV show has even been discussed –– with even bigger, more elaborate sets.
And of course, another video is on the way.
“Right now, it’s about taking what we’ve accomplished so far and doing even more of what we want to do,” Heidi Mae said. “The ultimate goal for us is to do what we love to do and live where we love to live, which is here, and never have to leave if we don’t want to.”
“You can’t let the largeness of the scale scare or intimidate you,” Joseph said. “You never know how it’s going to happen –– you just have to take it one step at a time and keep doing what you love.
“One thing you’ll probably experience is a lot of doubt, especially from yourself. We decided to always remain positive and think, ‘We can do it, there’s a chance and we believe in what we do.’”