“June June Hannah.”
It shouldn’t be that funny. It shouldn’t be anything, really. On the Bravo reality series Below Deck: Mediterranean, chief steward Hannah Ferrier was just doing her job, attempting to get third steward June Foster’s attention through the crew’s radio system. For reasons that escaped Ferrier, escaped Captain Sandy Yawn, escaped viewers, and escaped all logical reason, Foster never had her radio with her. Hannah was calling for June into the void.
The result was an increasingly irate Ferrier chirping in her Australian accent “June, June? Hannah” ad nauseum and to literal radio silence, all edited together masterfully into a comedy set piece by the Bravo production team. It quickly became a sort of dadaist catchphrase, a popular tagline as meaningless as Ferrier’s attempts to reach Foster in the first place. That it was humorous or popular at all is ridiculous, which somehow made it even more popular. As far as memorable reality TV bits go, it was one of the highlights of last year.
“It was one of my lowlights,” Ferrier laughs. “I’m joking. I think it’s so funny the things that people find interesting and the things that they latch on to with the show.” Over the last year, “June June Hannah” showed up on coffee mugs, t-shirts, and bumper stickers. “A woman told me her baby was learning to talk and started saying, ‘June June Hannah,’” she says.
It’s canny, then, that ‘June June Hannah’ is now a premiere date, with Bravo launching season five of the series on June 1, chronicling the lives of an attractive deck crew as they jump through hoops to serve demanding guests on a luxury yacht cruising around Mallorca.
With its yacht setting and blue-sky, bluer-water backdrop, the series is both a boozy petri dish for Real Housewives-style drama between its hot and horny crew and a mental vacation: it’s just nice to watch pretty people drink expensive wine and sail around the world.
There are rich assholes chartering the boat, crew members rolling their eyes while serving them, and reality TV villains making life a living hell for the whole lot. Case in point, last season’s homophobic Russian chef, Mila, who lied about her five-star culinary training while serving guests microwaved nachos.
(For those curious, here’s Ferrier’s take on last year’s Mila drama: “It was quite unnerving. You know when you’re standing in a room with someone and you’re like, ‘I’m pretty sure that you’re the crazy one, but you are so certain you’re not the crazy one...so am I the crazy one?’ She was so convinced that she was a really good chef that it made you doubt your own sanity, or your own ability to gauge whether she was or not.”)
That is all to say that Below Deck: Med offers what the best reality TV shows offer: Escapism. “Bravo is a great diffuser for anxiety,” Captain Sandy Yawn says, then remembering her own role in that diffusing: “Or in some cases it can be the opposite.”
The new season of the series marks the first time any iteration of Below Deck has sailed with three women in leadership positions, with Yawn as captain, Ferrier as chief steward in charge of service, and former cast member Malia White returning after a three-year hiatus, taking on bosun duties and managing the deck crew.
It is an impressive milestone in a notoriously male-dominated industry, but especially significant in context of the Below Deck franchise. Recent seasons have captured male cast members’ crude, misogynistic behavior and slut-shaming, revealing the underbelly of sexism in the yachting industry and forcing the men in question to publicly reckon with their words and attitudes.
Rather than sail away from the discomfort of that drama, Below Deck: Med is confronting it head on with its historic casting of this season’s three women. From their self-isolations, fittingly, all over the world—Yawn from Colorado, Ferrier from Australia, and White from a shipyard in the south of France—the trio discuss the significance of their leadership positions, the misogynoir controversy, and why, in spite of all the drama and stress, they keep coming back.
“I thought you’d have a penis…”
When Ferrier arrived at the dock for the new season, she didn’t know which crew members were going to be joining her.
That White, who she had worked with three years prior, boarded the yacht was one surprise. That she was going to take on the role of bosun, not deckhand like she did the last time, was another—if nothing else, because of bunking logistics. “I was going to put you in with the chef, because I thought you’d have a penis,” Ferrier joked.
White has spent the three years since she last appeared on Below Deck training to be a captain and studying engineering.
“At times it was difficult, when you’re studying and you’re the only female in the classroom,” White says about the experience. “That can be intimidating and it can be hard, because you’ll feel like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It also kind of gives you the edge, like, yes, I can do this and I want to push forward and I want to prove that girls can be in this field.”
Working with Yawn and bearing witness to her trailblazing success in the industry is partly what inspired White to want to move up the ranks, even if Yawn politely rejects the trailblazer label. “I see myself more as a person who’s just driven, who thinks, ‘If a guy can do it, I can do it,’” she says.
Her career origin story dates back to the ’80s when she was working for a captain who “was so bad he crashed everywhere we went and was drunk all the time.” She figured if that’s all it takes, then surely she was qualified.
In the new season, White is in her new position for just minutes before she’s called “sweetheart” by one of her male subordinates. She politely corrects him, but—spoiler alert—it doesn’t stop. “If we were in an office setting, you wouldn’t be calling me sweetie,” she says. “It can get annoying. It can get under my skin at times for sure.”
Yawn shares the irritation. “I mean come on, could you see them calling Captain Lee ‘sweetie?’” she says, referring to the male captain of the original Below Deck series. Decades into a yachting career, sexism hasn’t been so much of an occupational hazard as it’s been a fact.
When men heckle “uh oh, get your fenders out!” when she docks because she’s a woman, she laughs it off. “I don’t fight resistance with resistance,” she says. “I engage in a way that’s non-threatening. For fire to continue to burn, it needs three things: materials to burn, oxygen, and obviously the flame. So you can remove one of them. And I always think if it’s heated, cool it down.”
“They’d be off my boat in a second…”
A “sweetheart” microaggression is one thing—and it’s a significant, legitimate problem. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the language used by men in recent seasons of both Below Deck and Below Deck: Med.
About Kate Chastain, the chief steward on Below Deck, cast members Tanner Sterback, Ashton Piennar, Brian de Saint Pern, and Kevin Dobson had the following exchange: “Is Kate being too much of a bitch to stick your dick in it tonight?” “I think I have to do it.” “Are you still gonna bang Kate, by the way?” “I hope you’re gonna fucking give her a good fucking. Because a mediocre fuck’s not gonna do right now.”
That’s just one example. There were crude comments. There was demeaning criticism. There was incessant disrespect and gaslighting.
Former Saturday Night Live star and Bravo fan Leslie Jones called Piennar “a walking misogynistic biscuit” during an appearance on The Tonight Show.
Writing about their treatment of the show’s four female cast members, Decider’s Lea Palmieri wrote, “All four of these women have cried this season. In every case, it’s due to emotional exhaustion and frustration with the men. That alone is bad enough, but the dudes don’t know or want to know what they’ve done to be dicks and they certainly won’t bother to understand or remotely attempt to make it right.”
The situation was hardly as extreme on Below Deck: Med last season, but shades of misogyny among that male crew were impossible to ignore, especially from bosun João Franco, who repeatedly slut-shamed and insulted the intelligence of third steward Aesha Scott.
“I don’t agree with it and I don't think it’s acceptable, but it is very well known and well documented in yachting,” Ferrier says when asked what she thought when she watched the show. “Obviously it's something that needs to change. I don’t think it will change overnight. If you’ve worked in yachting for a few years, that [behavior] won't come as a shock to you, I’ll put it that way. My jaw was not on the ground.”
Yawn doesn’t want to speak for Captain Lee and how he did or should have handled the situation. But she has her own firm stance on what she witnessed. “I would fire them,” she says bluntly. “Who teaches them to talk like this? Where do they learn this? I’m not there to teach them how to act morally. That’s something you should already know in this business. So yeah, they’d be off my boat in a second.”
The men have all since apologized in Instagram posts, in podcast interviews, and in appearances on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. “It looks like the guys do watch it and realize the behavior is unacceptable,” Ferrier says, the deadpan exasperation and sarcasm fully coming through. “So maybe Below Deck changes one male yachty at a time…”
“I could have fired you a long time ago…”
There’s a high-drama moment in the trailer for Below Deck: Med season five when Yawn and Ferrier, following a heated exchange, are storming down the dock back to the yacht, steam practically billowing around them they are so clearly angry at each other.
“I could have fired you a long time ago, Hannah,” Yawn says. “I could have fired you last year. The year before. And I haven’t. So now officially I don’t fucking care.”
It’s no secret that yachting is not Ferrier’s life passion; she says as much on the show. “Yachting is not a career for me, but I am passionate about doing a good job,” she says, then laughing: “I’m doing this until I get knocked up.”
The stress of working in confined quarters out at sea with volatile personalities would be hard to weather even if were a person’s passion. So why does Ferrier keep coming back? “It’s the same reason a lot of people go to work,” she says. “Money.”
You could practically hear a mic drop in Australia.
“There are some people that it is their entire world,” she says. “And I actually caught on to that really quickly when I joined yachting. I saw the lives of chief stews in their forties, captains in their fifties… It wasn’t something that I wanted for my life. We call it the golden handcuffs. It’s very easy to get addicted to the lifestyle and the money. But at the end of the day you are still waking up in your forties on your tiny bed in a shared bunk without that kind of security of children and a family.”
Yawn and Ferrier have now done four seasons together. “It's like, how many times can you put your hand on a hot stove and get burned before you learn the lesson?” Yawn laughs.
Ferrier lets out a beleaguered sigh at the “complicated situation” of the sometimes supportive, sometimes abusive relationship she has with the captain. “I think it’s honestly just a little frustrating because, you know, at the end of the day if you’re doing your best and then your best isn’t good enough, then just don’t work with me.”
How Ferrier describes yachting life is exactly why it’s not suited for everyone—but exactly why it’s suited for great reality TV.
“In a normal job, if you don’t get along with someone or you don’t like someone, you put up with them for eight hours a day and then you can go and see the girls, have a glass of wine, and have a bitch session,” she says. “You can manage it. When there’s somebody that you don't like on a charter season, you cannot get away from them.”
Unless it’s June, of course, who couldn’t even be found in the first place.