Reality TV changed the life of Stuart resident Tiffany Copeland. Born in Jupiter Farms, Copeland fell in love with manatees while kayaking and canoeing on our local waterways. From an early age, she wanted to protect the aquatic mammals, later studying their lives more closely at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio.
“I have had a lifelong passion for manatee rescue and conservation,” says Copeland, 35, who was third stewardess on season one (2016) of Bravo’s popular reality show Below Deck Mediterranean. “I studied to become a marine biologist at Florida Atlantic University. After I got my degree, I learned that you can’t make any money doing it, so I started looking for other things.”
She worked on dredge boats, got a job as a Marine Endangered Species Observer (which entails monitoring federally protected sea life), and served as a camp instructor in the Florida Keys teaching children marine biology. “I liked all of it, but I still wasn’t making any money,” she says. “Then, in 2015, I went on a blind date with a guy who worked on Johnny Depp’s boat in Fort Lauderdale, and he convinced me to become a stewardess so I could learn how to be a captain. Soon I began working on a 115-foot boat.”
When she heard about the Bravo show, the adventurous and naturally curious Copeland contacted producers in hopes of getting cast as a crew member on a yacht. “I sent a bio and pictures of myself, and they called the next day,” she says. “They said I would be a second or third stewardess. I was so excited about being able to enjoy international travel on the water.”
She was assigned to the Ionian Princess, a 150-foot luxury yacht that would head out all around the Greek islands. But while the experience was certainly thrilling, she says it all became a bit overwhelming. Naive about what to do on the yacht as part of a television show—which chronicles the crew dealing with personal issues in hopes of improving their professional lives—Copeland butted heads with Chief Stewardess Hannah Ferrier, who she says had issues with her inexperience as a stew.
“It was trial by fire,” she recalls of the grueling month and a half. “I worked 18-hour days for six weeks, lost about 16 pounds, and dealt with constant stress. I got to see Europe, but I missed being outside.” She ended up writing Ferrier a note explaining that she felt producers were trying to pin them against each other solely to create drama. Eventually, she says, the two became friends.
“We visited island cities like Naxos, Mykonos, and Santorini, and it was wonderful getting to travel,” says Copeland. “When the season ended, I returned to Florida to get my captain’s license.” She found a job as a mate and spent a season in Italy, followed by a stint on a 41-foot sailboat, before securing another mate gig on a boat in the Bahamas.
In 2017, while in Saint Lucia, she met Evan Jones. They were working on boats docked next to each other and, with a shared love of the water, they would kayak, paddleboard, and party together at beach bars. In 2019, Jones—who is also a marine biologist—proposed. They were married in Asheville, North Carolina this past October, have since settled in Stuart, and are expecting a baby this summer..
While not working now, Copeland hopes to go back into marine biology and to her first love: manatees. “I have enjoyed my travels and filming,” she says. “But conservation and rescuing manatees are my real passions.”