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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA-- There is only one person in the United States who has mastered the craft of body staging. Stephanie Simon is the premiere mortician of North America.
Funeral Director and Embalmer, Stephanie Simon, is a sought after jewel, known internationally for her avant-garde work of body staging or posing bodies at funerals.
Simon says, "embalming is a science because we are preserving the body. It is also an art because we are recreating the body to look life-like."
An early occasion gave life to her fascination with death.
"Upon seven or eight years old, I attended a service for my aunt. I touched the body and the body was cold and hard and I wanted to know why and that intrigued me," recalled Simon.
As she grew up, eventually she graduates school, ready to start work as an embalmer.
However, at the time, it was not common for women to be embalmers. There was some prejudices as well as belief that women could not perform the physical tasks of lifting the bodies and caskets.
Simon, who was short and lightweight had no problem!
She spent much time as a contract embalmer working for various funeral homes. She is a perpetually busy woman with tenacity who beat cancer.
These days, she works at Charbonnet Labat Funeral Home, downtown New Orleans. She also teaches students about embalming.
Over the years she has wowed the internet, able to accomplish anything her clients can imagine.
"The first case here at Charbonnet Funeral Home was Uncle Lionel Batiste. They wanted something to demonstrate how he lived," said Simon.
Simon says getting the bodies to stand still "is like a puzzle. How are we going to make sure that he doesn't slip down or fall back. In July, 2018, there was a young guy that was murdered in New Orleans, they specifically stated what they wanted. They wanted him sitting in the chair playing his Nintendo game. I received phone calls from all over the United States."
She admits to being a funeral critic and as it relates to the home going service of the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, says their decision to cross her legs with those red shoes was a classy touch.
Stephanie says although she works with cadavers, she doesn't have time for scary movies. Haunted houses scare her. However, what scares her the most is being the mother of an 18-year-old son, in a city with an unprecedented murder rate.
"We see a lot of homicide cases. It's heartbreaking to see parts of our future dying off," says Simon.
For the most part, her job is about peaceful work. She says that while her fellow employees joke around with her, her clients are quiet.
By the facial expressions of the bodies and Simon's own intuitive nature, she can tell a lot about what people were like whilst they were living.
"I work a lot by myself in the embalming room and the dead people can sometimes tell me a story about their life," says Simon.