Miranda “Mimi” Mythen wants to revive the dying death care industry.
Under her TikTok account @mimithemortician, Mythen has more than 1.3 million likes and 59.8 thousand followers. She has been interviewed by Allure and Refinery29 and she has been featured in the DailyMail and the New York Post about her viral videos on funeral service.
On social media, Mythen is leading the conversation for Gen-Z in her industry. But in Gainesville, she’s just another 20-year-old. Only instead of attending UF or Santa Fe College like the rest of her peers, she’s working at Milam Funeral and Cremation Services, where her co-workers are old enough to be her grandparents.
Mythen moved to Gainesville in January after graduating with an associate in science degree from the funeral services program at Florida State College in Jacksonville. By then, she already had an established social media presence.
“I downloaded TikTok in quarantine like everybody else,” Mythen said. “I had made other random videos before I started mortuary school. But I really felt like there was no representation of death care and funeral directors on there.”
After starting mortuary school in 2020, Mythen began making videos about her day as a mortuary school student.
Howard Beckham, the FSCJ funeral services program director, said Mythen was one of nine students who graduated from the program in December 2021.
Beckham, 66, said Mythen was the youngest student he’s taught since he joined the program as an educator in 2020.
The funeral services industry is in desperate need of funeral directors and FSCJ’s funeral services program is one of three programs offered in Florida, Beckham said.
“Most people aren’t focused at her age into something like this, unless they've come from a funeral home background,” Beckham said. “I was impressed with her success, her abilities and skills.”
People are surprised that my family isn’t in death care, Mythen said.
Mythen’s mother, a librarian at FSCJ, watched Caitlin Doughty’s TED Talk about turning your body into human compost after you die, and instinctively thought of her green-thumb daughter, who was in high school at the time.
“I didn’t know what to make of that,” Mythen joked.
But after doing some research into natural burials, Mythen knew what her mother meant.
“I love nature,” she said. “I love giving back. I like recycling, composting, all that kind of stuff. I was really amazed that you could give back to the environment when you die because the environment does so much for you when you're alive.”
One person who has helped her explore her fascination with the green side of funeral services is Milam funeral director Jane “Weed” Roy.
Roy administers all of Milam's natural burial funeral services at Gainesville’s local natural cemetery, Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery.
“Green burials are how I fell in love with becoming a funeral director,” she said. “I was a volunteer at Prairie Creek. It was really an eye opener for me, and I said ‘I want to do this all the time.’”
Milam's funeral director Mickey Milam told her to go to school and get her license. She did at age 55.
Mythen recognizes the generational gaps between her and her coworkers, and sometimes jokes about the typewriters in her office on her TikTok page.
She uses social media as an outlet to connect to people her age, especially after moving away from her friends and family in Jacksonville to Gainesville this year.
Carlos Gonzalez, the 33-year-old Prairie Creek executive director, is one of the youngest people working in funeral services in Gainesville.
He said there are a few reasons why young people may not see a career for themselves in funeral service.
“People who are still at early stages of their lives are trying to figure out what they want to do,” Gonzalez said. “But I think end-of-life care practices or any kind of industry that deals with taking care of our dead isn't really attractive to a lot of folks.”
He knows that people might be hesitant to join the funeral services industry, but he said it’s more welcoming than they might think.
“I think what Mimi is doing and what we're trying to do is have people see that regardless of age, race, background, heritage — whatever form of identity and wherever you're at in life — it can be meaningful work,” he said.
Another issue is that not many students who graduate from mortuary school can pass the national board exams to get their license, said FSCJ funeral services program director Howard Beckham.
Mythen paused her internship at Milam in March after a few deaths in her own family, and plans on spending the summer studying for her second board exam.
“I am the first person from our group who graduated from the program to take a national board exam,” she said. She passed her first board exam in March.
Mythen is trying to destigmatize the funeral services industry in hopes that someday she can work with others around her age — possibly in an office where they have laptops instead of typewriters.
Contact Jiselle Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jiselle_lee.
Jiselle Lee is a journalism junior and The Alligator’s features and investigations editor. Previously, she was a reporter for NextShark and a news intern at The Bradenton Herald. In her free time, she enjoys thrifting and going to the beach.