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Photo of Mr. Big Stuff, Stephen Rue, handing no call ref coconut to Archbishop Gregory Aymond at Gallier Hall, Mardi Gras 2019.
The infamous No Call Referee Voodoo Doll ©2019

My name is Michelle Kavanaugh and I am a native Louisiana artist who has been painting coconuts for several life-long friends that ride in Zulu each Mardi Gras season for the past three years. I was commissioned to paint coconuts for Zulu again this year, but didn’t have it in me after the Saints devastating loss due to a no call pass interference in the NFC Championship game. I just didn’t have the motivation to paint happy little coconuts. I decided that I needed to let out some of my anger as therapy through my art.

Instead of painting a unique design on each coconut, I painted a voodoo doll with a referee shirt on 16 coconuts and posted a picture on Facebook.  Randi Rousseau with WDSU, saw the post and within 5 hours, Damon Singleton was at my house with a cameraman.  The interview aired that evening on January 24, 2019, and sales literally exploded.  I had orders for over 700 coconuts in 3 days.  I then expanded to t-shirts and sales for those went through the roof, as well.

I received notice that Alvin Kamara wanted a coconut. It got me thinking and I decided to do personalized coconuts for each Saints player with their jersey number on the back. I included a hand-written note that read “Spreading Dat Gris Gris one coconut at a time” and requested they tag me in a photo on Facebook when they received their gift. I also did coconuts for Gayle Benson, Coach Sean Payton, and a memorial coconut for Tom Benson, depicting the patch worn on the Saints jersey.

I delivered them on a Monday and by Wednesday I had a letter from Gayle Benson thanking me and stating that the coconuts for her and Tom Benson are now residing in the Saints front lobby museum.  Mr. Big Shot with Zulu, Stephen Rue, purchased 12 and handed them to his dignitaries, such as the Archbishop and Gayle Benson at Gallier Hall on Mardi Gras day.

Sales have continued at an even pace since then and I am now looking to sell my extended line, which includes garden flags, ornaments and stickers, to local retail specialty shops. These products are simply turning frowns upside down!

Keep spreading dat gris gris y’all!

Personal note from Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints.