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This 24-Year-Old Latina Mortician Beautifies the Dead and Influences the Living

Growing up in Arleta with a first-generation family from El Salvador, Berrios admits that her family only embraced her career choice two years ago, after she started to win awards like “Young Funeral Director of the Year.” The 24-year-old works as the licenced funeral director and embalmer at Hollywood Forever cemetery. As a young person born in peak Generation Z, she's documented her deathcare journey on TikTok and has accrued more than 43K followers on the platform. 

When she was just 11 years old, Jasmine Berrios realized she wanted to spend the rest of her life making the deceased look presentable. It was after she‘d met an embalmer at a family party, who asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

Her answer? “I want to be in science and I want to help people.” 

But Berrios didn’t want to be a doctor or nurse. Nor did she want to be in the medical industry either. A response from the family friend would lead Berrios down the path of deathcare.

“Well, I do science and help people,” he said. “Look around you right now: If someone you know in the room died, everyone would come to see that person, right? I get to help that one person who died, and I’m helping their friends and family, too.”

@jasminethemortician

I try to dress depending on what I’m doing throughout the day if I know what I’m doing beforehand! #Funeralservice#Deathcare#morticiantok

♬ Shelly duVALLLLLL xxXxxXxxXx - Lauv

That mysterious way of conveying the importance of embalming led Berrios into the deep, dark interwebs of researching the exact duties of an embalmer. Which was when she realized she wanted to be one herself. 

“Nothing could have changed my mind,” she recalls. “I was hooked on the idea of working in death care when I grew up.” 

Finding your passion for the embalming arts at a young age doesn’t come without its eventual challenges. 

“It was weird because, growing up, none of my academic counselors could help or guide me for schooling,” she says. “I had to self-research and go through the strange interwebs. Finding my way to mortuary school was an interesting and very lonely experience—but I made it.” 

Berrios graduated from Cypress College’s mortuary program and embalmed her first person at 19.

On any given week, she embalms three-to-five corpses at Hollywood Forever cemetery, where she sometimes—willingly—works until after hours. She often loses track of time due to getting so caught up in her passion for embalming. 

The 24-year-old works as the licenced funeral director and embalmer at the famous cemetery. But as a young person born in peak Generation Z, she documented her death care journey on TikTok and has accrued more than 43K followers on the platform. 

Her online bio reads: “Adding a little humor in my life since my career is all seriousness and death.” 

She posts nearly every day and answers tough questions that her followers post in the comment section, such as: “How are you mentally when you work with deceased babies and infants?”

Growing up in Arleta with a first-generation family from El Salvador, Berrios admits that her family only embraced her career choice two years ago, after she started to win awards like “Young Funeral Director of the Year” and other recognitions within her field. 

“They were very unsupportive, and I faced a lot of adversity,” she says. “In their country, working as an embalmer was the bottom of the barrel, and people only did it because they had to. But it doesn’t have to be this way.” 

She never forgets the sacredness of preparing bodies for death, a practice known to go back to ancient Egypt in 2600 B.C., especially when working on mangled, post-accident corpses that require her to get creative and particularly technical to make them presentable. 

“The longest I’ve worked on a body was for 18 hours straight, but if I hadn’t done that, the family wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see their loved one,” she says. “To get them to that point of an open casket is so rewarding.”   

She first started to become comfortable with the macabre as a child. 

“I grew up watching horror movies with my father since I was five,” she says. “He wasn’t very communicative, so that was our way of bonding.” 

When asked if there is a correlation between the current trend of horror genre adoration and new-age goth in pop culture and music, such as the famous “Wednesday” series on Netflix, she says no. 

“Real-life deathcare and horror movies are not interconnected whatsoever; many new age goths that are so excited to work as funeral directors are disappointed when they find out it’s not as morbid as they thought,” she says. “It’s a lot of paperwork and talking with families.” 

Mortuary school has a low graduation rate. In Berrios’ class, she was one of the 15 who finished the program, which started with 60 students. She graduated from Pierce Community College and transferred. 

The total cost of mortuary school is also a fraction of that of a traditional university, costing her about $10K to become certified. She tells L.A. TACO that there is always a shortage of funeral directors and morticians in California as well.  

There are no immediate stats regarding Latino representation in deathcare, but Berrios confirms her industry is predominantly White. 

“The weirdness comes from other aspects as well, not just because I’m Brown but because they think I’m too young and ‘cute,’” she says. “I’ve had to prove myself to them, but I’m OK with that because I’m very confident in what I do; I take up space well, and that doesn’t phase me.” 

@jasminethemortician

Hehe oh there’s more..I guess it would’ve made more sense to make a things I would do #funeraldirector#mortician#embalmer#deathcare#deatheducation#morticiantok#5thingschallenge

♬ Oblivion - Grimes

The hardest challenge of being an embalmer and funeral director is spending time with someone in their grief for only a week. Or until she has another body to work on. She admits she’s “still human” and occasionally cries at a service.  The most rewarding part is when a family tells her, “This is much easier than I anticipated.”

The question that everyone probably has in the back of their mind when they meet an embalmer is if anything creepy has ever happened to them while working. Berrios has only one anecdote to share out of all the hours she has spent solo around lifeless bodies. 

It involved a “crystal girly,” as she calls it, which is a person who believes in the magic of crystals and stones. 

“Since I knew crystals were so important to this person when she was alive, I asked her mom if she wanted me to have her place them in her casket.,” Berrios says. “When I was working on her, I completely forgot where I left the crystals, and as I was asking myself that aloud, her hand fell on its own, and I remembered I placed the crystals underneath her hand.” 

Berrios quickly dismisses any suggestion that the episode was a paranormal phenomenon, though.   

She does hope that posting publicly about her passion for deathcare will inspire others who may be curious enough about the craft to pursue it, too. She also hopes that her openness about her career and death in general will make it less of a taboo topic. 

“The earlier you talk and talk about death with your loved ones, the easier it will all be at the end, which will always come,” she advises. 

“This is a sacred job, and it should be someone who has a lot of respect for the living and the dead,” Berrios tells us. “It’s such an honor to be able to help someone in the worst time in their whole life; what a privilege to help people cope with their person who, a lot of the time, was their whole world.”    

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