Archive | April, 2011

Fashionista Alice Kim and Mermaid Accessories

28 Apr

Alice at Trocadero

So I met the fabulous Alice Kim four years ago in Omaha, Nebraska, where she’d just moved from New York City, giving up her glamorous fashionista editor-at-InStyle-Magazine-with-a-loft-in-Tribeca lifestyle for… a new, Midwestern version of a glamorous fashionista life, complete with princess mansion, country club membership and Soup Sundays. Alice had dreamed of a Midwest existence, and Omaha in particular, and then one day up and made the move despite not knowing anyone at all in Omaha and despite the horror of her New-York-centric peers. She ended up opening a most alluring shop in downtown Omaha (which is incredibly quaint and funky) called Trocadero, an airy brick-walled shop filled with wonders (like a mermaidly charm necklace now owned by yours truly), and carving out her own dream Midwestern life. Now Alice is about to tie the knot with a dashing suitor, and is a brand-new mama to a magical baby named Annabel. Who doesn’t love a girl who dreams up a life and then goes out and gets it?

And given Alice’s fashion expertise, I figured she could help out some aspiring mermaids make their own magical transformations.

Our fashionable Q and A follows.

Alice, you were the Accessories Editor at InStyle and now you own an accessories and lifestyle emporium in downtown Omaha. Have you come across any extremely fabulous mermaid-style accessories in the past years?

Robert Graham mermaid cufflinks

Funny that you mention that because I was shopping for cufflinks for my fiancé at Christmas time and I came across these Robert Graham mermaid cufflinks on cufflinks.com.

How should a modern mermaid accessorize (shoes, hair, jewelry, makeup, etc)?
The last modern mermaid that comes to my mind is Daryl Hannah in Splash and that was in the 80s! But as you know, fashion is cyclical and since that was 27 years ago, we can kind of use that as a guide and Daryl as a “muse” of sorts. Long, cascading hair with soft curls is key, makeup should be soft: a little mascara to define the eyes, a peachy blush to give just a little glow, and a coral-natural lip. Jewelry should also be kept to a minimum minus a bracelet or bangle and perhaps a really fabulous cocktail ring. In terms of shoes, do we ever really get to see a mermaid’s feet? I saw this photo of Amy Adams at the Bafta Awards this year and for some reason, her look in total just screamed “Modern Mermaid” to me: everything from her hair to her dress just looked like what a fashionable mermaid would wear to a red carpet ceremony. See, no peek at her feet. Remember, she has to hide her tail…right?

What is your feeling about glitter – and do you have any recommendations for the kinds of glitter that might suit a mermaid best?
I love a little shimmer! Whether it’s a lurex thread in a beautiful cashmere sweater or a light dusting of gold shimmer on the decolletage, a mermaid should not fear a little glitter. Tarina Tarantino makes a great product called “Sparklicity Pure Gold” and it’s a great gold powder that you can use all over your body. At  Trocadero, we carry Scarlett Cosmetics’ “Glamo-Glitz” mineral eye shadows with shimmer in a wide array of colors. A greenish-blue called “Medusa” or “Aurora” which is a silvery lavender would both be nice for this upcoming spring season.

Can you show us some examples of some especially alluring mermaid products you carry at Trocadero?

MZ Wallace gold bettie bag

We have some wonderful metallic and sequin accessories from MZ Wallace, a NYC-based accessories company that I love. We also introduced a capsule vintage collection at the holidays which includes a wonderfully mermaid-esque necklace from Dior with stars and gray faux pearls. You can check out our Facebook fan page to see what we have in store!

Dior necklace

Are you fan of the mermaid skirt or any other mermaid-inspired clothing?
When I was younger I used to own a few “trumpet” skirts that were flared from the knee to mid-calf. I absolutely adored them! I remember purchasing one at this little amazing boutique outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. I wish I still owned it! Now that I have daughters (a new baby born in January and a soon-to-be step daughter, aged 9), I really do wish I saved some more of my clothing! The accessories are a done deal! They have those for sure!

Do you have any other fashion advice for aspiring mermaids?
It’s all in the art of subtlety. You never want to scream “I’m a Mermaid, Damn It!” with whatever you’re wearing. Keep some mystery, add some shimmer and don’t forget it’s all about glamour and confidence with comfort mixed in of course!

Traci Hines, the Real-Life Ariel

26 Apr

So Traci Hines is one glamorously open-hearted little-mermaid-loving girl who happens to look and sound just like some Ariel. Just look at this:

I know. She’ll also be one of the featured performers at the World Mermaid Awards this August at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, where I suspect she’ll actually glow and possibly be accompanied by a crab. Check out the links at the end of the interview to hear Traci’s original music and learn more about this sparkling lass.

In the meantime, here’s our gorgeous Q and A.

How long have you been a mermaid (and do you see yourself as a mermaid)?

photo by benjaminhines.com

Well, let’s see… I’ve been singing since I was three years old, and by the time I was five, I knew it was what I wanted to pursue for a living. My first *mermaid* experience was of course, seeing Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I had seen other Disney princess movies, and loved them, but at four years old I connected to Ariel in a way I hadn’t with any other character in popular media. I loved that she was a mermaid; I admired her giant expressive eyes and bright red hair, but her singing voice was what captured me. Ever since, the folklore about mermaids seemed magical to me, and I’ve had a bit of a fascination with them. I don’t think of myself as a mermaid literally, though I do portray singing mermaid characters professionally (starting about three years ago), but I love the idea of being compared to a modern day siren: A girl with a voice that beckons people towards its message….I don’t know if I’m even that girl, but I sure dream of having a voice like Ariel’s, that captivates the listener, and inspires hope and faith in the next generation.

Do you have a love for mermaids generally or are you more focused on Ariel in particular?

photo by camoden.com, costume by Lisa Fabio

I am drawn to anything having to do with mermaids… any movie with a mermaid in it, you can bet I’ve seen it! I’m currently reading a book that TailMan, Thom Shouse, gave to me as a gift: a novel by Kelly Reno called ‘Misadventures and Merfolk.” (And looking forward to reading yours next by the way!) I’ve familiarized myself with all the tail makers online, and been blessed to be able to participate in photo shoots wearing tails created by some of the most renowned tail makers, Thom the TailMan and The Mertailor. One of the shoots was an incredible project for JoEllen Elam, the designer behind FireFly-Path.net, and Indigo Verse, her incredible photographer. Ever since I’ve fantasized about owning one of those incredible, realistic looking mermaid tails! (Hopefully by the Mercon I’ll be able to make that happen!) I plan photo shoots around the concept of mermaids, I sell mermaid inspired accessories through my Etsy shop, The Siren’s Grotto, have some upcoming video shoots planned as both Ariel and an original mermaid, and sometimes even write music inspired by maids of the sea! But I would be lying if I claimed to love any other mermaid more than everyone’s favorite siren, Ariel. The Little Mermaid was the doorway for me for all things in the mermaid/merfolk community.

In what ways do you relate to Ariel? What is her appeal to you?

photo by camoden.com

I think one of the great things about Ariel’s character is that so many young girls relate to her, she is someone we could all see being best friends with: She’s bubbly and vivacious, fun loving and inspiring, and many of those qualities are ones we strive for ourselves: her fearlessness, her likability, her passion, her ambition and her true heart. Like so many other girls out there, I not only see myself in her, but see who I want to be. She is my favorite Disney princess because she is silly and giggly, like me! And she doesn’t wait around for things to happen. She has big, almost impossible dreams, and doesn’t let anyone stop her in going after them. I’m like that in a sense. Being in the music or entertainment industry, it seems you’re always hearing the word, “No.” But you have to believe in the gifts God gave you, and believe anything is possible and keep going on. Like Ariel, I’ve also had to live life without a speaking or singing voice for a time..I have been plagued with vocal nodules, a singer’s vocal condition, the symptoms of which are hoarseness, a sore, aching throat, loss of vocal control and range, and sometimes even loss of your voice. The weather, different climate conditions, and how I treat my voice (no shouting, and minimal talking) determines how healthy my voice is on a given day. The nodes develop and heal, (I’ve had them multiple times), and the probability that they’ll come back is something I will probably always have to live with, but I am in vocal treatment now and have learned how to take care of my voice for the most part. But every once in a while an episode could arise where I’m back in that position again, having to rest my voice and be speechless like Ariel was those three days with her Prince. It’s hard not being able to communicate, and even harder not being allowed to sing when it’s your biggest passion. When I have to record or perform, I generally clear my schedule the week prior so I can properly rest my voice and be able to perform. It can really get in the way of living a social life. But that’s the sacrifice I have to make. But Ariel got her happy ending and I am living mine too, getting to do what I love so much for a living. In the end, it’s worth it.

How do people react to you when you’re dressed as The Little Mermaid?
I guess that depends on where I am! When I’m at events where I’m hired to portray The Little Mermaid, it’s pure magic. The children’s faces light up when they see me dressed as their favorite mermaid princess-usually I’m swarmed with a flurry of instant hugs, and when I start to sing, the reaction is indescribable! Seeing those kids be so mesmerized and happy that the character is singing just for them is so special-and a lot of times, even the parents get excited too! I love it when they sing along! It’s got to be the most wonderful job in the world! When I’m at conventions or events with more adults, it’s more about a photo opp. Then there are the times when I happen to be in a Starbucks, or coming back from an event, still dressed as the character. The reactions are mixed..most people are confused about why I’m in costume, but generally I get lots of moms and dads asking to take my picture to show their son or daughter back at home! Until I dyed my hair back blonde recently, I had fire red ‘Ariel hair’ even out of costume, and was often stopped on the street by little ones asking me if I was Ariel, and wanting to meet me. I’m told the resemblance is pretty strong, but I’m not even sure if it’s that I actually look like her, or if the care with the makeup, hair, costume and acting is what does it. Regardless, wherever I happen to be when I’m dressed as Ariel, it’s always a lot of fun! I’ve lost all sense of shame and modesty by now, haha. I’m so used to playing the character that it’s become a part of who I am.

Have you read the original little mermaid story by Hans Christian Andersen (if so what are your thoughts on it as compared to the Disney film?)?

photo by benjaminhines.com, and tail by Thom Shouse, The Tail Man

I have read the original Little Mermaid story by Hans Christian Anderson. I’m grateful for the literature, because of course, it is what inspired Disney to create their version of the story! When I was young, I remember my mom bought me a condensed, children’s version of the original Little Mermaid story. It was slightly less graphic than the original, but still the same heartwrenching story. I enjoyed reading it, and later in life read and re-read the original (full) version, but I’ll be honest, I’m a happy ending kind of girl. When the girl doesn’t get the guy at the end of a story, it’s hard for me to enjoy it as much. I like when things are “Disney-fied” to include that happy ending we all want for the Princess! I’m a glass half full, hearts and rainbows, the future is going to be brighter than the present, dreamer…so there is no contest in which version I prefer. I also relate much more to Disney’s Ariel with her bubbly personality than the shy little mermaid in the Hans Christian Anderson story, who ” was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue.” Her sisters sound much more like Ariel than she, with their sense of adventure..it’s hard for me to root for a character that is so one dimensional….but maybe that’s just me. I don’t mean to knock the story though-it was written beautifully, and was created so long ago-times have changed. Hans Christian Anderson opened the door for loads of mermaid folklore and stories for generations to come with his classic tale.

What is it that you love about Disney? What don’t I love about Disney?
Ever since I was a little girl, the Princess movies have been my favorites. I think the music in the movies more than anything is what set Disney films apart from other animated movies. Once Disney started making films without singing characters, I started to lose interest a little…I am so glad they brought it back with films like Tangled and Enchanted!

What are your thoughts about the World Mermaid Awards? Have you met a number of mermaids before… or will this be new to you?
I think it’s fantastic that merfolk finally have a convention to call their own. There are conventions for everything else…why not everything mermaid too?! I hope that the Awards & Mercon is a huge success, and that it exists for many years to come! I hope it becomes an annual event to look forward to for all mermaid fans! I’ve met many mermaid models and mermaid fans who enjoy creating costumes or swimming in tails, but I’ve only become savvy to this world recently-in the past year or so; it’s all still pretty new to me. I didn’t realize there were so many people out there like me that were into not just admiring mermaid art or folklore, but actually made a hobby out of transforming themselves into mermaids too! I love it!

Can you talk a little about cosplay? What is it? Is mermaiding a form of cosplay, do you think, or does it extend beyond that?
Cosplay is a hobby that is essentially dressing up as a character for fun..outside of the theater or other realms like that. Cosplay is often done at conventions (anime/comic/fandom..) and usually the cosplayer creates the costume him or herself, though it is also very common for cosplayers to commission or purchase their costumes as well. I tend to think of cosplay in relation to animated characters, usually Japanese anime (though Disney cosplay has gotten very popular over the past couple years with the release of the Kingdom Hearts games and new Disney movies), but cosplay, at least, my own definition of it, includes any character or persona, fictional or not…there are lots of cosplayers out there that create their own original characters and take part in cosplay that way…and that is where I see ‘mermaiding’ fitting into the cosplay definition. Most mermaid performers that I’ve come across (that are not dressing as Ariel) are their own unique character…I would definitely define that as cosplay and roleplay. I think how far it extends is up to the individual. Some people simply put on a costume for a few hours and that’s it, while others create a whole persona and act ‘in character’ whenever they are in costume. Whenever I attend conventions in Disney cosplay, I try to be in character for the photos and when interacting with people…mostly because there are usually children present, and I would never want to ‘break the magic’ so to speak. If a child saw Ariel suddenly say or do something unbefitting of a Disney princess, well, that could be a negative thing. I think with the mermaid cosplay, I fall somewhere in the middle…I don’t have a mermaid persona (unless you count Ariel herself!), if you’re an adult and you come up to me when I am dressed in an original mermaid costume, 9 times out of 10 I’ll just be myself. But if children are present, you better believe I am going to be the most authentic, convincing siren of the sea they ever meet! (-: In this day and age, kids grow up so fast…why rush it when you have the opportunity to bring a little magic into their day?

Has dressing and appearing as Ariel changed you in any way?

photo by Indigo Verse; Designer JoEllen Elam for Firefly-Path.net (tail by The Mertailor)

Definitely! I think a part of me has always been ‘Ariel’ on the inside…we’re a lot alike I think…but ever since I dyed my blonde hair red, and began actually performing as The Little Mermaid for children, even when I am out of costume I think I tend to take more care in how I act and present myself, at least whenever little ones are around, since they always seemed to believe I was her regardless of what I was wearing! Even in jeans on the street I would be stopped and asked almost daily if I was ‘The Little Mermaid.’ One day a few months ago I was at Disneyland with some friends, in line for a ride. There were 2 cute little 6 or 7 year old girls in line in front of me. They asked me if I was Ariel, and I told them what I told all the kids who asked me that Q when I was out of costume, “Nope, but she’s a good friend of mine. My name’s Traci! Nice to meet ya!” They asked if I wasn’t Ariel, why was my hair so red? I told them the truth: I dyed it and I used to have blonde hair. We sang Disney songs and talked for the entire 30 minutes we waited in line. At one point I heard one whisper to the other, “I know she’s really Ariel…even her bangs swoop like hers!” No matter what I said or did, they still believed I was her. After the ride, they gave me giant bear hugs and yelled, “Bye Ariel!” That’s stuck with me…you never know who’s watching you or how your actions could affect others, especially little kids. Now, as I am pursuing a career as a recording artist, I know I have people of all ages watching me online, waiting to see what I do or say next. In the same way that a Disney Princess is expected to be a role model, so are musicians today. I’m not saying I am a role model, good or otherwise, but regardless of whether I want young kids to look up to me or not, there is an expectation there that I need to be aware of. I feel an accountability towards being someone that influences people positively…and I hope I am able to bring happiness and joy into people’s lives with my music, the same way I am able to bring it to little children performing as fairytale characters in costume.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Well first off, don’t let anyone get you down for having a passion for this wonderful hobby. I’ve run into plenty of people that just do not ‘get’ or respect the artistry of mermaiding or cosplay. I’ve been accused of ‘not growing up’ and having a ‘silly obsession.’ These individuals clearly lack tact, and the ability to accept of things they do not understand. (I also think they lack imagination!) God gave us all talents, abilities and affinities towards different things, some less mainstream (no pun intended!) than others, but the fact that a demographic of people refuses to accept or validate our shared interest for mermaid activities doesn’t mean it’s any less wonderful! Only that they choose to remain ignorant to something that is a lot of fun! So please don’t let anyone bully you into hiding or refraining from pursuing your passion. The more we share what we love about this awesome hobby, the more people will start to see that it is a really fantastic pastime!

Second is to start creating a costume! Let your imagination be your guide, and either create a tail for yourself, or commission one from a tailmaker. Once you have your fins you can start making magic! Whether it’s designing photo shoots around your costume, swimming in the ocean, attending events to entertain people as a mermaid, or like a few mermaids I admire, such as Hannah Fraser, use your costume and creativity to support worthy causes (often in relation to marine life, and our oceans!). I love attending nonprofit events as characters for a cause, and of course enjoy photo/video shoots in mermaid fins! Find out what makes you unqiue in your mermaid realm, and go after it! I do love to swim, but I think my focal mermaid attribute is my singing voice. I love singing as a siren of the sea!

Traci Hines Links:
official website
etsy shop (mermaid inspired accessories!)
cover channel
original music/vlogs/etc.
deviant art
twitter
facebook

Signe Pike’s Faery Tale

21 Apr

photo by Julie Rowe

So Signe Pike is a sweet and magical being who up and quit her  job in New York publishing to search for the world for fairies… and I mean in an awesome, adventurous, open-hearted manner and not a lame one. In case you were worried. The result was her absorbing, lyrical memoir, Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World that came out last fall. Signe also looks very marvelous whilst wearing white dresses and wandering about fields, as evidenced by the photo at left, and she makes a very awesome companion for one attending FaerieCon. Which she and I did together this past November, appearing on panels with Brian and Wendy Froud, showing up at masked Faerie Balls, and heading into Baltimore to get tattoos on hands and calves. As you do.

Our Q and A follows.

You travelled around the world searching for fairies for your book Faery Tale. Can you tell me about that? What prompted this journey?
Well, when I was a little girl, I took authors at their word when they said “Once upon a time.” In reading stories of mermaids, elves, dwarves, faeries and unicorns, and I always believed that in some distant era, perhaps so long ago that we have ceased to remember, that just maybe these creatures were real. As I got older, of course, I relegated my belief in the mythical to the nursery, like we all do. It took the unexpected death of my father to make me step back and examine my life – I found I had a lot of questions about the nature of human existence. Around that same time, I was living in Manhattan working in book publishing, and my friend Raven Keyes (who lived in my building) told me my apartment was absolutely FILLED with faeries. At first I thought she was just having a go at me. But no, she was deadly serious! Of course I didn’t believe her, but I found I was moved by the innocence in my friend’s belief and I thought, Hey, if I as a skeptic, went around interviewing people who still believed in faeries, and did everything they instructed me to, maybe I could present a more balanced point of view on the whole faery debate. People who believe in things the rest of us think are mythical are labeled whackos and geeks, or on a good day, just plain ridiculous. But maybe I could start at the beginning, put in the historical and travel research the topic required, and see what the story really was. I mean, we all just assume faeries don’t exist. But life is too short. Now I prefer to always ask myself, What if? Maybe all us grown-ups running around with our heads up our butts have been giving the poor faeries short shrift. And so my adventure began . . .

Did mermaids ever crop up in your travels?
No, and actually, I was surprised. Maybe it was because I was visiting land-locked areas like the English countryside. . . but then again, I did spend some time by the ocean on my journey as well. I think once the faeries heard I was on their trail, they were a bit possessive you know? They were probably like, “Shut up, mermaids, and get out of our face! This is OUR book.” And then the faeries pulled taught their bow and arrows, and the mermaids were like, “Darn! All we have are these silly tridents!” And so they had to give up.

How do you compare fairies and mermaids?
I think mermaids are the faeries of the sea. If faeries are earth spirits connected to the land — as many ancient peoples used to believe from Japanese to the Celts — it would make sense that there are different types of beings in different environments on our planet.

What do you think pulls us to these magical creatures? What do they mean for us?
Magical creatures entice, and when we’re lucky, can truly inspire our imaginations. Religion and the question of existence have loomed large for the human mind since we were painting on cave walls. We ask ourselves questions like, What happens when we die? Is there a God/gods? What are ghosts and do they exist? Because somewhere inside we have a kernel of hope in the possibility that there is something more to our lives than meets the eye. That’s what I wanted to investigate in Faery Tale. Because if I could find evidence that creatures like faeries exist, doesn’t that mean there is the potential for everything else? In my opinion, if there’s a god, if there are ghosts, then there are things that exist beyond our daily realm of sight, sound and touch. Maybe there are thing that to know, we just have to feel.

Do you think there is value in our cultivating of these beliefs?
Absolutely! Cultivating magical beliefs in children is especially important. As children, we are taught that anything is possible, and we are encouraged to believe – it helps feed our imaginations and makes the world such a wondrous place to play in. But we can’t apply the same principles to adults. As adults we have the opportunity, and I believe the responsibility, to investigate. Seeking proof, behaving in ways that better ourselves each day – these are the foundations on which we thoughtfully build our belief systems as we grow older, and ultimately, this is what makes belief have more meaning. I find people who don’t question, who accept anything without using their abilities to sort, test, and assess things in a logical way, pretty terrifying.

Do you think there is a spike in interest in the Fae right now, specifically — and if so, do you have any ideas as to why that would be?
I joke in the book that faeries come in and out of fashion just like shoulder pads. Perhaps not the best analogy, now that I consider it, because shoulder pads are hideous and probably should never be in fashion. But during the romantic era they became all the rage, and in our lifetimes we’ve seen a rolling resurgence that began in the late 60’s, faded in the 90’s, and is growing even stronger today. I think it’s interesting that during historic time periods when we began to focus more on the environment – like the romantic poets who were so inspired by their walks in the woods – or in the 1960’s when we first became aware of environmental implications with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – we see a resurgence in interest in faeries. Perhaps it’s the beauty and incredible sophistication of nature that inspires us to believe in magical things.

What do you think about mermaids, anyway?

Signe and yours truly at FaerieCon

I adore mermaids. If I were a better swimmer, I might think about writing my next book about them! I live in Charleston, South Carolina and sometimes when I’m on the beach alone, looking out at the ocean, I’ll see little bubbles within the atmosphere that seem to be swooping and hovering above the water. There have been times when I’m out at night near the ocean and I just feel so inexplicably drawn to the ocean – I just want to be in it, and it feels like the safest place in the world. It’s these subtle things, the real things we see and feel, that can lead me to investigate, or lead me to believe. The real life sort of magic is the magic I’m interested in.

Have you had any fan letters from any faeries or mermaids since writing Faery Tale?

Dana Mermaid reading Faery Tale

I have, actually! I’m really lucky in that I get really amazing notes from readers all the time, but just the other day I got a note today from Dana Mermaid. She’s a woman who lives in Hawaii and likes to swim with whales and dolphins, and she wrote me saying how much she loved the book. I went to her website and was totally thrilled watching the video of her powering through the ocean with her glorious man-made tail and flowy blond mermaid hair. I couldn’t believe Faery Tale swam all the way to Hawaii. Faeries don’t like getting wet. They leave that up to the mermaids. So that was a real honor.

Mermaid Melissa and Saving the World’s Oceans

19 Apr

So Mermaid Melissa is a professional mermaid – and everything else aquatic and oceanic – in Florida, where she spends so much time underwater that my lungs hurt just talking to her and I secretly suspect she might actually be a fish. Melissa can stay underwater for nearly five minutes on one breath, diving for pearls or gossiping with scary sea creatures or just generally undulating in mermaid fashion. And she is completely passionate about “saving the world’s oceans, before all creatures become mythical,” educating people at Sea World and in magazines and at events all over the place.

Just take a few deep breaths and read this gorgeous Q and A.

Have you always had an affinity for the ocean and ocean life?
I grew up in Florida and as a kid the beach was one of the only things exciting to do in a small town by Saint Augustine. This led to beach clean ups after school, and any excuse I could, I would do a write up, or class project on the ocean. Marineland was also a huge favorite location to visit with my annual pass, and this brought me closer to wildlife and marine animals.

When did you start performing as a mermaid?
Growing up I was always called a mermaid because if I wasn’t at a swim meet at school, I was at the beach, an aquarium, or in my pool at home, or I was talking about the ocean. In 2005 I started putting up underwater videos online and the response was overwhelming. I had been making home movies and skits of me and friends at the pool, imagining we lived underwater. So to see that others enjoyed the underwater performances that I was putting out there motivated me to push this venture further. Having confirmation that people enjoyed watching something I loved to do, allowed me to have an outlet to show others what I love to do! I do believe you do not need a mermaid tail to be an actual mermaid… we are all one at heart if the passion is there for it! My actual tail didn’t take shape till I was an adult… but the mermaid was always there inside of me. So it took little effort to transition to an actual tail.

As a mermaid, what message(s) do you bring to regular land-locked humans?

As a mermaid I have an outlet to express just how important it is to “Save our oceans before all creatures become mythical.” It’s a slogan I came up with, and code I live by. I often speak publicly about conservation in both my professional and personal life to educate the public about how everything we do can work for or against the future outcome of our planet. Changes in our daily habits can help over time. Especially when it comes to recycling, energy conservation, and going green.

Can you talk about your experiences at Sea World, training dolphins and killer whales? What did these creatures teach you? How has this experience changed you, if it did?
I have hands-on experience with animals such as killer whales, dolphins, fish, sharks, stingrays, exotic birds and animals from around the world. I was a trainer, diver, animal ambassador and public speaker during my time working at both Sea World and Discovery Cove. Educating the public daily for four to eight shows a day, with up to 7,000 guests per performance.

Some of my favorite moments were those with guests after shows, talking about my experiences during a special private interaction called Dine With Shamu. My passion for talking with guests more one-on-one led to my being asked to be transferred to Discovery Cove which allowed me to have daily interactions with about eight people at a time in the water, teaching them about dolphins and answering questions about how to protect animals, their habitats, and the ocean. A program called “Trainer for a day” gave me a chance to take guests on a fun all-day hands-on tour and behind-the-scenes look into how we care for, rehabilitate, train, and maintain a high level of care for each animal. Getting to share my life as a trainer and meet guests from around the world who have been wanting to do this all their lives was exciting for me, being able to help dreams come true by introducing them to animals they have always wanted to meet, touch, and play with.

Some of the best memories I have are the bonds with both co-workers and the animals. The career field is not a 9 to 5 type of job, but more of a 24-7 life style… and it is life changing! You walk away every day learning more from the animals than you do from training them. One of the most popular questions I get is, “Can the whales and dolphins tell you apart?” The answer is, yes! It becomes clear whom they have the strongest bonds with, whom they will do things for and whom they won’t, and when you walk by them, whom the dolphin is following because they love that person. Each animal is very unique and has their own personality. There is so much we have yet to learn from all animals… I watched as sharks were being trained to follow targets, and people were allowed to touch a shark who could stay still and had been trained to sit on the lap on a person in the water… If this is possible, who knows what else we can achieve with a little more creative thinking! I remain working for Sea World as an underwater entertainer to this day and plan on staying with them for years to come!

I read that you perform in an underwater lagoon tank. Can you tell me about that?
One of my jobs has been as an underwater performer. As a professional pearl diver, I have no breathing apparatus or tubes, no weight belt, and am completely relying on the power and strength of my lungs to hold my breath from two to five minutes at a time. This is an ancient art that pearl divers have been practicing for generations. The unique skill is mastered over time, and most people have been trained to do this from a lifetime of swimming and long history of being very athletic. The lagoon is viewable by all guest who visit the park, and is about fourteen feet deep, with three giant viewing windows. Guest are encouraged to come watch as we free dive for oysters with real pearls inside. They can stay as long as they like and go right up to the viewing windows for pictures, to interact, and watch tricks that I love to do such as bubble rings, flips, and other skills that I find to entertain the kids at the glass. This is actually my favorite job of all at Sea World. It allows me to talk and interact with guests, perform at the glass, and be underwater swimming for eight to twelve hours thoughout the day!

How do people on the outside typically respond to you?
People who see me on the other side of the glass have all types of reactions. Usually they want photos and then try to get me to go up for air, which I don’t need much of so I get a kick out of reading their lips and responding back talking to them underwater in various actions or having them read my lips as well. There are some people who do not believe we are even real or that we are really in water. You wouldn’t believe some of the responses I get and how people cannot believe that someone is able to sit at the bottom of the lagoon on one breath of air and also do up to twenty bubble rings on a single breath as well. During the shows at Shamu, I enjoyed swimming to the glass and jumping down into the audience and giving the guest high fives as I ran through the aisles to try and let the kids have a chance to interact with me as much as possible… even if it meant running all the way up into the second section and reaching tho the center of that section. There was a time when that was me as a child sitting in that very stadium wishing I could meet a trainer, so I know what that is like to watch and want that connection with both whales and trainers.

Were you a diver before you were a mermaid, or vice versa? How does wearing a mermaid tail affect your diving (if it does)?
I have been swimming and free diving my entire life. I got PADI SCUBA certified in 2005. So I was a professional swimmer before I was a pro mermaid. Having a mermaid tail is a lot difference than free diving or performing without tail. You do have a lot more freedom as a performer without a tail. When I have a mermaid tail on, it is a completely different feeling and I do enjoy the speed and grace and the way you react differently as you glide through the water. It’s the closest I can get to being connected to what it would be like as a dolphin or creature of the sea, so I love it! Legs or not, I just love being underwater.

What do you think of mermaids’ rising popularity, and the growing popularity of “mermaiding” generally?
It’s a great sign that people are into what you are pursuing and as they say, “imitation is the best form of flattery!” I can only imagine how many more will join once the new Pirates of the Caribbean 4 movie featuring mermaids comes out, lol! I just hope they find me and we can all stay in touch! Any fan of mermaids, the ocean, animals, diving, or saving our planet is a friend of mine!

What is the allure of mermaids, anyway?
It’s the mystery of what could be, and the beauty of half woman/half fish, that brings out the sci-fi wonder in all of us! So many videos that are out about mermaids ask the big question, “Are they real or are mermaids fake?” In the end to me it’s not about justifying it one way or another but about having something fun to believe in and applying it to your life in a fun and positive way. The more people are exposed to the idea and concept of being a mermaid, the more I believe it will continue to grow around the world.

Do you have any advice for fans of your work or aspiring mermaids?
Be unique and dare to be different. Do not ride off the mer-tails of others because people will see that you are simply imitating another. Challenge yourself to find something you can call your own!

All my success in in life is from self motivation, drive, and putting in the hard work. If you want something badly enough in life, don’t expect others to do it for you. Get out there and make a difference. Get involved in a great cause, find out what you love, and help our planet and the people we love in it! Work your way up in what you pursue and prove yourself. Only then will life reward you with people putting their trust into what you represent, knowing you’re reliable and giving you your deserved moments to shine!

What type of mermaid projects are you currently working on and what can we expect from you in the months to come?

Melissa is on newsstands worldwide featured in FAEs 2011 spring issue

This summer is going to be very busy! I have a mermaid gig that I will be dedicated to for almost four months on location. Other projects include mermaiding soon in the waters off the coasts of Jamaica, Mexico, & Haiti. You can imagine all the stories and environmental issues I’ll be taking on while traveling the world and performing as a mermaid full time. Also, after a successful story was published in the Spring 14 issue of FAE magazine, a relationship with the team formed, and I was recently asked to join them in a new project, Mermaids & Mythology Magazine. When they asked me to join the magazine as a regular columnist I jumped at the chance. I support the growth of the mermaid community and hope those that read about us mermaids will find out so much more than they had ever expected! I plan on going in depth and speaking up on the issues I have seen with my own eyes from swimming the oceans and being around so many aquatic creatures. I am a strong believer that a positive light can be shined on the otherwise dreary topics of environmental issues we face, and that we can find fun new ways to explore how we can all make a difference… one small gesture or action at a time.

Most of the details of projects I have in the works are unable to be discussed till they have fully developed… but I will be anxiously waiting for those moments to share behind the scenes stories, pictures, and my true thoughts on my adventures that will be shared with publications like FAE Magazine, Mermaids & Mythology Magazine, blogs for Waterproof Cards (which has a great recyclable ECO-friendly company that’s big on protecting our oceans), and of course staying in touch with I Am A Mermaid to share the latest and greatest things happening over the next busy summer months [you can also keep up with Melissa on her Facebook page]! So much love to you and all the other mer-folk out there from around the world!

Lisa Clark and Sassy Mermaid Sorcery

14 Apr

So Lisa Clark is a very sassy, minxy fun-loving retro enchantress in England who writes many sparkling books and blogs including Pink World!, the Sassy Minx (where she interviewed yours truly a couple years back) and the Sassy Sorceress. Lisa is all about girl/goddess power and gorgeousness and explains her own sassy sorcery as “every-day, feel-good magic that will elevate your mood, change the way you see yourself, and help you to improve every aspect of your life including your health, relationships, finances, and peace of mind – it’s a mixture o’ magick, womanly arts, goddess goodness all tied up in a retro rockabilly bow… ” Lisa even teaches e-courses to help girls channel their inner goddesses and “create awesomeness on an epic scale.”

So who better to ask about the ultimate magical goddess figure, the mermaid, and share with us a bit of mermaid magic?

Our shimmering, pink-tinged Q and A follows.

I know you are all about girls being fun and sassy and fearless. How do – or can – mermaids fit into that?
Hell yeah, Mermaids rock! These beautiful magickal girls o’ wonder are the perfect-o example o’ sass, fun and fearlessness – in stories from every culture the mermaid is a powerful feminine presence, not a lovesick little girl. They’re fascinating and beautiful, they’re temptresses who are able to bewitch members o’ boykind with their charm and song and are able to calm storms at sea as well as sink ships and drag sailors to a watery grave. They’re kick-ass.

Are you ever inspired by mermaids yourself – in your writing or advice giving or general inspirationalness? =)
I am obsess-o about mermaids, that’s why I’m so excited about your book, Miss C! I heart the water, and fancy myself as a bit of a burlesque-y mermaid girl myself. I think the mermaid is an important feminine archetype – alluring and sensuous, independent and courageous, self-assured and heroic. They are as complex and various as human women, often helpful but sometimes harmful. Everyone who honours femininity as intelligent and spiritual, as well as sexual and beautiful, will find mermaids an inspirational role model.

How can a girl incorporate mermaidl-y allure into her look and life?
Everyone knows that mermaids are the divas o’ the deep. Their supernatural allure means they’re irresistible to human folk, you can use mermaid magick to to give your own beauty a boost…

Mirrors are associated with mermaids who were known for their gorgeous hair and were often painted brushing it. This simple beauty ritual will help you get in touch with your inner mermaid and shine.

You will need:
4 drops of essential lavender oil
Small bowl of fresh water
1 hand held mirror
1 comb

• Add the drops of lavender to the water and stir. Take the mirror in one hand and gaze into it. Smile and watch as it lights up your face. Notice how fabulous and you-nique you are.
• Now dip the comb into the water and begin to comb your hair. Say, ‘Mermaid diva deep inside, do not shelter, do not hide. Release your power, help me shine, from this moment on in time.’
• Keep combing until every strand is covered in scented water. Admire your reflection and recognise your inner beauty. It’s a good idea to keep the mirror separate from your every day beauty essentials. Wrap it in black silk, and whenever you need to feel good, take it out and do the ritual, or just take some time gazing into its depths – hey, good lookin’!

Can you tell me about your magical work with mermaids?
I use mermaid energy to connect with my own Inner Mermaid, my own source of the ‘wild feminine’. I work with some mermaid goddesses who can be invoked to assist me in love, sexuality, prosperity, inspiration and creativity, I work with lunar mermaid magic which engages the energy of the moon’s cycles to power-up my rituals for super-powerful results – I have a mermaid altar, I’ve made a mermaid necklace and weave the presence and magic of mermaids into the daily fabric of my life. I heart mermaids – can you tell?!

Who is Yemaya and how do you work with her?
Yemaya is a West African goddess, often depicted as a beautiful mermaid. She is associated with the moon, the ocean and female mysteries.

The cowrie shell is Yemaya’s symbol, and there is a Brazilian tradition that on December 31, you light candles on the beach at midnight for Yemaya. Votive boats made from flowers are cast into the sea. If she accepts your boat and carries it out to sea, it’s a good omen. It’s a bad omen if your offering is refused, and your boat is washed back upon the shore.

You can invoke Yemaya for blessings, compassion, wisdom, fertility, creation, riches, inspiration, motherhood, female power, natural wealth, love spells, wish magic, sea spells, fertility rituals, water magic, women’s issues, having children, sustaining life, washing away sorrow, revealing mysteries, acquiring ancient wisdom, protecting the home, learning not to give your power away, and comforting children in crisis. To ask Yemaya to grant me a wish or bestow a blessing, I write her a letter and cast it into the sea.

Any favorite mermaid stories/music/movies/art, etc.?

The Illustrated Mermaid, David Delamare

Well, I love a goddess-y mermaid – Venus was said to have risen from the sea on an open shell, and is often depicted holding an apple, presented to her by Paris, to signify her beauty above all others. The mirror and comb, which are common mermaid symbols, are also said to have originated from Venus. African mythology also has its own water and mermaid goddesses, Yemaya, who is my own personal favourite. Yemaya, meaning ‘Mother whose children are like fishes’, is known under many other names, and rules the waters of the world. Without her, nothing else can live.

I HEART Dame Darcy’s paper mermaid [read this blog's interview with Dame Darcy here] and David Delamare, a UK fantasy artist, has painted the most beautiful tattooed mermaid, which frankly, is my kinda girl – I was given it for my birthday and it is my most favourite thing!

Do you have any other mermaidly thoughts you’d like to share?
I heart Mermaids. Fact.

Rona Berg and Mermaidly Beauty

13 Apr

So Rona Berg is an exceptionally fabulous lady authoress and beauty expert whom I met some years back at the Pulpwood Queen’s Book Club’s Girlfriend Weekend, a yearly event in East Texas where tons of authors and readers gather, adorn themselves with sparkle and leopard print, and talk about literary matters when not attending Hair Balls or eating barbecue. It’s just the kind of festival where you’d incongruously meet a beauty expert like Rona, former beauty editor of The New York Times Magazine and bestselling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes, and end up dancing in a honkytonk with her and a few other ne’er-do-wells in the wee hours of the morning.

But that’s a whole other story.

So Rona, are you a fan of mermaids?
I have always been drawn to mermaids, they are the most elegant mutts in the world.

What do you think the allure of mermaids is?
Mermaids have a twinkly, incandescent quality–it’s the sparkle in their scales, the luminescent skin, the glossy hair, and the gleam in their eyes. Obviously, they need to really shine in order to find each other down in the deep, but it is incredibly seductive.

How can regular humans and/or secret mermaids acquire that mermaid allure?
Good skincare, of course, to get that glow! And makeup! A luminizer, applied on the cheekbones and under the arch of the brows. An eyeshadow palette with some shimmer. Waterproof mascara! And from the inside, a joie de vire, and I’d like to say healthy living, but who knows what really goes on down there.

Can you recommend any specific products you find especially mermaidly?
Living Luminizer by RMS Beauty, Mystikol Eyeliner + Highlighter (Malachite) by Jane Iredale, Satin Sheets Eye Shadow by HoneyBee Gardens.

What about accessories?
Rhinestones come to mind, but that would be too trashy. I think it would have to be opals, they have an iridescence and an inner life to them. Opals are very mysterious and deep, like mermaids.

What can a human mermaid do to protect her skin and hair from these harsh earthly elements? Sunscreen, everyday, like brushing your teeth. Botanical based moisturizer–look for something ocean-harvested, with seaweed or algae extracts, it tightens up the skin and softens any tiny lines. And apply leave-in conditioner to the hair, if it’s dry.

How does an aspiring mermaid keep herself in check when there’s so much glitter and shimmer about?
Resist.

Do you have any other advice for aspiring mermaids?
That’s quite enough!

Jerilyn Winstead’s AquaTails

11 Apr

So Jerilyn Winstead is a lovely mermaid from Colorado, with two mermaid children (and two human ones) and a company called AquaTails that might just be becoming a mer-conglomerate. Jerilyn and her team not only makes fabric and neoprene tails but also host mermaid camps, throw mermaid parties and events, and put out e-newsletters and how-to books for aspiring mermaids and mermen (a how-to book is in the works, anyway). They’ll have a strong presence at the first mermaid convention this August in Las Vegas, and were responsible for training the Mystic Mermaids at the Denver Aquarium. That is right, you can go to the aquarium and see mermaids swimming alongside massive sea creatures. Watch this:

I know. You can go check out other mermaid videos at AquaTails’ site.

On top of everything else, Jerilyn also writes plenty about mermaidly topics, like for example her picks for the top ten mermaid movies and how to throw a mermaid party and her thoughts on mermaiding….

But before you become too overwhelmed, here’s our Q and A.

When and how did you get interested in “mermaiding”?
I grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, near the ocean, so the ocean was already in my blood. When I was in my 20s, I was very involved in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), a medieval re-enactment group. While in that group I came up with the idea of making a mermaid costume I could swim in. I spoke of it to two other ladies, and we all decided to make tails. However, right after that, I got pregnant with my first child (I was newly married), so the dream of being a mermaid was put off. I had four kids in quick succession. About thirteen years later, my two girls (my two eldest), discovered mermaids on YouTube, including Hannah Mermaid [read this blog's interview with Hannah here!]. They showed it to me, and I told them about my old dream. They got very excited and encouraged me to make tails for all three of us. So I did. We became mermaids and swam in our summer pool for two years, and were even in our local newspaper.

Is mermaiding a new phenomenon? Have you seen an increase in people interested in mermaiding over the last few years, and or/ in mermaids generally?
Yes, most definitely. However, mermaid swim tails have been around for a couple of decades, but just now it is really taking off. I wonder if it has taken off partly because Finis started selling their monofin, and people realized by adding fabric a swimmer looks like a mermaid, or if it’s more due to the influence of Hannah Mermaid, or a combination of many factors.

Can you tell me about AquaTails?
I started AquaTails in late 2009, and opened my online store in March of 2010. Our shop has been open for almost a year now. My eldest daughter, now fourteen, came up with the name of AquaTails – she’s a creative artist herself.

People saw me mer-swimming (I’ve changed the name to include men), and kept encouraging me to start a business and sell the tails, so that everyone could have one. I thought about it for a while, then decided to go for it. It has been quite an adventure, starting a home business, venturing into a brand new field, and continuing to raise my children, care for our home, etc. My children now range in age from nine to fourteen years old. My girls love merswimming.

What are your mermaid camps like?
Basically we have three levels of mer-swimming technique, and the camp will be like an intensive (we haven’t launched the camps yet). Most likely all swimmers will pass their level by the end of the camp. Also included will be free mer-swimming time, as well as mermaid fun & games. The swimmers will start learning how to choreograph their own unique mermaid moves. We have held a mermaid swim class in north Denver, and hope to continue with classes and expand into camps and birthday parties.

What is the AquaFriends Mermaid Club?
We’ve made it so that everyone can afford a mermaid tail! When you join our mermaid club, you basically pay a low monthly subscription, based on which tail you like, and once a year you get a brand new tail! There are also great benefits to being an AquaFriend:  a portion of your monthly subscription goes to supporting ocean charities, and you will get a regular e-newsletter for members only with fun articles and letting you know where your money is being donated. Also, every year with your mermaid tail you get a free accessory, a birthday gift from AquaTails to you! We will be building our own special mermaid pod with our club members, it’s really fun.

Have you always been attracted to mermaids?
I’ve always been attracted to fantasy. I grew up reading Narnia and Lord of the Rings and such. I collected unicorns in high school. Later, after I was married, I missed the ocean of my youth and started identifying with the mermaid, and started collecting figurines, paintings, etc.

How would you explain their allure?
To children, it’s the allure of fantasy and the magical worlds such as Narnia and Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

To adults, there is a sensual nature also added to the allure of the fantasy.

If you read William Bond’s book and blog, “Mermaids are Real,” you will discover the origin of the mermaid in history. It’s quite possible that this, our own sensual sea-maid history, is also calling out to us.

Can you tell me about your work with the Mystic Mermaids at the Denver Aquarium?
When I first started my business and my store wasn’t even online yet, I called the Denver Aquarium out of the blue and proposed to the owner the idea of having mermaids in the aquarium. It turned out that he was already wanting mermaids there! So we came up in February, 2010 and performed a demo, and it was the first time any of our team had mermaided in salt water before! Their tank is so full of salt that I was completely buoyant, I used up all my air just trying to get a few feet underwater, lol! That’s when I learned that some swimmers are natural “floaters” and some are natural “sinkers”. The Sinkers can easily go under no matter what and they can even hover in the water – it is amazing. Unfortunately, I am a Floater, so it is a struggle for me to get myself down, and when I do, I quickly surface again.

But it was an amazing experience and the onlookers, mostly children, just squealed in delight! In this visit we quickly shot our first photo shoot and videos which we used to help launch our website.

Scot Hulgan, the owner called us back in March and wanted to see a second demo. We went up and swam again. This time we used goggles because without them, we were so blind we could not see the people through the window well enough to interact with them. This visit I had our newest team member, Mermaid Nicole, present, who did wonderfully. (She had auditioned for Weeki Wachee, but then moved away after she received a call-back.)

As a business owner, and living an hour away from Denver, I was extremely busy getting my shop up and running. So the aquarium’s dive director, Todd Hall, decided to work in-house. They spent several months training their own employees, working very hard, then they launched their mermaid show in June 2010. They perform three ten-minute shows a day, seven days a week. It is a fun show and well worth a visit!

What will you be doing there? What can people expect in general?
Watch out, I always have unusual ideas up my sleeve. This year at the first mermaid convention, besides having a vendor table, we will be hosting a Mermaid Movie Room (come and see the rare black & white classic, “Mr. Peabody and the Mermai”) as well as the beginnings of a Mermaid Underwater Playland. The Playland is for all mer-people of all ages. We will add to it every year. This year see how many Lava Hoops you can swim through in one breath and search for treasure in the Seaweed Forest. There is also a rumor that AquaTails will be selling a special mermaid drink at their vendor table…  Anyone who is a member of the AquaTails Mermaid Club at the convention will receive one or more free prizes as well.

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Yes, believe in yourself, anything is possible! And come to Vegas and meet other merfolk from around the world! It’s going to be amazing!

Layne Maheu and the Half-Land Half-Sea Beauty

8 Apr

Yes, Layne is handsome and rugged and can build things out of wood

So I met Layne Maheu about five years ago, when we were both at Book Expo in DC for our first books. His was about a bird, mine about a trapeze girl wearing wings, which made/makes us practically soulmates. And by “about a bird” I mean that Layne’s book, Song of the Crow, is about a crow, who narrates the book and tells the story of Noah’s Ark.

It’s not nothing, writing a novel from the perspective of a bird.

Listen:

“Fly off!

“Fly!”

It was our mother. But from where? Where? Who could tell with the wind chasing her calls?

I saw her, a few trees away. She appeared on one branch, then another, then in an altogether different tree. But it was just the yes and no of the wind heaving her perch and whipping her feathers into a confusion of leaves. Why didn’t she swoop onto the nest and stuff food into us?

“Fly!” she kept calling.

“Fly!”

So what choice did we have? Though I’d never left the deep of the nest, I reluctantly climbed up to the fatal jump. There was no way we could survive it, but Our Many must have known there was no way we’d survive the falling of Our Giant either. And to die at least trying, even though you couldn’t fly yet, was a way to fly off to the Tree of the Dead. Any death before that was no death at all, but only a quick flight into whatever fate befell you—flies and maggots and stiff feathers and dust. The only way to become a true crow was to fly. Until then you were nothing, without a name; flying was all.

As you can see, it’s a strange, gorgeous novel that you should read immediately.

So as I’ve clearly demonstrated, Layne knows something about imagining other worlds and alien perspectives, and is kind of (awesomely) weird as well as being rugged and handsome and gentlemanly enough to snowshoe with winter-sport-challenged authoresses on snowy Vermont literary festival excursions, when everyone else was off obnoxiously skiing and said authoress did not want to die.

For this reason it seemed only natural for him to meditate on the mermaid, which he graciously does below.

Half-land, Half-Sea Beauty
by your friend, Layne

I like mermaids like I like walking along the beach or looking out over the ocean on a weathery day. It’s strange to look out over the sea, and know that, under its waves, it is completely uninhabitable to you. Left on your own, you would die out there, in the cold sea currents and the briney green bubbles, within a matter of minutes.

And so, I like the notion of a half-human, half-sea creature, living down under the waves, especially one with obvious overtones of sex and tragedy.

Life from the sea is so different from us. It’s strange to think that a certain type of vegetarian won’t eat a bunny or a rabbit or a chicken, but will eat a fish. Perhaps because the land creature has things like eyes and feelings and babies and a heart. And land animals have these things in ways we can recognize. But life in the sea is so alien to us. It’s harder to empathize with a fish. Even though I’ve read that fish have feelings and a complicated social life and a good memory, still, these qualities just don’t translate. So, if you put a sea creature on the plate of a certain type of vegetarian, the pesca-tarian will eat the fish/crustacean/mollusk without compunction.

We just don’t get it—the life of a fish.

There’s something too different about them—such complete otherness—they’re cold, they’re scaly, they’re slimy, they’re wet. They’re smelly.  In a way they seem more foreign to us than plants. Yet, every human, every mammal, begins its life in the salt water of its momma’s belly. We start out just like a fish. So I think there is a yearning in us, a psychic desire in the DNA of our imaginations, to envision the Mermaid:

the half-land, half-sea beauty.

She swims up and sings to us between these two worlds, where our desire can go no further upon the shore.

Raina the Halifax Mermaid

7 Apr

So I came across the glamorous Raina the Halifax Mermaid (who’s known in her human guise as Stephanie) on Facebook, which has been instrumental in bringing together mermaids from around the world and cementing “mermaiding” culture. And you thought Facebook was just a way to cheat on your spouse with your high school crush!  But really, the only way to be a mermaid a couple of decades ago, before you could buy realistic-looking tails and before you could go online to find your tribe, was to head to Weeki Wachee or star in a mermaid film. Now there’s a whole mermaid culture out there, with men and women wearing tails, taking to the waters and embracing their more magical selves. Raina is a gorgeous example, and, like many mermaids, she’s committed to ocean conservation and education. Not to mention general sparkling gorgeousness and the well placed rhinestone.

Our Q and A follows.

You say on Facebook that you’ve always been “inspired by mermaids and seeing other young women use a mermaid identity as a way to educate and bring joy to others.” What women inspired you to embrace your own mermaid identity?
Like many young women I was inspired by Hannah Fraser [read this blog's interview with Hannah here]. I sort of always knew I wanted to make something like this happen but not until the internet opened up my world did I believe it  to be possible. When I found Hannah I really resonated with her. I am also a musician, model, photographer, and an artist. I always felt like I had a “lot going on” and being a mermaid was a great way to streamline those interests
Hannah was proof of that. I did some scoping for buying a tail and came across the Annette Kellermen story and wow what a lady! She was really the first person to be a mermaid and she really broke down walls for women just by wearing the type of bathing suit she wore and being so well known for her swimming in a time when women were considered not equal and any good thing they did was always attributed to the man in her life. Suddenly being a mermaid didn’t just speak to the artist or activist in me… it spoke to my feminist core and the wheels started turning!

How does that identity differ from your regular, human one?
Stephanie is a student teacher who has wicked bad health problems, a bit of emotional baggage, not the bravest in the bunch, pretty clumsy, and feels stifled creatively on a regular basis.  Raina on the other hand is calm and collected. She’s graceful and focused on her goals and under the water her health rarely holds her back. Raina gives me a confidence I’ve never really known and the ability to share so much with so many. Through Raina I’ve met and made more real friends then I ever did as Stephanie and perhaps that’s because Raina is just an outward expression of my true inner-self. The gap between the two is closing though and Raina and Stephanie are becoming one and the same. I’m starting to realize it’s not the fin that makes the mermaid- it’s her spirit!

Have you always loved mermaids?
I grew up in an abusive home and was very separated from the outside world.  I only really had a younger sister and our imaginations. The year she was born the Little Mermaid came out. While most people resonated with the love story I always projected my feelings about abuse on the movie. Ariel’s father yelled at her and was mean (in my eyes) and scary. Yet she still found the courage to break away from him and do something for herself that no one ever felt possible. I clung to that as a child. Fairy-tales were my escape. I saw Splash some years later and like many mers out there it inspired me as well. Mermaids seemed so brave and willing to venture out into the unknown. My love for mermaids went hand in hand with my love of the sea.

How did it feel to put on a tail for the first time? What’s it like swimming in a tail?
I have two tails currently. The first one is made of stretch vinyl and was equipped with two swim fins. I had been VERY sick prior to that and was quite nervous about trying to swim in it. I started big
with a lake! But was a bit of a wimp so believe it or not I put on the tail AND a life jacket ha! I pushed myself off the dock and had a mini heart attack as the tail filled with water. It wasn’t long before I got the hang of it but it didn’t look like what I’d seen online and didn’t feel like how I expected it to. Mostly I just swam using my arms dragging the tail behind me. It was great for photos but really shows the difference material and a monofin can make. My next tail was a Mertailor tail [read this blog's interview with the Mertailor here] that was the result of a lot of financial donations from other artists.  I used my first tail as a practice tail and was eager to try out my mertailor one. What a job it was getting inside of it! I think I swam 3 times in it before I realized how to actually put my feet in the monofin. Unfortunately the tail didn’t fit and it would be almost a year before mermaid Raven of Merbellas was able to add an extension piece to it so that I didn’t end up swimming out of it. Once that was all together, after years of failed attempts, I went for my first real swim with a tail that worked and fit… and my mind was blown! It took a few sessions to get the dolphin kick down seeing as I’m from a climate that is only warm enough for outdoor swimming two months out of the year… but I’ve been practicing as much as I can in indoor pools and I’m excited to get it to the lakes and oceans this summer.

How do people react to you as a mermaid?
Before and after my tail “fin lift” as I call it, people were always amazed by how realistic it was. As I am not from a warm climate people have never ever seen anything like this before and they always do a double take. Adults behave like kids and run up to feel it without even introducing themselves and if I pull the “oh that tickles” trick on them they actually react as if they were embarrassed they tickled me. Children believe almost instantly and I rarely have any say ‘that’s not real’ and I think part of that is due to the Mertailor’s fluke design and the ability I have to move it in a wave motion through the monofin. It always positive and mostly shock!

I understand that you educate people about ocean related ecology issues. Can you tell me about this?
I am a student teacher and one of the things I do with Raina is work on ways to make connections to our local curriculum. Where I am from becoming a teacher takes two degrees and I am in my sixth year of university with one more to go so I’ve had a LOT of time to decide what I feel is important. On a local level we have the second biggest harbour in the world and it’s had raw sewage pumped into it for 100 years! We recently installed a treatment plant that broke shortly after and is hopefully back up and running for good. We do a lot to create a green environment on land and despite the city campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of not dumping things down the drains that lead to the harbour people really do have a mentality of “it’s not a big deal the sea will wash it away”.  This is a mindset I really want to break. In addition as the East Coast of Canada is central with fishing and so much livelihood is based around it I think it’s essential people understand the devastation that can be caused to the sea and our way of life from over fishing and inappropriate fish farms. Everything comes back to the ocean. Everything originates from the ocean. People need to understand that cycle and respect the balance. It’s easy to ignore an add on TV or a sign on the street… it’s not easy to ignore a beautiful mermaid begging you to take care of her home!

Is there any kind of mermaid tradition in Halifax, where you live?
Halifax is a sea faring community. We have graves here from Titanic victims, ghost stories of pirates and rum runners and the occasional story of mers through legends and literature. Every year Halifax adopts an icon of sorts that local artist’s paint. The icons are then placed around the city during peak tourist season and afterward auctioned off for charity. We’ve featured dolphins, lobsters, and my favourite: mermaids!  We have a Mermaid Theatre, bars with mermaid imagery, and a Mermaid and the Cow campground!

And finally, what advice do you have for aspiring mermaids?
Start with a practice tail that has a monofin. It’ll be less expensive and let you figure out of it’s something worth investing in. Don’t concentrate so much on trying to stay underwater forever (I have a small lung capacity so I cant) and doing the tricks you see other lovely mers do… recognize they took years to get that way and access to tails 24/7. Start small and allow yourself to grow. It takes time to discover your mermaid identity.  Remember to flow like the waves and allow the tide to wash old things away and bring in new things for your experiences and personality. Don’t just pretend to be the mermaid… BE the mermaid. :)

Mermaid Songs and the Magnetic Fields

5 Apr

So as you may know, the Magnetic Fields are one of the best bands in existence. I mean listen:

I know. A love letter to Billie Holiday! And that somber, somber voice! I would dazzle you with more samples but I don’t want to overwhelm you with that plus what  follows. Instead I will tell you how I knew that there were occasional  random mermaid references in Magnetic Fields’ songs, and then discovered that Stephin Merritt did a whole album of songs to accompany a show based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. It’s called My Life as a Fairy Tale, after Hans’ own autobiography. Songs like “The Ballad of the Snow Queen” and “The Little Maiden of the Sea.” That is when I knew for sure something I had long suspected: that Stephin Merritt is my one true love. Except for the whole him-being-gay part.

Look at these lyrics:

the little maiden of the sea
was not at all like you and me
where we have legs she was a fish
and she could only say:

“I wish…
I wish I were not incomplete
I wish I had some dainty feet,”

you see, one day she’d met a prince
and she’d been pining ever since
(the little maiden of the sea)

she’d gain her own immortal soul
if she became the prince’s wife
she autovivisected
whole, she walked! each step was like a knife
a knife into her dainty feet
and she could neither speak nor sing
but surely, now she was complete
her prince would think of marrying
the little maiden of the sea

he married someone else, of course
and, saying nothing, she went home
then something turned, by mystic force
the little maiden into foam

I know. You can buy My Life as a Fairy Tale here.

So of course I emailed Stephin Merritt and bandmate Claudia Gonson and asked many, many penetrating and mermaidly questions. Their answers follow.

Admit that this is the coolest interview ever.

STEPHIN

You’ve mentioned how mermaids are much more common in folk songs than pop songs. Why do you think this is?
Well, pop lyrics are generally bland, rhythmic and repetitive, intended only to make a drumbeat seem meaningful, and rarely involve characters, let alone stories. Whereas folk songs, which are usually presented with paltry instrumentation and no production to speak of, naturally turn to character and story to keep the listener engaged.

In a pop song, if you sing “I love you and your pretty tail,” you may be limiting your audience in unintended ways without actually evoking the mermaid you meant.

Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid story is so dark, so sad, so strange. Had you been familiar with the story before approaching it for “My Life as a Fairy Tale”? What do you think of the story and of Hans Christian Andersen generally?
I first read Andersen in college alongside the Grimms and Aesop, in which context he did not seem especially dark or strange, but definitely sad, since he so clearly identifies with the profound isolation of his protagonists, particularly heroines. Adults who have not read him tend to think of him as a teller of sweet little tales for children, but he’s actually closer to Kafka, and often Poe, than to Beatrix Potter. At least half his stories, including all the famous ones, are bitterly tragic. His little mermaid mutilates her body, becomes mute, and cross-dresses for the prince who marries someone else, whereupon she returns to the sea, and is so sad she is transmuted into foam, and then into a sort of wisp in purgatory, where if she flies into your room and you are naughty, her time of labor is increased.

It seems to me like the little mermaid story (and in fact most of HCA’s stories) very much resonates with your themes of loneliness and alienation and sadness, etc. How did you find yourself connecting to these stories and themes (if you did)?
I’d say it’s a gay thing. Apparently Andersen began writing the story the day after his best friend got married.

“Better Things” seems like it could have come from a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, too. Can you talk about this song a little?
“I was made for better things, dearie,” seems like the sort of thing a fishwife would say. I was picturing a dowdy, cantankerous mermaid complaining about the weather to someone, maybe a little human girl she has taken to her little rocky outcropping, not understanding the girl is dead. That sort of thing.

How would you explain the allure of mermaids generally? Are you yourself susceptible to this allure?
I think straight men like the idea of women with all the knockers and none of the complicated parts. I can’t think of any mythical creature with the opposite way round. Personally I’m not into the knockers either, so it’s all about the outfits. But I’m very fond of Aquaman. Undersea humanoids have the best hair.

Ciao
SM

CLAUDIA

I read somewhere that you pretended to be Polynesian mermaid goddess when experimenting with sounds for Eternal Youth. And I was wondering what do Polynesian mermaid goddesses sound like? And how do you make that sound?
I guess like a siren would sound? Clear, enchanting, sad, watery.

When Stephin first met me I had an unfortunate tic of trying to sing like David Bowie. I had this strong wobbly vibrato. He instantly set to work to get me to sing with as little affect as possible, with a clear, bell-like tone. Like, Astrud Gilberto. I suppose that is the Polynesian mermaid goddess sound. Also, I should say, as 20-somethings we traveled around the country obsessively searching for tiki bars, and visiting a good number. Sadly, most are torn down now. So, it wasn’t that I was trying to sound particularly like a Polynesian mermaid goddess, whatever that would be, but more that I was getting into the spirit of one, which was our tiki bar fantasy. This gave me some sort of inspiration, to do some sort of vocal thing.

Are mermaids a source of inspiration to you?
No, I wouldn’t say mermaids per se, although I do love Tiki Bars (which sometimes have mermaidy themes), and I’m obsessed with the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, which I dutifully attend every year. The Mermaid Parade is my idea of heaven. Mostly because it’s such a hilarious sociological scene, literally everyone is there and it’s very odd how they are all mixed together- cool Manhattan/Williamsburg hipsters, crazy old beach bums, old Italian macho dudes, gay party boys and girls, families with little kids dressed in mermaid clothes, gangsta rappers… you name it. I find it completely chaotic and hilarious. It would never work in Manhattan; It’s too weirdly geeky. The way they are all parading around dressed like mermaids.

What is your take is on Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid – and on Stephin’s take on it? =) Had you long been familiar with this story, and/or were you surprised by how weird and dark it is?
Eep- Not prepared. I defer to Stephin’s very astute reading. But, yes, I am always surprised by the late 19th century/early 20th century’s darkness when it comes to fairy tales, even Mother Goose. They were, I suppose, meant to be learning lessons for little people with burgeoning (yet still sublimated) sexuality. And Freud was just around the corner.

How would you explain the allure of mermaids generally? Are you yourself susceptible to this allure?
Actually I find the whole mermaid mythology a bit hard to swallow sometimes. It’s a feminist thing. Often the stories are about lack of empowerment, and seem to fuel some sort of sex fantasy – there’s this helpless gorgeous half-naked fish, who is trapped outside of the ocean and the handsome dude must save her. etc. In fact recently I stumbled across an irritating YouTube video in which the band dude finds a mermaid in a cave and rescues her and puts her back into the sea. Of course she’s helpless, gorgeous, and elusive. She won’t hold you down because she has to go. The perfect chick.

Have you ever secretly suspected you might have some mermaid in you?
Um Um Um. Well, I had really long hair for the first quarter century of my life. Does that count? No, actually I don’t really have the mermaid spirit I don’t think. My spirit animal is the otter. I see myself as having whiskers and being kind of thick and full of nice protective blubber and lying around on my back in the ocean, bobbing about, eating oysters while drifting along. That said, I do have a mad passion for the ocean. I can stay in it for hours and am an obsessive floater. Once in my youth I fell asleep floating in the ocean and woke up a mile down the beach, to find a row of very concerned people standing at the shore, staring at me. My favorite thing, which is quite mermaidy, is to swim just beyond the breakers to the place where the waves are very powerful but not quite crashing, then pretend I am seaweed and let the waves pull me down under and tumble me around so that I don’t know whether I am right side up or upside down. So, in a way, I am a very oceanic person, like a mermaid. But I suppose I see myself more like seaweed, or an otter. I don’t feel so girly. Nor so naked.

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids (vocally and otherwise)?
Green sparkly body paint. Seaweed wig. And when the dude comes to save you, tell him to take a hike. It’s better in the ocean.

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