So it was Ms. Sita Lange, hostess of the first MerCon/World Mermaid Awards this August in Vegas, who told me about Shir Parag and the video she made with her brother Or. Look:
How lovely and charming is that? Have you ever seen a sweeter mermaid? Shir and her brother live in Tel Aviv, Israel, and spent six months planning and shooting this video and now have caused an internet sensation with it and have even been nominated for a World Mermaid Award. Sita says she watches the video every time she wants to feel happy. Perhaps you moodier types can use it for similar purposes?
My Q and A with Shir follows.
I understand you are Israel’s only mermaid. Is this true? =) Is there any tradition of mermaids in Israel?
Israel is a very very young country (only 63 years old!) so we don’t really have tradition that has to do with mermaids but we do have a certain connection to mermaids – we have a big city here named BAT YAM, which means “girl of the sea.” Bat Yam is also the way we say mermaid in Hebrew.
Here in Israel the kids are really into mermaids. I mean, Disney’s The Little Mermaid was really huge, H2O is shown on TV, there are a few animated TV shows about mermaids, mermaid costumes are popular during Purim (the Jewish version of Halloween) and you can buy all kinds of mermaid merchandise here.
But we do not have here people who dress up as mermaids, with tails. No one has a tail, and I don’t believe that many people here know that there are tail-makers in the world or that there are real mermaid shows where you can go and see a mermaid swimming (like Hannah Mermaid). When I researched for my video, it was the first time I found out about all that stuff.
So am I Israel’s only mermaid? I think I am, just because I’ve never heard of anyone else here that’s done it. And if I am the only one, I am very proud of it.
[I asked Shir about this story about mermaid sightings in Kiryat Yam that made world news a couple years ago, and she answered, "I thought about mentioning this story.. funny you found it! A few people claimed to have seen a mermaid in the sea next to this city, and it was in the paper. The whole thing happened before we made my tail so it wasn't me! "]
[Also: please don't be too excited but I interviewed the spokesman for Kiryat Yam a few months back and will post that interview one day soon when I am unlazy enough to transcribe it.]
How did you become a mermaid?
Well The Little Mermaid is my and my brother Or’s all-time favorite Disney movie. We used to pretend that we were a mermaid and merman and swim in the sea as if we had fins, while singing “Part of Your World.” I remember myself when I was a kid, how I wished I could be a mermaid. I used to dream about it and draw pictures of me as a mermaid all the time.
Can you tell me about your youtube video? What inspired you?
Or is a very talented video editor and he told me one day that we had to make a lip-synch underwater and that I had to be Ariel with fins and all. We had made some lip-synch videos before (like this one) but nothing as complex as this one. We were so excited about the idea that it took us almost six months to think of everything. We knew we had to make the tail ourselves so we went to every seamstress in Tel Aviv but no one would help us because they thought we were crazy. So we had to design it all, cut and sew it by ourselves. When it was ready, we took it to an isolated beach and tried it on for the first time. We screamed with excitement and were so happy when I swam in it. It was like all the hard work and the dream is coming to life. For the first time in my life I was an actual mermaid.
To shoot the video, we drove four hours to a city name Eilat that has amazing fish and coral reefs (as seen on the video). With the help of two friends, Tom and Talia, we shot it over two days in the freezing water with no diving equipment at all – just diving goggles for Or (who had to see what he was filming) and the underwater camera we borrowed from a friend of our aunt.
What has the response been?
The responses we received were amazing! We were interviewed on TV, there was an article about us on the news website here, and then Ryan Seacrest (the host of American Idol) put our video on his website. Now people from all over the world have seen the video and want to be our friends on Facebook and send us messages telling us they love it. People call me “Mermaid” on the street. It’s fun. We can tell that the video really touched a lot of people.
So you have been nominated for a World Mermaid Award. What do you think about that? Are you coming to Las Vegas?
When I found out the video was nominated for a World Mermaid Award, I was so excited! The idea of having an award ceremony for mer stuff is so great to me! I am so honored to be nominated! When I told my brother he was very excited too. I wish I could come to Vegas to represent Israel in this award ceremony but I’m afraid that it is too expensive for me and my brother to come. If there was a way to come we would, but we can’t afford it (about $3,000) so we will watch it on the internet and hope for the best
And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Advice for aspiring mermaids… work hard! If you dream about being a mermaid, you have to work hard to become one. I spent hours in salty water with my eyes open, swallowing gallons of water and swimming with my legs tide together. And by the way, I’m scared of fish but I did it anyway! My brother got injured during the shoot and we lost two cell phones and a video camera in the water. It was hard work and things didn’t always turn out the way we planned, but we kept going and never gave up. If you want to be a mermaid, know that you have keep going and keep trying and never give up.