Archive | August, 2011

Business Week’s “Mermaids: The New Life Aquatic” and other Mermaidly Updates

26 Aug

So I wanted to link to Joel Stein’s great Business Week article about mermaids and MerCon, which is awesome even though he says I am running Mermaids and Mythology magazine when I am actually editing Mermaids magazine. But it MIGHT BE a semi-understandable mistake. Though we actually did have this perhaps-it’s-slightly-awkward-to-have-two-different-mermaid-magazines-with-essentially-the-same-name discussion in person at MerCon and I said that I was suggesting we change the magazine name to MERMAIDIA or something similar and he helpfully suggested the title Fuckin’ Mermaids! which, let’s face it, would be pretty awesome. Sigh. Also: the Tobey Maguire-produced little mermaid movie in development would be the one based on the book by yours truly and written and directed by the lady who wrote and directed the movie Country Strong, which was totally underrated.

Also, I would just like to mention that I am at this very minute at the Sheraton Hotel in Fort Lauderdale that used to be the fabled ship-shaped YANKEE CLIPPER hotel (pictured below) and that is home to the famous WRECK BAR where Marina MeduSirena performs with her pod of aquaticats every Friday evening at 6:30pm.

Said show is in two hours, and I am very excited. Expect many photos!

Also, I’m here with my mother and sister since tomorrow we’re heading out on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas cruise ship, upon which yours truly will be presenting two enrichment lectures. One on fairytales (I’ll be reading and discussing my books, too) on Sunday morning and one entitled: MODERN-DAY MERMAIDS: WHY WE LOVE THEM AND HOW YOU CAN BE ONE, which I’m giving next Thursday at 2:30pm. If you happen to be on this cruise, you should obviously come. It will even include an impressive PowerPoint presentation.

I know.

Lake Michigan’s Mermaid Aiyana

25 Aug

So Mermaid Aiyana is one of those rare Midwestern mermaids who haunt the Great Lakes and the various shipwrecks therein. She is also less averse to ice, snow, glaciers and the like than your average mermaid as you can see in the photo below, which I feel is quite impressive. But perhaps you just have to be that way when you live in Wisconsin.

I recently spoke with Aiyana (aka Jacqueline Killey) about her Midwestern mermaiding ways. Our gorgeous Q and A follows.

So when did you become a mermaid, and what inspired you?
I became a mermaid in the womb. Just never realized it until a few years ago! It was a random epiphany that just occurred. I do not mermaid because I feel I really am one, but because the children believe I am. And that is the reward of a lifetime. The magic THEY believe in becomes my own.

I saw something about the Milwaukee Ghost Ships Fest (!) on your blog… Can you tell me about that? Do you dive? Have you ever dived down to the shipwrecks?
I do not dive just yet! This year I plan on becoming certified. My mermaid debut was at a local Pirate Festival and the local dive club allowed me to swim in the frigid marina on Lake Michigan and promote them. In return, I get free dive lessons. So it works out quite harmoniously! My boyfriend is a diver and cannot even describe to me what it is like to hover weightlessly in front of sunken history. I am so entranced by maritime history in our great lakes and I cannot WAIT to dive down there myself. I collect the pieces of porcelain and pottery that wash up now and then on our local beach as we have two shipwrecks that sunk right there! The “junk” and cargo still surfaces. Even though the wrecks occurred in the 1800s. THAT is amazing. I get to hold these fragile pieces of history and while people say porcelain is fragile… I call the bluff on that. These fully intact pieces survived under the waves and algae and rocks and found me. There is something magical about that.

What kind of events/performances/parties do you attend as a mermaid? How do people react?
I love to show up at maritime heritage events around Lake Michigan. We are very proud of our nautical past here! I love doing children’s parties or events for the community! While I look to broaden my performing areas, I do like it here in the Midwest! They deserve this fun mermaid stuff! Other than talking about shipwrecks, I like to chat about conservation of our great lakes and waterways, awareness and protection of species within them, etc! But the best part…The kids. I just sit there and chat with them like they are my best friends. They are so baffled and amused by me, but what they do not know is that while they think I am making THEIR day, their reactions and smiles are actually making MY day. The questions I get from the little believers are SO FLIPPIN’ CUTE. It’s practically poetry. There is something to be said about how phenomenally observant and simple children are when confronted with something strange or otherworldly like a mermaid! They just plop down beside me, help dump water on the tail and ask me to describe in detail, every aspect of my mermaidy life.

The adults are just as fun. With an extensive list of all the cheesy nautical jokes I get, I could write a book of them! Whether I am telling jokes and cuddling with the kiddies, or discussing our great lakes, people listen. Moreso than if I had legs. I do not yet know what it truly is about mermaids, but people respond so well to it. I get through to them and it is a connection like no other!

What does it mean to be a Lake Michigan mermaid?
Being a Lake Michigan mermaid is indescribable! I have a blast doing what I do. If it is a planned event, or I just hop into the lake along the beach or the breakwater to our lighthouse, I do it with an undefeated sense of contentment and joy. The people make it happen for me. Their support, guidance, questions, challenges, and love, help push me farther. The thing about my mermaid life is that…unlike most, I do not really know my goal. I do not have a goal to reach with this. I figure we have today. We have now. This life. We have now to make it the best and I just want to add a memory or two to others’ lives. Maybe I can. Maybe I already have. What is certain is that I have just begun. I just have a strange and overwhelming need to give them all something to believe in in this topsy turvy world we all live in. I believe in people as they believe in me. Oh, and..Lake Michigan? COLD. All year round! It takes some gusto, that is for sure. But I love it. So many mermaids out there! They can have their salty ocean water. I will happily have the cool fresh waters of my home. : )

What general advice do you have for aspiring mermaids?
For aspiring mermaids? I say unto thee: People only believe in you, the moment you start believing in yourself. With or without a tail, you are divine and un-apologetically unique and passionate and precious to the world. I believe in you. ♥ xxxooo Mermaid Aiyana

Mermaids in Las Vegas

24 Aug

Here is my write-up of the Mermaid Convention and World Mermaid Awards, which was just published on the website The Hairpin, which I love.

Mermaids in Vegas: The Mermaid Convention
By Carolyn Turgeon @ 5:00 pm


Two weekends ago I went to Las Vegas for the first annual Mermaid Convention and World Mermaid Awards at the Silverton Hotel and Casino, because not only are there enough mermaids in the world to gather for a convention, there are enough to get awards.

The con part lasted all day, and the highlight was a full-on mermaid pageant called International Mermaid. The reigning International Mermaid, who is also Mrs. Weeki Wachee and a current Weeki Wachee mermaid, Kylee Troche, was there in a gown, tiara, and gleaming International Mermaid sash to crown the new winners. I was a guest judge at said pageant, along with my fellow authors Tera Lynn Childs and Timothy Schaffert, who had (along with poetess Matthea Harvey) all come to do a “mermaid author” reading at Barnes and Noble the night before in an attempt to add some literary flair to the happenings.

The judges’ panel, hard at work.

Here’s what a mermaid pageant is like: Strong men from the audience carry each contestant out, since as everyone knows mermaids cannot walk and there were no wheelchairs for them to roll themselves out in. Each mermaid was luminous in her tail, and there were tails of all kinds: tails made of fabric or silicone, tails covered in sequins, shiny spandex-y tails, and super-realistic scaled tales in a variety of shimmering colors. Some mermaids flapped their fins as they were delicately placed on the stage, others positioned their tails alluringly to the side, fluke standing straight up, and everyone smiled and waved at the audience. One mermaid chose to hop on stage, another to be carried up piggy-back style. All age groups were represented, as well as both genders. There was even a merbaby who was carried out on stage by his mother and who sat there grinning in his bright blue sparkling tail before attempting to crawl off out of the limelight. There were several little girls, too, including two Australian sisters, ages two and four. The four-year-old won for her age group and apparently the two-year-old was very upset by this.

It’s not an easy thing, scoring mermaids and mermen on scales of one to 25. In the “formal wear” section of the competition, I did dock that baby merman several points for showing up in a polo shirt. I mean, what was he thinking? But we judges soldiered on and diligently scored every contestant, and new international mermen, mermaids, and merbabies were crowned, and at the end, every contestant came out on stage to sit on chairs or stretch out on the floor. The little girls were sucking on lollipops as crowns slipped off their heads, and that baby was crawling and smiling in his bright blue fish tail, and all those gorgeous mermaids were posing and smiling, and it was all ridiculous and wonderful and awesome, and I was proud to have lent my services and done my part. I thought, This is why I became an author.

There were also a bunch of vendors, photographers, and artists around, as well as the aforementioned authors, who did an impromptu reading on stage after the mermaid pageant, but, I’m not going to lie, didn’t get quite the same response. (We had had the reading and mermaid ball the night before, which you have to admit might be the coolest literary event ever. I mean how often have you entered a bookstore and seen this?

or this?)

But anyway, the con ended and that night was the main event: the big pool party and World Mermaid Awards. Which meant that for the first time ever, tons and tons of mermaids and mermen jumped in a pool together and swam around in their tails. Many mermaids changed in nearby cabanas and were carried out by strong men, who delicately placed them poolside. Stars of the mermaid world, like Hannah Fraser, who swims with whales and sharks, and Marina MeduSirena, who performs with her pod of aquaticats at the retro Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale, were there, along with tons of reporters and journalists and photographers, and suddenly that pool was full of people in tails that stretched out of the water and splashed all around, and you knew that at least some of those creatures in that pool felt like they had finally, at long last, come home.

Speaking of journalists, Joel Stein of Time magazine was there at the Silverton, wondering what to make of the whole thing. “I kind of feel like I’m at a taping of Real Sex,” he said to me at one point, and for a moment I was taken aback — I mean, mermaids! splashing about delicately in the waves! — until I looked in front of us and realized we were in fact looking at tons of dripping-wet girls in shell bras and tight tails posing for a not-unsubstantial crowd of mostly male photographers and admitted he might have a point.

And then all those mermaids and mermen got out of the water and sat poolside, their tails dangling down, and the shimmering, light-haired, luminous Hannah Fraser did this gorgeous, mesmerizing performance, undulating with fire and then diving gracefully into the water, and then MeduSirena camped it up, all masses of black hair and curves and a deep red tail, and splashed through that pool to the other end and sat there and ate some fire, and Mermaid Sora bellydanced and later Maluhia Kawai did hula by the side of the pool, and there was swimming and splashing as awards were announced, and Sita Lange, who put on the whole thing — which was huge and crazy and at one point was rumored to be attracting Daryl Hannah and Johnny Depp, and at another point not going to happen at all — got a ton of applause, and I could barely hear, but it was all beautiful and ridiculous, which all the best things are, especially when you’re in Las Vegas.

Previously: Mermaid Camp.

Carolyn Turgeon wrote the novel MERMAID, runs the mermaid-themed blog I Am a Mermaid, and is co-editor of the new upcoming annual MERMAIDS publication.

Hannah Fraser reading a mermaid piece by yours truly

23 Aug

So I owe a write-up and some photos about MerCon and the World Mermaid Awards the weekend before last, but in the meantime I want to share with you this video (shot by Jaime Leigh Gianopoulos) of mermaid extraordinaire Hannah Fraser reading from a short mermaid piece I wrote for the new MERMAID MAGAZINE I’M EDITING that should be in stores by the end of September. In addition to this writing by yours truly, the magazine will feature original mermaid pieces by a ton of other authors, including Alice Hoffman (with accompanying original art by Charles Vess), Aimee Bender, Keith Donohue, Francesca Lia Block, Matthea Harvey, Tera Lynn Childs, Sarah Porter, Tara Altebrando, and more… PLUS lots and lots of gorgeous art and articles, including a big feature on Ms. Fraser written by yours truly. I will post more about said magazine, which is right now called MERMAIDS and which is not to be confused with the upcoming MERMAIDS & MYTHOLOGY magazine (which should also be full of wonders though it is not being edited by yours truly), in coming weeks.

For now, though, here is Hannah at the Las Vegas Barnes and Noble’s MERMAID BALL on August 11th. As you can see from the shots of me smiling, I thought it was VERY AWESOME to have my mermaidly writing read by a shimmering real-life mermaid extraordinaire, despite all those ne-er-do-wells sprawled out on the floor.
 

 
I was ALSO thrilled, by the way, to chance upon MERMAID MALENA SHARKEY (who also happens to be the mermaid on the cover of Sarah Porter’s Lost Voices) reading my book the very next evening:
 

But as I’ve pointed out time and again, mermaids are very literary.

Debut of “Onkel Klaus” by Berlin’s The LaLaVox Box

18 Aug

So as you no doubt remember, the Berlin duo The LaLaVox Box luminously debuted the ditties “The Sea, The Sea” and “Shingle Beach” on this very blog, these being the first and second singles from the sea-inspired, nautical album they’re collaborating on with Berlin’s fabulous singing mermaid Ms. Lorelei Vanora.

Here is their third single, “Onkel Klaus,” the story about a guy who’s very sentimental about the old DDR (communist East Germany), forgetting what he hated about it now that it’s gone and remembering the days when he used to illegally hunt eel. The song idea was thought up by Lorelei’s friend Lucy, who wrote the basic lyrics.

Look:


 

Isn’t it lovely? The beauteous artwork is by LaLaVox.

Jessica Fleitman’s Average-Sized Mermaid

16 Aug

So I will be posting a bunch of photos from MerCon and the World Mermaid Awards tomorrow, not to mention from last Thursday’s Mermaid Ball at Barnes & Noble, where, amongst other things, Hannah Fraser read a piece by yours truly to a mesmerized crowd… but in the meantime I must generously inform you about a new mermaid-themed play that just debuted this past Saturday at the Fringe Festival in New York City. It’s called The Average-Sized Mermaid and is by playwright Jessica Fleitman and fortunately you can still see it next week. Shows are next Thursday, Aug. 25th @ 6pm; Friday, Aug. 26th @ 9:15pm; and Saturday, Aug. 27th @ 1pm at Connelly Theater (Fringe Venue #7), located at 220 E 4th St (bet. Aves A&B) (take the F train to 2nd Ave). Click here to buy tickets; tickets in advance are $15 and they’re $18 at the door. Click here for the official press release and here for the show’s blog.

I recently spoke with Jessica about her play, and our illuminating Q and A follows.

So what is your play, The Average-Sized Mermaid, about?
The Average-Sized Mermaid is a comedy about an outspoken kindergarten teacher who magically transforms into a mermaid and unexpectedly finds herself the figurehead of a feminist movement. But when she begins to fall for a school administrator (a man who may or may not put the “Prince” in “Principal”), she soon learns that you need to be careful what you fish for…

Have you always been attracted to mermaids? How do you explain their allure?
I’ve always had a fascination with them. I really can’t explain it. When I was little, my family took a trip to Copenhagen and we visited the Little Mermaid Statue, and I remember my dad lifting me up so that I could touch the mermaid’s tail. I was entranced because it looked like it was already beginning to split in two, like she was immortalized at the very moment when she’s exactly halfway between mermaid and human, land and sea… my five-year-old self found that to be very profound.

I also grew up in northern California, and there’s a great fountain in Ghirardelli Square featuring mermaids nursing mer-babies. Seriously, it’s awesome. I loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that when my sixth grade teacher asked us all to write mystery stories for a class assignment, I was like, “Screw that. I’m going to write about what would happen if that mermaid fountain in Ghirardelli Square came alive at night!” So I guess the story ended up being a mystery in that it mysteriously had no relation to the assignment, but I still happen to think that it’s a pretty decent piece of writing!

My sister and I also used to sing a song in the pool that went a little something like this: “Swim like a mermaid/jump very high/jump like a dolphin/until you reach the sky!” We had a water-ballet worked out that went along with it and everything. We found ourselves delightful.

Mermaids have always been a presence in my life, so I guess it was inevitable that I’d eventually write a play about a mermaid!

How the play came into being?
I was taking a class in college that was called something like “Children’s Literature in Theory” but could have been more accurately titled, “Remember That Story You Enjoyed As A Child? Yeah, It’s Actually About How Women Should Learn Their Place/Female Sexuality Leads to Chaos and Destruction.” Being the twisted playwright I am, I saw comedic potential there: what if someone taught these stories to children while illuminating these themes in a completely inappropriate manner? I simply applied feminist theory, set Miriam in a kindergarten classroom, and viola! The opening scene was born.

After writing the opening, it seemed clear to me that Miriam had to reject Hans Christian Anderson’s story to the point that she pulls a reversal on the events in the plot: instead of giving up her tail to be with her love like the mermaid, Miriam acquires a tail in order to free herself from the desire from men.

You’ll have to see the play to see how it works out!

What made you write about a mermaid?
Honestly, I just kind of love the idea of a mermaid on stage. Except for the mermaid, the play actually lives in a fairly realistic world, so there’s something kind of wonderful to me about the fact that there’s this very intelligent woman who just happens to develop a fish tail, and what that does to her life and the lives of those around her.

Mermaids seem to be especially popular right now. Do you have any thoughts about why?
It’s so funny that you ask this question, because when Lady Gaga performed at a recent concert as a wheelchair-bound mermaid, about 500 people sent me the link saying “You started a trend!” Really, that credit goes to Bette Midler, but since we ALSO have a dance number from a wheelchair-bound mermaid, we’re definitely in good company!

I think mermaids are effortlessly compelling… they are half human and half mystery. There’s a character in the play—Barry—who is so excited when Miriam turns into a mermaid because, to him, it proves that magic exists. It proves there’s a little mystery left in this world. I think we’re all a little like Barry… we want some magic in our lives, and I think mermaids embody that desire perfectly. And when they dance, it’s delightful!

International Mermaid’s Stephanie Sims

9 Aug

So as I generously mentioned yesterday, the International Mermaid Pageant, run by Ms. Stephanie Sims, will be a main event at MerCon this Friday at the Silverton Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. I met Stephanie in June down at Weeki Wachee, where she lives and runs pageants at Weeki Wachee Springs as well as the massive pirate festival Gasparilla every year, and she is a vibrant and funny and she rushed into lunch breathless and apologizing for her terrible haircut and dye job, which was really very cute. She is kind of like a Real Housewife, if there were a Real Housewives of Weeki Wachee, which there obviously should be. Anyway, she will also be at Barnes and Noble Thursday evening to talk about the pageant, and will be with Kylee Troche, who is actually the reigning INTERNATIONAL MERMAID and will be present Friday to crown her successor. I should also mention that right after the pageant, at 4pm on Friday, will be our gorgoeus AUTHOR PANEL and BOOK SIGNING, featuring yours truly, Tera Lynn Childs, Matthea Harvey, Timothy Schaffert, and Tracy Deebs. Honestly, can you imagine anything better than a mermaid pageant and mermaid book signing in Las Vegas, followed by a big mermaid pool party with Hannah Fraser and MeduSirena and a zillion (or thereabouts) other mermaids? Even despite some of the issues that the World Mermaid Awards have been having, what with last-minute venue changes and so on, it should still be something to see.

Anyway, here is another pic of Kylee as one International Mermaid.

Admit that deep down, you feel that sash and that crown should be yours.

So Stephanie, what is the International Mermaid Pageant?
It’s the first and only “Mermaid-Themed” pageant event! This is the first one in Vegas. We will be doing these events all over the country for Mermaid enthusiasts, along with online-only events.

How will the contestants be judged?

This is a pageant, so contestants will be judged on personal style and stage presence…Audience appeal will also weigh heavily!

How can an aspiring mermaid pageant queen enter? What does she need?
We have all the information and sign-up forms on our web site, InternationalMermaid.com. There are two divisions, one being regular “pageant” or dressy attire and one for “Mermaid” wear. We are also allowing boys and men, should they want to compete!

What makes a pageant-worthy mermaid anyway?
Someone who loves the camera! The main prize the pageant offers is exposure, exposure and more exposure! Mermaids in advertising and in modeling is such a hot thing right now…

Can you tell me about your pageants at Weeki Wachee Springs?
Yes – We’ve been doing the Weeki Wachee Pageant since 1998 and have crowned many great queens and kings of all ages. They get to attend the functions that happen at Weeki as royalty. It’s a cool title to have!

What about Gasparilla?
Gasparilla, which is Pirate themed, is a HUGE DEAL. This year, becuse of my re-discovered love of Mermaid things, I am sure Mermaids will be infused heavily!

Have you always been a fan of mermaids?
Yes, especially since the birth of my older daughter. For the first several years of her life, she would play the VHS tape of The Little Mermaid (Disney’s version) at least once daily. Ariel was a part of our everyday vocabulary!

What is the difference between a mermaid pageant and a regular human one?
Well, the look and feel of the event is much more laid back and fun. Mermaids are very laid back, spiritual beings, as you know! *And we try to capture that “vibe.” A traditional pageant is sometimes much more serious and competitive. The Mermaid pageants are all going to be happy, feels-good, gorgeous events!

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids and/or mermaid pageant queens?

Yes, just come to the event is Vegas or another one on out schedule! You won’t regret it!

Bonus Post: Locketship Jewelry

8 Aug

So another glittering presence at the first annual MerCon and the World Mermaid Awards in Las Vegas later this week will be LOCKETSHIP JEWELRY, which one real-life-Ariel Traci Hines is the face of. They’ll be on hand at the Barnes and Noble Author Signing and Mermaid Ball this Thursday evening as well, to talk about their products and offer FREE GIVEAWAYS. For added incentive, right now Locketship is offering 25 percent off of their mermaid collection.

Check out these gorgeous photos (for the rest of Traci’s photo shoot, go here!):

Here is a bit more about Locketship:

Locketship is the whimsical jewelry line by colorful designer and vintage enthusiast, Maria Ewing. The label is known for its wide-range of handmade creations featuring original artwork and adorable photography. Locketship jewelry’s most unique aspect is its open-faced pendant, which encases photographs and artwork in a translucent epoxy resin. Lines have displayed a variety of images, from Persian cats and circus elephants to rainbow beads, bows, and glitter. Recently, Locketship garnered attention for its Giant Unicorn Necklace, an imaginative confection that has quickly become its signature piece. Locketship’s best-selling lines are the The Unicorn Princess Collection and The Kitty Collection.

All Locketship jewelry is hand-crafted by Maria in her Los Angeles home. An alumna of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, L.A., she graduated in 2004 in Product Development. Her creative talents include fashion design and her artistic pursuits include drawing and painting. She has gained notice for her outrageous outfits and vintage finds. Maria’s creativity drives Locketship through her uncanny eye for detail, designing and creating pieces that range from eye-catching and unconventional to playful and glittering. Locketship jewelry has always been about embracing the magic from life.

As for mermaids, Maria says:

“Mermaids are pure magic. When I think about them I think of the wonder of this world and the limitless of imagination. When I first heard about the World Mermaid Awards, I wanted to be apart of the convention to connect with all the mermaids fans out there! We will be releasing a new necklace design featuring brand new mermaid artwork by Miss Kika at the convention. I hope the Sea folk enjoy my take on mermaids, and Miss Kika’s adorable artwork!”

Weeki Wachee Mermaid and Pageant Queen Kylee Troche

8 Aug

So Kylee Troche is a current Weeki Wachee Mermaid as well as the reigning Mrs. Weeki Wachee. That is right, there is an annual pageant at Weeki Wachee, every spring, which is really almost Americana overload. Mermaid pageant queens! Speaking of which, Kylee will also be competing in the International Mermaid Pageant that will be held this Friday afternoon at the Silverton Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, as part of the first annual MerCon and World Mermaid Awards. (Tomorrow, by the way, I will feature an interview from International Mermaid impresario Stephanie Sims). Kylee (and Stephanie) will also be present and speaking at the Amazing Pre-World Mermaid Awards Author Signing and Mermaid Ball at Barnes and Noble, which yours truly has been helping organize and which you obviously should attend, lest you spend the rest of your days steeped in regret and lamentation.

Meanwhile, my Q and A with the lovely Kylee is below!

So how did you become a Weeki Wachee mermaid?
In 2007 I started working for Weeki Wachee in the gift shop. I had always dreamed about being a mermaid and would come to the park and watch the shows over and over again. I worked with some amazing women in the gift shop, Jill Roddis and Susan Ogilvie, and they encouraged me to follow my dreams and try out to be a mermaid. I had long blonde hair and I had extensive dance training since the age of three. Jill and Susan said to me those are things they look for in a mermaid. I was hoping that those qualities and the fact that I love to swim would help me. I was very lucky to get an audition, as there are thousands of girls that try out and apply to be a mermaid every year. However, I soon found out in the audition that there are more factors that play a role when trying out to be a mermaid, like having breath control (very important), and being able to open your eyes underwater and smile while looking like you know what you are doing.

But I was very lucky and made the cut in 2009. I became a trainee; you have to go through the proper steps to be awarded the title of MERMAID. First, you must be scuba certified, and then you must train for many months learning choreography, technique and how to breathe on the air hose. When you get approved to be in a show you usually play sister three in The Little Mermaid (one of the two shows at Weeki). Then you have to keep learning different roles in the show (sister two, Chester the Turtle and then the Witch) and then you have the other show we do with different choreography called Fishtails, for which you must learn to eat and drink in the water.

During this time you are moved up from training status to Novice Status. This is where you take a written test and must past a skill test with the head mermaid. Then you move on to play more parts in Fishtails and learn more choreography and then the dangerous deep dive that’s at the climax of the show, then finally you get to learn to play the little mermaid herself. But you are still not considered Mermaid Status. At that stage you must complete another written test, make up your own choreography and develop a new underwater mermaid move, and be CPR certified and First Aid Certified. Once you test in front of your fellow mermaids, the head mermaid and guests, you will can finally be awarded the title of a FULL FLEDGED WEEKI WACHEE MERMAID. For some, it takes years to accomplish this task and some mermaids never even make this status and quit being a mermaid. For me I feel very blessed! I worked and worked and put in extra time and practiced and was able to become mermaid status on September 22, 2010.

Can you tell us about a typical day at Weeki?
I am usually an opener, I like to be the first one at work and help the other girls. I arrive around 9:00 in the morning and I pick up all the tails from the last show the day before that are on the drying rack and put them away to start off our new day. Then I check to see if any of our tails or tops need to be repaired and repair them if needed. We always wear tights under our tails to help keep us warm and to help with quick changes during the show. So I also put away a lot of tights too from the drying rack. I have to check the Ponies (this is what we use as safety air in the airlock) to make sure they have air and are in the right location before swimming in any show. I go into our underwater theater and check to make sure it is clean and then wipe down all of the windows in theater, so that guests get to enjoy the mermaid show with no hand prints. Then it’s time to get ready for the show. This is when all mermaids performing discuss what color tails we are wearing and find out the show schedule and who gets to play what part in the show. Then it’s make-up time for all of the performing mermaids. Depending on what part you play in the show depends on the style of make-up you apply. The witch mermaid gets a totally different look of make-up then the rest of the mermaids. Then its show time and we perform for 30 minutes underwater in temp of 74.2 degrees. When a show is over we remain in the water and do our chores, like underwater cleaning and setting up our hoses for the next show. Then we get to get out of the water and get in the showers. Warm up a bit and then repeat. This happens three times a day 365 days a year. I love being a mermaid!

Can you share some interesting opportunities you’ve had as a Weeki mermaid?
My favorite opportunities are the wonderful PR’s we go on to all the different places, such as private parties, the local Tampa Boat Show, and store grand openings and aquarium events. But the best place I ever visited as a mermaid was the Georgia Aquarium (the world’s largest aquarium), where I had a very unusual experience with a very large, let’s say massive, whale shark. We had just arrived at the aquarium to train for the special Christmas show. We were learning all of the special things you must know when you swim with dangerous sharks and manta rays, and all the aquarium rules. I got in the water and started to practice when a beautiful whale shark took my hose right out of my hand. The rescue diver tried to bring me air. But I had to surface as I had swallowed way too much water and could not get a breath of air. It was an experience that at the time was a little scary, but turned for me into a love of the special whale sharks. They seemed to want to protect me and stay close to me when I performed. I really enjoyed the opportunity and hope to be able to go back again next year.

[Check out this video recording Kylee's run-in with a whale shark!]

How/when did you become Mrs. Weeki Wachee?
I was titled Mrs. Weeki Wachee 2011 this year on March 6. I entered in the pageant that was held at the Weeki Wachee Mermaid Theater. There were two categories we were judged on: Swimming Suits and Formal Gown.

Have you been in, or do you plan to be in, other pageants?
Yes, I have been in other pageants and held other titles. In 2008 I was crowned Miss. Teen Ybor City. In 2009 I was crowned as Miss Hernando County. In 2010 I was Titled Miss Gasparilla Ultimate Grand Supreme and also took the Talent Title as I performed one of my competitive dance solos and won Gasparilla Calendar Girl Model. I won KAR title this year as Mrs. Photogenic and will be featured in 2012 KAR Program. I also was a professional signed model for three years with an exclusive signed contract with the modeling agency Michele Pommier Management of Miami Beach, Florida.

Can you tell me about some of the exciting stuff you have coming up?
This week is the awesome First Ever Mermaid Event in Las Vegas! This Thursday August 11, is the amazing Author signing and Mermaid Ball at the Rainbow Boulevard Las Vegas Barnes & Noble at 7:00 pm; I will be there talking about my experiences. On Friday, August 12, is the Mer-Con, the International Mermaid Pageant (in which I’ll be a contestant), and the World Mermaid Awards, all at the Silverton. And then on Saturday, August 13th, I have a photo shoot with the fabulous Susan Knight, followed by the VIP Mermaid Pool Party.

Also, there are a few magazine interviews that you will soon see me in, and I have an interview for a documentary. I also have a very exciting PR next month with Weeki Wachee that I have been choreographing. It’s a special dance that has six of the Weeki Wachee Mermaids performing. And then of course I am working on extra practices because Weeki Wachee offers an exciting Halloween Event with a night time underwater show and a dry dance performance in the underwater theater stage. These are very unique shows and change ever year with a new theme. If you have never seen a Mermaid Show at night in the Underwater Spring you really need to come. It is always a wonderful show.

Why do you think mermaids are so popular, anyway?
I feel this is our year, The MERMAID year! I think vampires have been done (Twilight) and Wizards (Harry Potter). The public needs a new magical mysterious icon and Mermaids are it! I believe we are something people have always dreamed about and have loved. Folklore has been told about mermaids, their magic and the connection with sea. Now people want to embrace it themselves and experience mermaids.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
I think that whatever you do… just never let anything stop you! Follow your dreams and never be afraid of new things because you never know what it might bring.

Mermaid Shelly

4 Aug

So Mermaid Shelly is one of many many mermaids who will arrive in Las Vegas next week for the first annual World Mermaid Awards at the Silverton Hotel and Casino. Obviously, you should come and say hello. Shelly is a trained biologist and mermaid transformation specialist as well as a mermaid generally, and I recently spoke with her about her passion for all things oceanic. Please do not be too jealous.

So how did you become a mermaid?
When I was a little girl and saw the movie Splash, I knew instantly that I was meant to be a mermaid. Something about Madison’s outsider perspective on human society and her understanding of the depths of the ocean just resonated with me. I used to spend hours with my little sister Wendy in the pool, hot tub, rivers, lakes (or really any puddle of water we could fit into) trying to swim with our legs together. We used to attempt to go underwater and communicate with each other using the high-pitched screeching call that Madison used in the Bloomingdale’s department store scene when she blew up all the TV sets. It was really quite funny… until we both got really bad cases of swimmer’s ear, that is! I think as of that summer, we were both reborn as mermaids.

What attracted you to mermaids?
I think there are several levels of attraction for me. For one, it is an escape fantasy. I had a pretty tough childhood and liked to pretend that I lived in another world, rather than deal with my own reality. At the time I first saw Splash, my parents were getting divorced and my Mom was remarrying to a man that I didn’t approve of and moved us away. I lost all of my friends that I grew up with in Sacramento, and being shy, had a hard time meeting and trusting new people. It was a lot easier to create my own fantasy; one where I knew secrets that others do not. I think we can all agree that when we have a hard day, there is nothing better than just swimming away from your cares, and a secret life as a mermaid definitely allows me that.

Secondly, mermaids have an advantage as being able to cross into two worlds; one where they breathe air on land and in the other, water. They have knowledge of the deep, dark depths of the ocean and her mysterious creatures. They know the ecology and terrain of both worlds, and can serve as a translator between the inhabitants of both sides; aquatic and land. This to me is equivalent of being a wildlife interpreter or a park ranger, except of the oceans.

Thirdly, there is an undeniable magical quality about them and an innocence that cannot be breached. That is something that I strive for in my own life, and being a mermaid has definitely helped me to tap into it.

Have you always identified as a mermaid?
Yes, I think I have since I was about nine years old. At that time it was more of a play fantasy that was imagined, or drawn on paper when I was alone. It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend (now husband of 16 years) Chris that I really started embracing it culturally. I remember when we first started dating that the subject of mermaids came up, and how shocked and amazed that he was as enthusiastic about them as I was. It really felt like when Tom Hanks’ character meets Madison for the first time, and then later realizes that she saved him from drowning as a child. In a way I think our relationship parallels theirs, in that we both have nurtured each other’s love for mermaids and the ocean and it has just grown over time. He helped me to make my first tail when I was sixteen on his mother’s sewing machine, and then saved me from drowning in it in his neighbor’s pool, as it was not swimmable at all! He drove me to San Francisco to get fabric for my second tail in the days before online purchases, and has been my number one supporter, photographer and confidant all these many years. He encouraged me to meet Linden Wolbert of Mermaids in Motion for some inspiration last spring and to finally purchase my Mertailor tail at long last. We really have saved each other from our respective realities and have created our own, submerged in mer-culture. Over the years, we have amassed so many mermaid artifacts that our house could almost be considered a mermaid museum.

I understand you are very passionate about ocean conservation and other environmental issues. Can you tell me about that?
My undergraduate degree is in Conservational and Organismal Biology, so I am trained as a field biologist. I see myself as an independent observer of ecology, and human’s affects on it. I do not believe that humans have dominion over the Earth; we just act as though we do. We have changed the ecosystem to suit ourselves without ever considering the effects to other species. Then we nominally mitigate our bad deeds and pat ourselves on the back for it in the name of conservation, but that all it is… mitigation, not prevention. This is one reason that Chris and I decided early on not have children; we don’t want to perpetuate the human problem. That might sound strange to many, but when you look at it from the larger perspective of the planet’s health, reducing the population is the only sustainable mechanism we have. We humans are a virus on this Earth, and whether we are conscious of it or not, each of us is consuming resources that we can never hope to replace in the larger scheme of things. I know it sounds harsh, but that is my honest opinion on the species. I guess I am sort of an all-or-nothing person, for better or worse.

My Master’s degree is in Electronic Education, so I am hoping to incorporate adult learning theory and an interest in mermaids to help educate the masses through my blog, A Mermaid’s Journey. Through this blog, I can take a light-hearted approach to the serious issues that keep me up at night and hopefully gain interest in conservation through reading them. I try to cross-post my blog entries as notes on my Facebook page also to try and get more viewers through electronic media. Each of us can make a difference, and my gift is sharing knowledge. I want people to know that I am more than just a “girl in a tail,” I am an actual biologist and a concerned inhabitant of our planet. If just one person reads it and learns something, then I am a happy mermaid. I would like to share the joy and sadness that I feel when I observe phenomena around me, and hope that I can bring some understanding; to hold hands with you while we watch our ecosystem win or lose. It’s all in our hands.

Can you tell me about your mermaid store and what you sell?
I do have a web-store with items made from our photos. The store sells ceramic coffee mugs, t-shirts, magnets and note cards. Nothing too fancy, but 10% of the proceeds are going to be donated to the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation (our local lagoon preservation charity) to support the good work that they are doing, in these times of State Department budget cuts.
More recently, I have decided to share my husband Chris’ photography skills and my love of mermaids to start offering mermaid transformation photo/video shoot packages. This is something new that we are taking on and will be donating 10% of the proceeds to Surfrider Foundation, to assist them in their public education of shore issues worldwide. For details on how to be transformed, visit http://www.mermaidshelly.com/#!transformations or contact me at mermaidshelly@gmail.com.

Will you be attending the World Mermaid Awards?
Absolutely, I wouldn’t miss it for the world! The WMA and MerCon are organized by a longtime mermaid friend of ours, Sita Lange. I have been a fan of Sita’s work for a very long time and was lucky enough to get to work with her as a mermaid for her website, MauiMermaids.tv. My husband was her web editor for the site also, so we are really excited to get to come out and support her once again.

What do you think about mermaids’ current popularity?
I think it is wonderful; the more the merrier! And hopefully now people won’t think I am crazy when they see Chris and I out on the beach taking photos in my tail. Sometimes people come up to us and ask what we are doing and if we are doing photos for an advertisement, etc. and it always makes me laugh… why don’t they understand that we do it just for the love of mermaids and the ocean? I hope that now they will be more inclined to understand that.

Have you attended any especially interesting mermaid events and/or places?
I think the most interesting mermaid adventures I have had thus far (aside from the upcoming WMA) is being transformed by Sita Lange for Maui Mermaids. We travelled to Hawaii’s Big Island for our first photo shoot and to Maui for a second one. Oh the fun we had! She knows those islands like the back of her hand and it is wonderful to be with someone local and have them show you the most amazing, secluded beaches. On our first shoot outside of Hilo, we went to a beach that was so deserted we literally had to climb down giant Pothos vines to get down the cliffs. At the base we found pristine black sands, a waterfall with a small pool just perfect for a mermaid to take photos in. Sita really has the pulse of the islands flowing through her veins. I will never forget those days as long as I live.

What advice do you have for aspiring mermaids?
Well, I would have to argue that there are no aspiring mermaids… they are just mermaids. Perhaps they are land-locked; perhaps they don’t have their own tail, but mermaids at heart nonetheless. And the only advice I could ever give anyone is just to believe in yourself; believe in what you are doing and don’t ever let anyone drag you down. Just keep swimming!

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