So you’ve probably been wondering who the new International Mermaid Queen is since Weeki Wachee’s Kylee Troche can’t be it forever… or can she? Anyway, a new queen was in fact crowned at MerPalooza last month. Her name is Canadian Mermaid Marie, and she is amongst other things magical and French-speaking and gorgeous and FORTY-ONE years old, which just so happens to be the age of yours truly. Ahem. So she is obviously very deeply inspiring.
Not to mention she wears very cool make-up and is, like many mermaids, a passionate ocean defender.
Our glamorously scintillating Q and A follows.
So Marie, when did you become a mermaid?
I was very little when we first moved to the suburbs and got our first pool. I already knew how to swim but, just for safety, I was registered to swim classes. Back in the 70’s in Quebec we didn’t have certifications; we had badges. So I got my very first swim badge when I was 6 years old. That was also the year they aired TV series version of the Japanese anime Marina the little mermaid, and that was it. I wanted to swim like a mermaid so badly that I started tying my legs with a skipping rope and practiced swimming like a dolphin in the pool. I’d practice holding my breath until I was on the verge of fainting. By the time I was 12, I could hold my breath for 4:30 minutes. But it wasn’t until the movie Splash came out in 1984 that this became a palpable reality for me, that movie really brought all the magic to life.
When did you start mermaiding professionally?
It’s been 14 years now. It all started with photography, and later digital imaging, which was part of my job being a photographer back then. And then, after making several tails for photography purposes, being also a professional costumer, I discovered that I was a big hit with the kids on the waterfront and at the beach, hehe! So I decided to grab that opportunity to bring environmental awareness to the children and to my community.
What’s it like being a mermaid in Canada? Do you live near the ocean?
Unfortunately no, I don’t live near the ocean, and this pains me every day. The St. Lawrence river is right at the end of my street however and I live about an hour away from the Champlain lake. I cover mostly private events as there are very few aquariums and theme parks around here and they don’t hire mermaids. I love to teach so I use the mermaid approach to make learning entertaining for kids and adults.
Can you tell me about some of the most memorable jobs you’ve done?
I think the most memorable gig I did was the very first time I wore a mermaid tail for a photo shoot. As I was sitting there posing, I heard in the far distance on the hill above me the hysterical screams of a little girl saying “MOM, MOM, LOOK!! IT’S A MERMAID MOM, A REALLY REAL MERMAID” …I though my heart was going to melt, it touched me so much that I cried and I’m crying right now, just as I do every single time that I recall that day or any other day that this happens. Having the power to bring magic in the life of children is a true gift and I treasure every single moment that I’m permitted to do so.
You were just crowned International Mermaid Queen at MerPalooza. How was that experience?
A dream come true is all that I can say. I was one of the oldest mermaids on stage that day and as far as I know, the only foreign one too. I went there for fun and to have the honor of meeting some famous mermaids, merfolk and tail makers. I expected to be entered in a 40+ category or something along those lines; I never thought in a million years that I’d be crowned as Queen all together. I was incredibly moved and particularly touched by all the kind words and letters I received afterwards.
How was your experience at MerPalooza generally? Had you ever been part of a large mermaid gathering before?
I had organized a photo shoot with several mermaids locally in the past but none of them were professional mermaid entertainers aside from me. I was extremely sad to have missed MerCon the previous year because I found out about it too late to plan for the trip so, when I heard this event was taking place this year, there was no way I was gonna miss it!
I was told the event had to change location at the last minute so considering that fact, I think the organizers did a wonderful job at putting everything together. I was incredibly grateful that I was able to make the trip and bring with me my son, as well as my childhood friend with whom I daydreamed about mermaids and mermaiding in our pool as a very small child.
You recently swam with MeduSirena at the Wreck Bar. How did that happen?
I was in the Fort Lauderdale area in April and I stopped by to say hello and to see one of her shows. I had been meaning to go there most of my life but it had always been impossible up ’til then. They always invite a visitor for a little dip as part of the show so, since she knew who I was, it ended up being me that night. It was a silly clownish parody of sorts where I had a shell top and pants on and pretended to be a “mermaid wanna-be” from the aquaticats and she acted totally puzzled that I was pretending to steal the show. It was just a silly little gig, lots of fun though! Marina’s such a funny lady, a total sweetie. For me, having the chance to swim at the Wreck Bar and being part of the show was a dream come true, event if it wasn’t really as a mermaid per se. :))
What is it that draws you to mermaids and the ocean?
My love of history and mythology is what has always drawn me to mermaids. I think it’s the mystery and sense of freedom they represent that has always made me be one of them. I was 7 years old the first time I saw the ocean. I remember sitting there in awe before that beautiful immensity and thinking that I wanted it to be my home. I dream of being able to buy a sailboat someday and move to the sea permanently. I’m also a shark lover and defender; I’ve made it my mission to save them from extinction, one shark at a time. I militate every single day and fight for their protection. One day I hope that I can join some of my friends that are professional shark divers for a shark dive, it’s one of my fondest dreams.
Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Yes. Don’t do it just because it’s trendy, put your heart into it and bring something positive to the planet while doing it. Don’t just be a copycat, be innovative, graceful and unique. Also, take some swimming lessons before thinking of putting on a tail. There are so many amateur mermaids out there right now that it’s already starting to bring up safety issues to some beaches and public pools, penalizing us professional entertainers from wearing our tails at those locations and greatly affecting our work and mission altogether. Practice, practice and practice some more at the pool before attempting to swim through water currents or anywhere else. Don’t go in lakes or in the ocean with your tail if you’re not a qualified swimmer. And most of all, NEVER swim alone. I’m 41 years old, I’m a professional swimmer, I do underwater ballet and underwater photography, and still, I never swim alone. My fluke once got tangled in weeds and I would have drowned regardless of how good a swimmer I am if I had been by myself!