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A woman wearing a golden costume mermaid tail and a bikini lies on the beach.
Woman wearing a costume mermaid tail.

Mermaiding, a term originally coined by WingedMermaid aka Iona the Mermaid (co-founder of, sometimes artistic mermaiding, water ballet, mermaidry, or artistic mermaid performance, is the practice of performing dolphin kicks and other undulated movements underwater while bound by a costume mermaid tail, typically for a live, filmed, or photographed production, or for recreation.[1][2][3] Mermaids are usually referred to simply as "mermaids," "professional mermaids," "mers," or occasionally, "water ballerinas." Tailmaking is usually seen as a separate counterpart to the mermaiding world.


Mermaid performance began with roadside attractions in Florida, most famously the Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show, and enjoyed the height of its original success in the 1940s American South. Of countless mermaid shows that once existed, only Weeki Wachee continues to operate in the same way it did when it was started, though Florida's Wreck Bar still features mermaid shows.[4]

Classic cinema[edit]

The launch of Walt Disney World employed a shoreful of mermaids to wave to passers by and promote the new park. Films like Bride of Frankenstein briefly employed tails, and the development of synchronized swimming became a major influence on many modern mermaids.

Annette Kellerman[edit]

Though not directly connected to the modern mermaiding community, Australian swimming star Annette Kellerman is generally thought of as the mother of synchronized swimming and water ballet. The title of a 1952 musical film about her life, Million Dollar Mermaid, plays on the mermaid motif.

Modern use[edit]

Free-diver Mehgan Heaney-Grier swimming while wearing a mermaid tail.

With the 1984 motion picture Splash, mermaiding caught the popular culture wave. Splash tailmaker Thom Shouse's website offered tails for a fee,[5] but also inspired a DIY movement.(The Splash Mermaid was designed and created by the Academy award-winning visual effects artist Robert Short. Shouse was the project foreman on Short's mermaid crew.) The early 2000s saw many performers and artists of varying ages, genders, body shapes, and ethnicities uploading videos and photographs of tails and underwater performances to YouTube and personal websites. Hannah Fraser was the world's first freelance professional mermaid, traveling the world making art film documentaries of her real life interactions with whales, dolphins, seals, manta rays and tiger sharks. [6] By the beginning of the 2010s, websites dedicated to mermaiding helped to create a distinct subculture in which members ranged from hobbyists to professional performers.[7][8] Today, many mermaid performers work at aquariums, casinos, or tourist attractions professionally.[9][10][11] Some freedivers wear mermaid tails to add novelty to the water sport.[12] Professional Real-Life Mermaid Melissa from Orlando, Florida is the only person in the world legally named, Mermaid. Starting a Mermaiding troupe in 2007, each performer wears realistic 50 pound custom movie quality FX mermaid tails (while breath holding with no air tubes, free diving) for live aquarium shows, pool events, conventions, and large traveling mermaid tank displays. Splash replica inspired mermaid tails can be seen in Mermaid Melissa's YouTube videos and website blogs feature Mermaiding demonstrations swimming underwater and live mermaiding shows worldwide on YouTube.[13][14]

Tail construction[edit]

Though professional mermaids often have their costume tails professionally made for them out of latex or silicone, many mermaids make their own tails out of more easily accessible materials for personal use.[15] The most common construction involves creating a sleeve to fit around a monofin. The monofin provides support for the main "fin" of the tail, which is used to kick while swimming. The sleeve most commonly is made from spandex, neoprin, or neoprene.[16]

Humanitarian appeal[edit]

A common practice among professional mermaids is environmental and individualist advocacy. Many mermaids speak out, create internet campaigns, and work with major environmental or self-help organizations.[15][17] Susan Rockefeller's 2012 short-form documentary Mission of Mermaids: A Love Letter to the Ocean employs several professional mermaids from around the world to shed light on ocean acidification, overfishing, and marine pollution.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spitznagel, Eric (2012). "Odd Jobs: Professional Mermaid". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Deborah Arthurs (2012-05-09). "Real-life mermaid swims with whales after making her own fish tail | Mail Online". London: Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  3. ^ Gibb, Abbey (2012-08-01). "Portland woman lives out mermaid fantasy | Portland". Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  4. ^ "Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Wreck Bar Mermaid Show". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Thom "The Tailman" Shouse,". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "About the Mermaiding Community". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "Mermaid dazzles at Atlantis the Palm trade event". Retrieved 4 Oct 2013. 
  9. ^ Cite error: The named reference abcnews was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  10. ^ "Mermaid and Merman Couple Find Underwater Love". ABC News. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Moye, David (2 July 2013). "Mermaid Melissa Dawn Finds Love With Merman Antonio Padilla". Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  12. ^ "Real-Life Mermaid". 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Template:Orlando Magazine
  15. ^ a b "Free Diving with a Mermaid". 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  16. ^ "Tailmaking". MerNetwork FAQ. 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Mandyn, Iara (Aug 2011). "Mermaids invade Las Vegas; Plenty of tales AND colorful tails from annual Convention". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  18. ^ "About Mission of Mermaids". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  19. ^ Silvester, Jessica (July 2012). "Turning the Tide: An Ocean Conservationist Mixes Myth and Science". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 

External links[edit]