Hey there, Bubblers,
Before I begin, Happy Thanksgiving. What are you giving thanks for this year?
Now, on to the interview:
In recent years, for me, a question has popped up in my life that is a little bit interesting to ask: Nature vs. Nurture. Are the current members of the Mer community here because we watched a lot of mermaid-related things in our youth which fostered our latent curiosity and imagination? Or Are we here because, as Lady Gaga put it, “We were born this way”? For Mermaid Maria, she thinks we were born this way.
“I love being in the water. I think I’ve always been a mermaid. I was born this way!”
Mermaid Maria is a cheery, relatively young (130 mer-years) mermaid from Texas. Her personality and spirit shine bright like the Texas stars at night.
She is the first public tailmaker (Merman Christian makes his own tails) that I have interviewed! She made her current tail with her best friend and creative partner, Jason Darling.
Her current tail is just as happy and beautiful as her personality appears to be. It’s fluke is pink with hints of purple, and the body of it is blue, pink, and purple. The color reminds me of candy. Which is interesting, and makes a lot of sense. Her tail looks sweet enough to make a shark go to the dentist.
The Candy-related pun was not simply me being creative, however. In addition to being a beautiful mermaid, she also does the artistic design for a candy company called Lollyphile, which is specializes in lollipops in a crazy awesome variety of flavors. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FLAVORS (no really….you need to see this… it’s crazy cool.)
Anywho, back to the mermaid. I asked Maria a question that I don’t usually ask all of the Mers. Or rather, I do ask them, but I rephrased it when I asked her. Often, anything that strays from the normal beaten path of average human life is looked at as weird. Inherently being a mermaid isn’t a mainstream thing. I asked her how she deals with those people that look down at us (as a community) for being mers, and her answer was:
“My experience has been that people respond very positively to the fact that I’m a professional mermaid. I have never followed the rules, if people judge me for that I honestly don’t notice. I’m too busy to focus on stuff like that.”
As a mermaid, and especially as a tail-maker, there is one huge thing that makes Maria and Sirenalia (her Tail-making company) different from the others: she is not very secretive. In fact, she actively shares her experiences and works with other mers to help them make their own tails.
“My goal as a mermaid is to help other mermaid’s dreams of having a tail come true. I will always share information about how to make your own tails. I strive to find ways to get tails out into the world and on to people who normally wouldn’t be able to own them.”
She is currently a new tailmaker, but I’m looking forward to a lot of promising, gorgeous work from her in the future!
If you’re a true Mer, chances are you’ve heard the ocean call you. Of course you always had a love for the ocean, but the calling is something else entirely. Sometimes the calling just sort of hits you out of nowhere. Sometimes, Water goddess Yemanja herself shapes your life in that direction. For Mermaid Lanai, reigning Mer-Queen of the Mer-Orca pod, the latter seems more likely.
“Well I’ve swam all my life. But it started after a suggestion from my doctor to help expand my lungs since I had a major surgery.” She has one full lung and one half lung due to a Spontaneous Pneumothorax, also known as a collapsed lung. While there are many potentially causes of this kind of event, the spontaneousness of it has a tremble of the darkly divine in it. The spirits of the waves truly do work in mysterious ways.
After meeting with her doctor, she bought her first monofin, the Dol-fin. Then, shortly after, she found Mermaid Melissa on the internet. “She was my first inspiration, and Mermaid Kariel is my other one, she’s humble, friendly and loves the ocean just as much as I do.” This was all back in 2006.
Flash to today, 7 years later, Lanai is a leader of the New England MerPod, currently with a gorgeous silicone tail and a neoprene tail, both modelled after the Damsel fish. She has been a professional mermaid for the past 4 years.
As a mermaid, her message to the world as a whole is simple and beautiful.
“My message is to teach others to help our oceans. So much is hurting it, from pollution to shark finning. These are things that hurt our oceans, and the ocean has a delicate balance; if something goes wrong, everything falls apart.”
The mystery of the ocean had long attracted her to this work. In her human form, she works doing animal rescue. “The fact that there is so much unknown about it, what animals live there that we have yet to see. But besides that I love marine life, from the blue whale to the sea stars and everything in between.”
To children, she had another message. This message is one of faith, hope, and dreams becoming reality.
“Besides teaching children about our oceans, I also work to inspire and encourage them to achieve all they can in life. Even if it sounds dumb to someone, you could be someone to do something to stand out or even someone so important. I tell them no dream is dumb. Every dream has a path and because it doesn’t go in the direction you want it to, there are always other paths to get to where you want to go. To follow their dreams no matter which way it goes to get there.”
I have a similar line that I say to children and youth as well. I mean, just years before, I was sitting where they were, and now I’m half-whale. We as Mers are living proof that dreams can, and do come true with a little hard work and determination, and a whole lot of imagination.
Her final message to me was a message to her fans, as well as to other Mers:
“I stand out because I keep myself true, I don’t put on this little façade and fake act my way through it, I just be myself. Always be humble. Don’t judge others by their looks and remember being a mermaid is much more than having a tail and ‘looking the part.’ Dare to be different, be unique and stand out when you can. Don’t be afraid to be who you are.”
One of the joyous things about Mer society and Mermaid Lore, is that there are so many variations of tails. Tails are one of the most customizable pieces of our appearances. Throughout history, many mermaids and their tails have been painted, drawn, etched, sculpted, and otherwise artistically represented. Tails can be broken down into multiple categories, which I will attempt to do now.
The first distinction to be made: Fish, Aquatic Animal or Mammal. Fish-like tails are the most common ones represented, but mammals and aquatic animals are rare, but still featured in popular culture. Everyone’s famous drag-queen-esque villain Ursula the Sea Witch and her whiney, less competent sister with a huge complex Morgana (from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and The Little Mermaid 2: Return To The Sea) are prime examples of Aquatic Animal mermaids (Octo-mers, perhaps?)
As far as Mammalian mermaids, we have very few examples to go off of. We do however have Sea Princess Azuri, a short lived comic by Erica Leigh Currey, (nee Reis) about a betrothed Orcan (human/orca hybrid) Princess that falls in love with her childhood friend and bodyguard. We also have Sora, from Kingdom Hearts, who when in Atlantica (from The Little Mermaid) has a dolphin tail.
Then after you get through that decision, you have to decide: “Hybrid/Anthro or Classic”. The classic design is the most used; it is the design where there is a clear separation between the fish part and the human half. Usually the devision is a few inches below the waist (like Ariel from The Little Mermaid). Sea Princess Azuri, for example, is a fabulous example of an Anthro hybrid mermaid. Hybrid mermaids have no division between the fish and the human. They are blended all over. This is usually a more “monstrous” design. Put simply, if you want a pretty sunbathing siren, go with the Classic design, but if you want to create a monster mermaid, go with the Anthro design.
Next decision: internal workings. Do the bones inside resemble that of a snake, an extension of the spine which would allow them to bend and coil however they please at any of the vertebrae? Or Do they resemble our legs, with a knee bone and 2 thigh bones? Most classic paintings all over the world employ the snake-like design.
One of the noted exceptions is the Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen, which celebrated it’s 100 year anniversary this year in August. It is quite clear that this little mermaid is bending at the knee-bone area. However, her tail brings us to the next distinction between tails and tail types.
Proportions. These are super-important to me, as a performing Mer. A lot of art depicts mermaids with elongated tails with small flukes, or exorbitantly large fins. The children’s show H2O: Just Add Water (and it’s spinoff series Mako Mermaids) are a fine example of tails that aren’t entirely proportionate to the the human form. While it works for art and drawings, this type of thing can make swimming difficult. Which leads to the final, most vast difference with tail types.
Fluke style and shape. With Fish-like tails, we have millions of designs to chose from. Every fish in the ocean can serve as inspiration for fins and finshape. Most fit into one or more of 7 categories: Rounded, Pointed, Square/Truncated, Lunate, Forked, Indented, or Bi-fin.
Using the chart above, Zack’s tail is a mix between Lunate and Truncated/Square, with a hint of indented. Disney mermaids are Forked Bi-fins (possibly Pointed Bi-fins, this is definitely up for discussion)
Overall, Mermaids have been portrayed a thousand different ways over the course of these hundreds of years. Chances are, out there, there’s a design that fits you the best.