Life as a mermaid isnt always glamorous. You have to tolerate chlorine and salt in your eyes and keep them open like its no problem, tells Linden Wolbert, a self-described entrepremermaid in Los Angeles. There are times when I get out of the water and I cant even see to drive home. Wolbert also has to hold her breath for minutes at a time, smile without swallowing water, and swim in a silicone tail that weighs nearly 50 pounds.( She usually has spotters .) Other than routine physical torment, being a mermaid for hire is merrific and mermazing, she tells. Shes been one for more than a decade, running private events for celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, and Justin Timberlake. Her merformancesevents at which she swims mostly in ponds, though sometimes in the ocean or at aquariumsstart at $1,000, and she tells she earns more, hourly, for some projects than many lawyers I know. Her YouTube channel brings in four figures a month.
Hiring mermaids has been popular for years, as has pretending to be one. Lady Gaga, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Katy Perry have all worn tails for dres balls, music videos, or advertising shoots. Their passion has helped inspire a mertailing industry to support aspiring sea damsels, and its prospering: In October, Walmart Store ordered 58,000 of the Mermaid Linden children monofinsflippers like the kind you use to snorkel but fused togetherWolbert stimulates with outfitters Body Glove International. Wolbert and Body Glove also teamed up to make a spandex children tail thats patterned on a parrotfish.( The tail doesnt come with any kind of flipper attached .) We think its going to be incredibly successful, tells Body Glove President Russ Lesser.
The larger mermaid economy is as diverse as sea life itself. Schools teach aspiring sea damsels in the Philippines, France, Spain, and the U.S.( In Omaha, a two-day class for adults expenses $210; a two-day teacher-training class at New Yorks Coney Island is $375.) The three photographers and host mermaid who run the Mermaid Portfolio Workshop charge as much as $ 3,000 to shoot would-be mermodels in the Bahamas and Isla Mujeres, Mexico. The classes are internationally popular, tells Chris Crumley, one of the photographers.
Mermaid Melissa( her legal name ), in Orlando, tells shes constructed custom tanks and hired a school of mermaids to meet party demand. Clients want something specific, she tells. Like, We want an African American mermaid. We want her in a gold tail. And in Crystal River, Fla ., Eric Ducharme, aka the Mertailor, says he sells thousands of tails annually, charging $120 for a stock version and as much as $5,000 for custom.( Thirty percentage of his customers are male .) His tails appeared in this years The Nice Guys , with Ryan Gosling. When movies come out, people get preoccupied, tells Ducharme, 26. Its a sexual thing, but not in a debased fetish route. The obsession lives on: A live-action Little Mermaid and a Walt Disney remake of Splash with Channing Tatum as a merman are in the works.
Wolbert, whos in her 30 s, has always been a strong swimmer. After majoring in cinema with a minor in environmental science at Emerson College in Boston, she traveled with the Professional Association of Diving Instructor as a scuba diving model. She learned to hold her breath for five minutes and to free dive, plunging to 115 feet without an oxygen tank. While filming a documentary in 2005, she found her calling. I was watching divers swimming up and down dres monofins, and they moved like mermaids, she tells. One day she borrowed one. I jumped into the water and took off.
All she needed was a persuading tail. But back then, they werent available commercially. Fortunately, her friend Allan Holt, who works in Hollywood in special effects, helped her make one out of silicone. Seven months and $20,000 afterwards, her scuba diving and cinema friends began shooting videos, which she posted online. She started booking gigs.
On a recent Friday, Wolbert sits poolside in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif ., preparing for a Body Glove photo shoot. She slathers her legs with hair conditioner to help ease into her blue tail. Oils dissolve the silicone, she tells. Lessers 9-year-old granddaughter and two of her friends will arrive shortly to take part in the shoot, and Wolbert doesnt want them to see her tailless. Its important not to break the illusion.
The partnerships with Body Glove began in 2013 after she gratified Lesser, a fellow board member for the Reef Check Foundation, a nonprofit focused on saving the ocean. He was impressed with her skills and passion. Shes not just a mermaid, shes a super athlete, he tells. I met with Michael Phelps last year and challenged him to have a 100 -yard swim[ against Wolbert] from a standing start. He declined.