Here’s a dream job you didn’t even know you wanted: Professional mermaid.
Yes, professional mermaid is a very competitive but very real career. Fast Company first covered the phenomenon about a year ago, estimating there are a thousand or so professional mermaids and mermen currently working full-time in this great nation of ours. It would seem the industry has only grown in the period since, and now Bloomberg Businessweek delves into the apparently “thriving” mermaid economy.
There are mermaid performers like Linden Wolbert and Mermaid Melissa (legal name). The latter in fact runs an entire school of mer-formers one can hire to appear at one’s parties. Then there are the ancillary businesses who cater to these entertainers—schools that’ll train you, photographers who’ll do portfolio shots, costumers who’ll craft beautiful tails. (My personal favorite instance is MerNation, a Tampa-based Etsy store that sells stunning—and stunningly expensive—silicone tails.)
You can get a custom job, but specialists such as the “Mertailor,” Floridian Eric Ducharme, also carry less expensive stock versions for mere enthusiasts. In fact, that’s one of the ways Wolbert has expanded her own brand, achieving that most impressive of retail achievements: Walmart.
In October, Walmart Stores ordered 58,000 of the Mermaid Linden kids’ monofins—flippers like the kind you use to snorkel but fused together—Wolbert makes with outfitters Body Glove International. Wolbert and Body Glove also teamed up to make a spandex children’s tail that’s patterned on a parrotfish. (The tail doesn’t come with any kind of flipper attached.) “We think it’s going to be incredibly successful,” says Body Glove President Russ Lesser.
Please note, however, that this job is no swim in the park.
“You have to tolerate chlorine and salt in your eyes and keep them open like it’s no problem,” says Linden Wolbert, a self-described “entrepremermaid” in Los Angeles. “There are times when I get out of the water and I can’t 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 almost 50 pounds. (She usually has spotters.)
Gotta be tough to make it as a professional mermaid—hope Channing Tatum is ready.