Is it possible to have a job or career living as a Real Life Mermaid?
When MELISSA DAWN, transforms into Mermaid Melissa, she will take your breath away.
“Most little girls wish they were princesses. I, on the other hand, spent endless hours after school in my pool imagining I was in the ocean exploring the sea, pretending to swim with marine mammals or even becoming one. My friends and family would call me ‘fish,’ ‘dolphin girl’ or ‘mermaid.’’’
As Mermaid Melissa, she has her own company and aquatic team that puts on a variety of underwater shows. “The choreographed, synchronized movements are often put to music, and I bring along performers who are trained to tell a story in the water. The shows are at an underwater window 20 feet or more down. There are no breathing tubes, no scuba gear, no nose plugs or goggles.’’
“My best-known performances have been not just as a mermaid but also as a professional free diver, killer whale trainer and dolphin trainer’’ at Sea World Orlando. Melissa, who grew up in St. Augustine but now lives in Orlando, still performs as a pearl diver at Sea World a couple of days a week.
“My longest breath-hold recorded, which I put up on YouTube, is 4 minutes 32 seconds. I’ve gone 5 minutes only once and felt any longer would be pushing it past what my body felt comfortable with and safe to achieve. This isn’t something I recommend others trying. It came with a lifetime of free-diving skills that allows me to now slow my heart rate when I hit the water.’’
“I have spent thousands of dollars on each of my many mermaid tails and often refer to them as works of art. My tails weigh between 35 and 65 pounds, not including the weights I add to them in saltwater. The [silicone] materials are strong to make the tails last long. I had them realistic custom-made to my body.’’
“It’s always good to have a healthy respect for the animals you swim with. Killer whales are much more intimidating due to their social ranking behaviors than sharks. Sharks are more predictable and, if fed well, they are far less interested in something too big to eat.’’
“The biggest fear I have in the ocean is of jellyfish. Once I was swimming and found myself in a cloud of thousands of baby thimble jellyfish and was covered waist to neck in stinging bumps that resulted in three weeks of pure itching torture. The doctor couldn’t understand why I wasn’t stung below the waist, and when I told her I was wearing a mermaid tail for a video shoot, her eyes bulged out of her head.’’
“I love surrounding myself with inspiring people who challenge me to do more and be a better person. As much as it would be amazing to meet ‘Aquaman’ or a ‘merman,’ something tells me they might have a hard time keeping up with the pace I swim at.”
To lure aquarium visitors, try a mermaid!
Business Journal Article:
Melissa Dawn is an Orlando, Fla.-based performer who can hold her breath for more than four minutes while she performs a synchronized swimming routine in a shark tank. She’s a former actress and model who markets her services at www.hireamermaid.com. She was a crowd favorite at Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, S.C., two summers ago.
“We’d have people call and ask if she was performing that day and what time,” said Chad Netherland, a Ripley’s director of marketing. “She’s the best-performing mermaid I’ve ever seen.”
After hiring Mermaid Melissa for the 2011 summer season, Ripley’s expanded its mermaid shows to Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Toronto. It has a mermaid training camp to staff its growing enterprise.
“Zoos and aquariums can spend millions of dollars in capital improvements and animal acquisition for a new exhibit to drive attendance. We think there is a niche for seasonal mermaid shows that can deliver the same attendance for a fraction of the cost,” he said. “People are fascinated by sharks and mermaid myths. Combining the two with a compelling story should be a hit.”
Mermaid shows are hardly new. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida has featured mermaids since the 1940s, said Tim O’Brien, a Ripley’s vice president who took the act to Myrtle Beach in 2008.
“Our doors were slammed,” he said. “Little kid love mermaids … just the brightness and excitement that you’d see in these little girls’ eyes, as well as their dads’ eyes, I might add.”
But O’Brien said mermaid shows “are not easy to pull off … If it’s not done right, people are going to laugh at it.”
That’s why he sought Mermaid Melissa, a former Sea World trainer whose YouTube videos have drawn nearly 11.8 million views.
We tried to reach Melissa, but only traded messages.
“I’m calling from my shell phone,” she joked in her “voice-whale”, adding that she’s hard to reach because she’s “literally in the water eight to ten hours a day.”