‘I’m doing a project on underwater photography. Will you be my model?’ Jess asked one day. I knew instantly that posing as a mermaid would make for the perfect shot. I’d always loved the ocean and been fascinated by the gorgeous tails of those legendary creatures. So I immediately got to work making a beautiful costume with shimmery green material and aquarium adornments.
When it came to the shoot, the feeling of being underwater was amazing.
‘Let’s do it again!’ I smiled to Jess as I surfaced. From there, my mermaid obsession grew. Before long, I was spending every spare moment crafting tails out of neoprene and painting them in shimmering blue and gold. Sometimes I’d go to the beach in my tail and lounge on the sand. It certainly made a lot of people do a double take!
Jess would come along to take photos, but she never felt confident enough to put on her own costume. ‘I’d feel too self-conscious showing that much skin,’ she confessed.
‘You’re beautiful. You shouldn’t worry about what people think,’ I replied, but she couldn’t be convinced.
Before long, I was spending every spare moment crafting tails out of neoprene and painting them in shimmering blue and gold.
Before long, I started a Facebook page and told people which beach I’d be heading to next. To my surprise I started to draw quite a crowd. The look of wonder on kids’ faces never failed to make me smile and they’d come up to inspect my intricate tail.
‘Where do you live?’ they would ask. Seeing it as an opportunity to educate them about the sea, I told them all about the beautiful reefs around Perth where my alter ego, Mermaid Amelia, lives.
When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I had to put my aquatic ambitions on hold. Crippled by morning sickness from start to finish, I could barely leave the house, let alone frolic in the ocean!
In August 2013, my hubby, Alex, 32, and I welcomed our boys, Riley and Sebastian. Now I had my very own mer-babies, the pull of the ocean felt even stronger. ‘I want to go out mermaiding again,’ I said to Jess. I couldn’t fit into my old costumes, so I got busy crafting new designs. Then to my surprise, Jess started making her own tail. ‘Let’s do this together!’ she exclaimed.
Just three months after I’d had the boys, I was back on the beach with Mermaid Jessica Pearl by my side. Luckily, everything went swimmingly – two mermaids meant twice as much fun!
When parents noticed how much their kids’ eyes lit up when they saw us, we were soon being booked for parties in private pools too. This gave us the opportunity to make up fun acrobatic underwater routines to wow the crowds. We certainly made a splash!
Although we loved creating magical tails, our energetic routines meant we were going through them faster than we could create them. That’s when we bought specially-made 15 kilo silicone tails from the USA. At $2000 each they weren’t cheap, but they looked so authentic. After adding our own homemade silicone seashell bras and applying waterproof aquamarine make-up, we could’ve given Ariel a run for her money!
With my long hair floating behind me, I felt so free as I kicked through the water. The heaviness of the tail also helped me lose my baby weight and tone up, which was a welcome surprise!
Last year we were asked to regularly perform at Perth’s AQWA aquarium. Training to become free divers, we learnt techniques to stay under water for minutes at a time. Our record is four minutes, although it can be difficult to do when we’re flipping around.
Lowering ourselves into the huge tanks, we were soon swimming with hundreds of colourful fish, stingrays, turtles and even sharks! Although they look intimidating at 3.6 metres long, the grey nurse sharks are completely harmless.
On a trip to Queensland recently, we even donned our tails at the Great Barrier Reef. Swimming with real-life Nemo is definitely one of the best things we’ve ever experienced!
Our aquarium work also gives us a chance to educate people about how important it is to look after our oceans. Australia is lucky enough to have the most beautiful and diverse reefs in the world and it would be such a shame to see them destroyed. We hope that by showing people the real beauty of our seas, they’ll be preserved for generations to come. It feels amazing to be making a difference.
My boys are now two years old and know their mummy is a real-life mermaid. When they see me in my tail, they smile and point in delight. Who knows, I might even have a pair of mer-men on my hands one day!
With Jess by my side, there’s no limit to where our mermaid business could take us. I’m proud to be making a splash!
As told to Riah Matthews
Originally published in that's life! Issue 10, 2016.