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What Makes a Professional Mermaid?

little mermaid ariel mermaid tail cosplay costume red wig underwater

Some recent questions from new mermaids in the community have all been related to what it means to be a "professional" mermaid.

- Am I a professional mermaid if I just do charity events?
- Am I a professional if I don't wear makeup?
- Can I be a professional in a tail that didn't cost $3k to custom design and mold out of silicone?

Short answer: YES.

I think it's helpful to first define what it means to be a professional:

The Oxford Dictionary online defines the adjective form of professional as 
1. relating to or connected with a profession;
2. engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime
The Cambridge dictionary defines it as
1. relating to work that needs special training or education;
2. having the qualities that you connect with trained and skilled people, such as effectiveness, skill, organization, and seriousness of manner

While there are a handful of mermaids (and mermen) out there that make their living as a professional mermaid rather than have it as a side job, most mermaids pursue their dream outside of their regular job.

So...if you take just the second Oxford definition, you would have to assume that only those select few full-time mermaids are professionals. 

However, if you take the second definition from the Cambridge dictionary, you can be considered a professional just by how you present yourself.

If your lawyer was screaming and yelling at the Judge in Court, and breaking laws themselves, you wouldn't call them very professional, would you? Even though being a lawyer is his full-time job, in some ways this would not be considered being a professional.

Similarly, I believe that any mermaid, no matter what his or her primary income is, can be a professional. It all depends on how you market yourself for events and how you treat your customers.

And besides, if someone wants to be petty enough to go after you, telling you that you're not a professional mermaid because you only do free charity events, or for some other ridiculous reason, it sounds like they have some insecurity issues to feel the need to be "gatekeeping" the community.

 little mermaid Ariel cosplay costume mermaid tail

Now let's talk mermaid tails...

What makes a professional mermaid tail?

I want to touch on the issue of tail quality and being a professional mermaid. It's one of the most common discussions in the mermaid community!
As you know, there are a plethora of different companies that make and sell tails, and even more different styles and materials within each company.
You can order pre-designed tails, customize your own, or have someone else design a custom tail for you.

Tails can be made of fabric, scuba knit, neoprene, silicone, etc, and they can range from around $100 for a fabric tail, to well over $2k custom silicone tail.

The type of tail you have and the cost does not determine if you are professional or not.

While many of the more famous professional mermaids have custom silicone tails, there are still many mermaids who do events in fabric and neoprene tails, some that they even make themselves!
As I said above, being a professional really depends on your attitude and dedication.

However, I will say this: different events and situations do call for different looks and acts.
A basic fabric tail is not very convincing, especially since they are geared toward children and the kids might already have one themselves. They are not likely going to believe you are a real mermaid if you have the same mermaid tail they have! But there is absolutely nothing wrong with practicing in such a tail or having one for fun.
Scuba knit or neoprene tails usually have a bit more realistic look and feel than basic fabric tails. They often have big, showy flukes and more intricate designs.
Of course, silicone tails are by far the most realistic looking mermaid tails. They also feel realistic! They are slippery like scales and even have 3-dimensional scales formed into the tail rather than printed on fabric.
It's also important to note how the overall style of your tail fits with the event. If you are doing something like a horror show, a rainbow sparkle tail probably isn't going to work out so well!
Purple mermaid tail for adult aquamermaid mermaid on the beach
Now let's talk about certifications...

Professional Mermaid Certifications

To be an accomplished mermaid, you need a certain set of skills. You can get those through training and partnering with an already established organization.

Mermaid Certifications
While you certainly don't need an actual mermaid certification to be a professional mermaid, the skills you learn certainly will help!

Here are a couple of professional mermaid certifications:

mermaid swimming underwater purple mermaid tail

Aquatic Skills
As a mermaid, it's vital to have strong swimming skills. There is no doubt about it that swimming in a mermaid tail can be more challenging than swimming without one, so make sure you are a strong swimmer.

You can also learn valuable skills relevant to mermaiding from advanced swimming courses such as:
  • free-diving
  • scuba diving
  • monofin swimming
  • synchronized swimming
Water Safety Skills
Safety should always be on top of mind in the water.

Some good water-safety related certifications to consider getting include:
  • first aid/CPR
  • lifeguard certification
  • swimming instructor certification
  • Bronze Cross/Bronze Medallion
First-Hand Mermaid Experience
Experience as a mermaid is as important, if not more than certifications. Mermaid training and apprenticeships are a great way to jumpstart your professional mermaid career!
Mermaid Experiences
Get introduced to mermaid swimming techniques and safety with mermaid classes offered by known establishments. You can take mermaid classes at organizations like:
mermaid in a bath tub
Another great way to get experience to become a professional mermaid is to volunteer, practice with, or work for a pro mermaid. This is a great way to learn the best tricks!

As with any certification or training, they're great to have, but it's important to maintain your knowledge with frequent practice. Keeping your skills strong and up-to-date will help you get bookings over someone who took a certification but never practices.

Swim frequently with your tail and stay in good shape. Good cardio will help you to improve your breath-hold. Staying in touch with other mermaids in the community will help you continue to learn new skills and make connections that could help you find more job opportunities as a mermaid!

mermaid meet up community pod aquamermaid
Now let's talk makeup...

Do you need to wear makeup to be a mermaid? Or to be considered professional?

Even outside the mermaid community, there is so much pressure to wear makeup all the time. Society has burned the idea into our brains that in order to look beautiful and professional, you need to dress a certain way and look a certain way, which includes wearing the right fashions and covering your face in makeup to hide any 'imperfections'.

Aside from most performance and model jobs, I have yet to see a job that requires you to wear makeup to work or risk being fired. As long as you clean yourself and dress appropriately for your job, you have nothing to worry about! You get to make your own mersona. Whether that involves makeup or not, it's totally up to you!

Even jobs that do require makeup for performances or modeling photos are only doing so to make sure the model or the character looks the desired way in photos and videos.

mermaid underwater photo dragon dorsal fin
You should never feel the need to change your look because someone tells you to. 

You may wish to wear makeup as a mermaid to keep the water from washing out your skin tone as you swim (especially in photos), to give yourself a supernatural or magical look, or to fascinate the children with how your makeup stays on even under water...but you should never feel like you have to do something you don't want to do.

After all, would "real" mermaids wear makeup? Probably not! At the end of the day, this is your dream and your job...not someone else's.

If you do choose to swim in makeup, make sure it's sealed and waterproof so it stays on. Avoid wearing glitter or sequins which cause plastic pollution of natural waterways in the form of microplastics.

Feel free to leave your own insights, advice, or thoughts on this in the comments below!


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