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Photography Aysun the Mermaid

How to become a professional mermaid

Ask yourself – have I spent enough time diving into my mersonality? Is my mer-image on point?

First things first. Being a professional mermaid is actually a tough gig. You’re not just going to be chilling in your local lido while people thrust crisply-folded fifty pound notes into your shell bra. If you want to be a professional mermaid, you’re going to have to hustle – and invest in a decent tail.

That said, if you’re one of the burgeoning mermaid community and you’ve always fantasised about making your hobby a reality, there are ways to do it. The mermaid community globally is growing, with sites dedicated to serving the needs of those who think it’s better down where it’s wetter every day. But being a professional mermaid is about so much more than dying your hair red and spending a couple of hours browsing Mernetwork. Have you spent enough time diving into your mersonality? Is your mer-image is on point?

Here’s the Dazed guide to making it as a professional mermaid in 2016, with a little help from Aysun, everyone’s favourite sarcastic Russian baby-eating mermaid.

DEVELOP YOUR MERSONALITY

No-one wants to be another anodyne Little Mermaid lookalike – and no one wants to hire one either. Develop your mersonality. Aysun explains. “You need to build a character that’s right for you. My character happens to be a sarcastic, Russian, baby-eating mermaid.” Why? “I find a Slavic accent is really the only accent I can pull off convincingly for a long period of time”.

If you’re not great at accents, be sure at least to stay in character. “Focus on building your character. Sometimes it’s as simple as being like, ‘Hi kids, I’m a mermaid, I live in the sea”. That sounds a lot more straightforward, to be honest.

INVEST IN YOUR EQUIPMENT

No surprises for what you need to fork out for here. A mermaid is nothing without her tail – and these can get pretty pricey. There are places where you can rent tails but if you’re serious about it, you’re going to have to splash out for one eventually.

“The best way to get into mermaiding is to buy a fabric tail from places like Fin Fun or Magic Tail. They both sell fabric tails that cost a few hundred pounds. But if you want to invest in a proper tail, you either want silicone or neoprene. Silicone tails are more high end, and cost around £2000.” While this might seem like a huge whack, Aysun advises that the right tail can help you get lucrative gigs. “My tail features things that other mermaid tails don’t have – mine glows in the dark. It’s really recognisable, and it’s all part of my brand”.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER BLUE PETER

Turns out, loads of the stuff you need to be a professional mermaid you can make at home with some sticky glue and a pair of old fishnets.

“When I perform I put fishnet stockings over my head. I then put blue cream make-up on with a stiff brush, then when you pull the fishnets off you have a criss-cross diamond pattern like scales.” Ingenious.

You can also DIY-yourself your own seashell bra. “I use a regular bra base because a bikini top isn’t sturdy enough to deal with the weight of the shells. You want to use E6000 glue because it bonds the fabric and is waterproof. I sew fake seaweed onto it, and then add pearls. The more things you sew on, the less likely the top is to break down underwater”.

IT’S TIME TO START WORKING OUT 

Being a mermaid is more physically arduous than you might think. It’s not just sucking in your stomach while perfecting your best aquatic duckface – you actually need to be able to swim. And breaststroke won’t do – for authentic mermaid vibes, you need to practice your dolphin kick.

“Dolphin kick is a swimming technique where you put your ankles together and kind of jack-knife through the water. Don’t use your knees, everything needs to come from the hips”.

Even when you’re not swimming laps, being a mermaid is still tiring. “Even just sitting in water is surprisingly draining, because if the water is cooler than your body temperature then it can be hard. The tail is really heavy, and kids want to see you splash the tail around. So when you’re flicking it, it’s hard on your calves”. On the plus side, it’s probably an incredible core workout.

MARKET YOURSELF…BUT BEWARE OF THE PERVERTS

A good way to get future gigs is to have a killer Facebook and Instagram presence – but beware of the mermaid perverts. They’re out there. Aysun has some tips for how to get the ultimate mermaid pose. “Taking really good mermaid pictures is all about putting yourself in really uncomfortable, painful positions, and holding them long enough to get a picture”. When posting them, stay in character and hype how you excited you are about whatever your next mermaid gig is. But be prepared for the creepers.

“Because Aysun is a Turkish name, I get loads of random dudes from Turkey who are really into me. I have to explain that I don’t actually live in the Black Sea. And then there are your regular issue mermaid creeps. They’re the guys who have Facebook pages with all these pictures of mermaids on them and they’ll comment on your page and be like, ‘I like your seashells’. It’s best to just ignore them”.

TAKE IT SERIOUSLY – MERMAIDING ISN’T A JOB, IT’S A VOCATION

Don’t become a mermaid just for the cash – although, if done right, it can be profitable. For a ‘dry gig’, which is where you just sit on land, expect to earn around £35 an hour. For a ‘wet gig’, where you’ll be swimming, rates start at £50 and go up to around £75 an hour. But, as Aysun points out, like almost everything in life, you have to care if you want to be a shit-hot mermaid. 

“You can’t say you want to be a mermaid because it’s cool and you like mermaids. That won’t get you anywhere. You have to care. I do this job because I care about my character. It’s not just sitting there and looking pretty. I improve my character every year, to keep clients coming back to me.

Ask yourself – what else can I offer? How can I be the best mermaid I can be?”