Mermaid Mer-chelle (real name Michelle Roberts) got her first mermaid tail when she was 8 years old and now spends her spare time following in the footsteps of women earning a living as professional mermaids. She's filmed an episode for All 4 called My Weird Hobby. We caught up with her to talk about why she decided to put on her mermaid's tail and make her dreams come true.
What do you find most appealing about the idea of a mermaid?
Mermaids are so mythical and in legend they are supposed to be serene and mysterious. I've loved Mermaids for as long as I can remember and I love the fact they can be both romantic and powerful.
You got your first mermaid tail when you were eight years old, so do you remember how it felt when you put it on for the first time?
It was the most amazing feeling in the world! It was made of sparkly blue materiel and green sequins! I couldn't believe that I actually got a tail! I spent the whole of that Christmas sat on my Grandparent's sofa in the tail and singing songs from the Little Mermaid.
Why do you think little girls are particularly drawn towards these mythical creatures?
I think as all children read fairy tales when they are young, the mythical world of fairies, princesses and dragons are a big part of that world and in the imagination, anything is possible! The fact that Mermaids are from a realm of make believe gives the children the chance to be something they can't be in real life and there is a great freedom in that. There are no rules to the imagination.
Which films and books inspired you when you were young?
I've always been a book worm and would read all the time! I loved classic fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and Brothers Grimm and also the works of Jacqueline Wilson. Like many people I was brought up on the Disney films and the classic fantasies of the time like Labyrinth, Legend, Princess Bride and Hook!
Why do you think more and more women are looking to become professional mermaids? Why has this suddenly taken off?
We have come into a generation of technology and children have stopped needing to use their imagination so much. I think deep down we all have the need to be creative and seeing a Mermaid takes you back to when it was okay to enjoy fantasy. In America there are a few Mermaids that have gained global fame including Hannah Fraser and Mermaid Melissa and they are leading the way for people to realise that it is possible to live your dream, no matter how unconventional.
It is still a very new concept in the UK as we don't have quite as many swim safe beaches (or the weather to enjoy them) so I am hoping to increase the knowledge that you can indeed have a Mermaid come to your party or event.
Please tell us about the training you have to do in order to become a professional.
I have been a strong swimmer since childhood and I always make sure to keep my body in peak physical health so I have the stamina to perform underwater.
I attended the UK Freedive Course in Cornwall where I gained a certificate in Freedive Level 1 and Mermaid swimming. There is much more to Freediving than most people think and it is very important everyone is aware that you must have training before you wear a mono fin.
You have to learn how to swim differently so does this help to keep you fit and in shape? Do you have to do other exercises to help you swim this way?
Core exercises are essential so things like planking and yoga will definitely help you build up your strength and stamina. Swimming laps in a pool will also help.
How pleased were you with the initial underwater photo shoot?
The photos look amazing! I was actually surprised that I looked so relaxed as the only way to sink to the bottom of a pool is to exhale all the air from your lungs so it's not very comfortable. Having your eyes open for a long time in chlorine water can also be uncomfortable so there's lots you need to focus on whilst making sure your face is relaxed. It's hard work but absolutely worth the results and the photographer Alastair Scarlett was amazing!
What is next for you?
I am working on creating my own Mermaid entertainment company called Siren Serenade that combines Mermaid meet and greets, children's parties, corporate events and also full scale vocal shows.
In the future I hope to be able to do some awareness work protecting the ocean and educating children on the importance of recycling.
Right now I have two gorgeous Mermaids I'm working with called Samantha Smallwood and Lily-Rose Sheppard and we have got some very exciting things lined up! We have a website www.sirenerenade.com
My Weird Hobby is available to watch now on All 4 at http://www.channel4.com/shorts