When we think of mermaids, we usually think of a mysterious creature lurking in myth and legends. We rarely think of it as a possible vocation. And yet, here we are.
To get things started, let’s just be clear: there are no schools that will turn your legs into a fishtail with magical powers (not yet, but we will keep you posted). Rather, mermaid schools train people to become mermaid performers, entertainers who dress up and swim around as if they were mermaids. Think of it like clowns-for-hire but they’re impersonating Ariel. Something like that.
Mermaid performers can be seen everywhere these days, and booking a mermaid for your next pool bash or bachelorette party is easier now than ever before. This increased accessibility means that more people are hiring mermaids — maybe one day soon, they’ll be calling you.
All it takes is an education in the ways of the merfolk.
The phenomenon of mermaid schools is a strange one, and people attend these classes for many reasons — we’ll get to all of that. But first, let’s understand just what is going on with mermaid performers and why they are experiencing a golden age.
The Weeki Wachee Mermaids
The story really begins in 1947 when Newton Perry opened a roadside attraction less than an hour outside Tampa, Florida. He used a natural spring as the stage, and carved window openings into the limestone for visitors to view women dressed up as mermaids.
The original set up was less than optimal. There were two air hoses placed out of sight from visitors, and the mermaids would trade off between performing and, well, breathing. Staff would also be in eye sight of the performers to give them hand gestures warning of any water snakes or alligators entering the springs.
The thriving postwar economy, affordability of cars, and development of a highway network across the United States meant that families started traveling like never before. Roadside attractions like Perry’s Weeki Wachee Mermaids were able to make great money providing unique, unheard of entertainment spectacles.
Through the 50’s and 60’s, copycat shows began popping up at restaurants, bars, and clubs. Performers developed incredible skills and talents, like drinking a soda underwater.
The craze ended up in several films and made the original Weeki Wachee Mermaids the stuff of pop legend.
But no crazes last forever. As roadside culture dried up, so too did the prevalence of mermaid performers. New attractions began to fill the void, with mega amusement parks and other high budget destinations soaking up all the tourism dollars.
The Mermaid Renaissance
Believe it or not, the past several years have seen an explosion of interest in booking mermaids for parties and as entertainment for restaurants and bars. Mermaid trainers estimate there are about 1,000 full time employed mermaids working in the United States today.
The causes of the boom are not incredibly well known, but there are a few clear causes.
The first is the availability of mermaids. Now that the first generation that grew up with The Little Mermaid are turning forty, there are enough people interested in training to be a mermaid for there to be a big enough pool of performers. These merfolk have rigorous training, and the work isn’t easy — but nevertheless there are people up to the challenge.
Crucially, there are now enough mermaid performers who have been working long enough to begin schools of their own, bringing up the next generation of performers in the art of the tail. That has created an ongoing supply of veteran and rookie performers.
There are also multiple reasons why people go to these training events and enroll in these schools. Many wish to begin a career as a performer, yes, but there are many other reasons, as well.
Some people use the training as an engaging form of exercise. They strap their legs into a silicone tail and swim for a one-of-a-kind cardio workout. Others simply want to live out their childhood fantasy of being a mermaid. Those health-conscious mermaids and weekend warriors help increase the profitability of training.
Put it together, and there is now a secondary market opening up selling mermaid tails.
But why are so many people hiring mermaid performers now?
After the first boom set off by the Weeki Wachee Mermaids as described above, there were many decades without much going on. But the last ten years have witnessed a marked increase in demand for performers. Businesses that use them for entertainment and interest for such services at parties is increasing yet again.
Do you crave the life of a mermaid performer? Do you think you have what it takes to squeeze into a silicone tail and enchant people with your underwater skills? Lucky for you, it’s never been easier to find a mermaid school.
With the increased interest, a large network of mermaid classes and programs has emerged across the country and world. The Mermaid School Locator is a great tool to find something close to you.
It is important to remember that not every school is made equal. Many places offer single classes. You pay a small fee and get to don the magical tail and learn how to swim with it. These are often geared towards children and the young at heart.
On the other side are full scale programs that teach you the ins and outs of mermaid performing, many taught by veterans in the craft that can connect you to your first gigs.
When using the Mermaid School Locator or searching on your own, make sure that you trust the instructors and read through feedback so you understand exactly what to expect.
But take heart! You are living in the best time to become a mermaid. The stars have aligned, and it is high tide for mermaid performers.