Style Coven caught up with MerPalooza 2012’s Bad Ass Mermaid Chelsea Holifield after what turned out to be quite the successful and controversial event at Wyndham Orlando Resort. (For more on the controversy, see Style Coven Exclusive – MerPalooza 2012 Mermaid Convention Ousted from International Palms Resort in Orlando Florida for Supporting Gay Rights!).
With help and encouragement from her family and her muse (famous Hollywood “tail man” Thom Shouse), Chelsea became enamored with mermaiding, trained to swim with a tail, met her earthly mermaid pod at MerPalooza and was crowned the show’s most bad ass fishy lady.
Held Aug. 11-12, MerPalooza 2012 was the world’s biggest mermaid-themed gathering ever. Hundreds of mermaids, pirates, fairies and other magical and mythological creatures showed up at The Wyndham Orlando Resort for a trade show, swim fun day with pool games, a mermaid pageant and charity event.
We are fascinated by this emerging mermaid trend (even Disney got into the act by hosting a mermaid recruiting booth at the show!). For an insider look at today’s mermaids, here are some excerpts from our deep sea soul searching interview with bad ass Chelsea Holifield.
How did you win the MerPalooza trophy?
I am not a pageant girl, fashion girl or even considered trendy. I have never won an actual trophy and this one means more to me than I thought a trophy could. After a long weekend of being not only the smallest one in the pod, it turns out I am the toughest!
I always carry a knife (and thanks to new mer pal Robin), I had a new knife that I proudly carried against my back the whole time. I’m kind of the edgy mermaid. I come from a pirate Renaissance faire background and I know how to take care of business. I don’t mind getting dirty or working hard. Because of all this, I was given the nick name Mer-Gyver, which I proudly accepted and now wear as a badge of honor. After busting tail at the MerPalooza trade show, I was given my trophy! Thom gave me the trophy for being a BAM (bad ass mermaid). I worked hard, I kicked ass, and Mer-Gyver was born!
I would never have the opportunities I have now without Thom. Thom is more than a boss. He is my Mer-Papa. Thom teaches us, watches over us and laughs with us. With him and the other girls, we are more than a pod of mermaids: We are a family of mermaids who really love and care for each other
What inspired you to become a mermaid?
I wasn’t inspired by a movie though like most I love (the 90s blockbuster film) Splash. I wasn’t inspired by a loss or tragedy like some in the (mermaid) community who have a story to share. I wasn’t inspired by a person or a place. I was just born with a grand adoration of water. I love the ocean, rivers, streams and pools.
Wherever there is water, chances are I am in it! I am Pisces, I have been swimming since I was two years old and I’ve been a scuba diver since I turned 18. My mother refers to me as her water baby and I was raised with the old stories of mermaids, sirens and sailors.
In fact, I come from a long line of sailors and fisherman. My family sailed and worked the waters of the North Sea in Scotland for many centuries. For many who lived off the ocean and counted on it for survival, just as many of my family gave their lives to the North Sea. Their blood is my blood and I like to think that — though their bodies where never found — they link me to the waters of the North Sea for all times.
I feel the most grounded when I am in the water. There are sounds of silence down there, that make you forget your worries and teach you to listen to the silence of the water world around you. Being a mermaid was just the next step in my evolution. It is another extension of my own being. Being in the water connects me to my family, my element and my heart. I could not think of a more natural thing, than being a mermaid.
What did you need to do to prepare for the tail experience?
Before I was even asked to come to MerPalooza, I was in training. Thom, who knew of my back ground in diving and swimming, wanted me to be a strong swimming mermaid. After a few trips to the shop – after learning and working alongside Thom — it was time to begin my water training.
Thom gave me a large black mono fin and sent me on way. I was confident that this was going to be easy for me. Well, It’s not easy, but it’s not hard either. I could swim slowly and float about easily. As the days went by, I found myself swimming faster, longer, and most importantly, with some grace! After about a month of swimming in the mono fin, I thought I was a bad ass. I could really move with turns, twists and hand stands came easily now!
My favorite new trick was to swim on my side down the length of the pool and twist around to go back! I kept a “dive log” on Facebook, so everyone would know my progress.
Soon after, Thom gave me a lovely green fabric tail to swim in and the first chance I had, I was in the water! Thinking myself somewhat of a bad ass, I thought I had this. I was wrong.
The fabric added more resistance and the tricks did not come so easily anymore. Not to be discouraged, I kept up my training and soon I was back to swimming gracefully! I was not to actually swim in the urethane tail until I arrived at Mer-Palooza. I knew I had to be ready and nothing was going to stop me from being a great swimmer. Every step was important. It gave me a goal and I worked hard to achieve it!
I trained daily by working on my mermaid art and learning from Thom. However, that was not all I had to prep for Mer-Palooza. I ended up as the test mermaid for the new line of mermaid prosthetics, fins, gills, scales, and even webbed ears!
In addition, Thom had an amazing makeup artist, Brenda Salome, come out to do my makeup and turn me into a real creature of the deep sea. I had also created my own scale pasties and large bibbed collar from the old scale pieces pulled from my tail.
What things are in the works for next year?
Everything is coming and going so quickly. Mermaid gigs are coming in and I am looking forward to everything the world has to offer me! I hope to continue to show, sell and create my art. I hope to work as a mermaid and bring a little magic into the world. I always say…Improve, Uplift and Enlighten….so I guess that is what is in the works for New Year!
Style Coven Lifestyles Editor at Large Sheryll Alexander contributed to this story.