June 10, 2023

For those who as soon as dreamt of being Ariel in The Little Mermaid, or spent half your childhood messing about underwater, you are not alone. However these two performers have made the fantasy a actuality, touring throughout the U.S. to work as skilled mermaids.

“I really like giving folks, younger and outdated, a magical reminiscence,” Caroline Don—also referred to as Mermaid Lorelei—instructed Newsweek. “It makes my coronary heart soar.”

The Palm Seashore resident, 30, is a contract graphic designer and artist (@ladyelora) by day, however her facet gig takes her to pool events, inns, Renaissance gala’s and aquariums of all sizes and styles.

Left, Caroline Don as Mermaid Lorelei. Proper, Pierce VanValkenburg as Mermaid Echo.
Mermaid Lorelei/Mermaid Echo/George Quiroga/Aidan Livingston

Like Don, Pierce VanValkenburg has at all times been fascinated by the legendary beings. The 26-year-old now performs nationally and abroad as Mermaid Echo.

“The world beneath the floor of the water—the crops, the wildlife and the silence—at all times felt like my locus solus,” VanValkenburg instructed Newsweek.

The Wisconsin native is obsessed with conservation and makes use of performances to show kids about ichthyology (the examine of fish), hydrology and extra.

‘I’ve All the time Felt Very Comfy within the Water’

Don’s love of mermaids was impressed by watching the Disney animated film as a baby.

“Like most younger children, I performed mermaids at any time when I would go swimming and I simply by no means stopped loving them,” she mentioned.

Caroline Don in costume as Mermaid Lorelei
Caroline Don, 30, has been performing as a mermaid for greater than 10 years.
Mermaid Lorelei/Jay Morrison Pictures

She grew up on the southeastern coast of the U.S. and spent her childhood visiting swimming pools, lakes and seashores. “I’ve at all times felt very snug within the water, it is at all times been so calming to me,” she mentioned.

Don began acting at birthday events aged 17. After graduating highschool, she moved to Myrtle Seashore, South Carolina, to work as considered one of Ripley’s Aquariums’ first mermaid performers.

“It was an enormous hit,” she mentioned. “We have been all scuba skilled and did plenty of practising out and in of the tank.”

Caroline Don performing at an aquarium
Don mentioned kids’s reactions are her favourite factor about performances.
Mermaid Lorelei

It was additionally her first expertise of swimming with a silicone tail. On land, the tails weigh between 25 and 30 kilos, however within the water they turn out to be weightless.

“It’s extremely totally different swimming with the tail, I are likely to swim quite a bit quicker as a result of I’ve the propulsion from the fin,” Don mentioned. “I exploit a dolphin kick when swimming in my tail, the place the legs transfer collectively.”

Being knowledgeable mermaid is enjoyable, however it requires important ability too. Don is licensed as an open water scuba diver, so she is aware of the way to use scuba tools safely and may swim comfortably in open water and alongside wildlife.

Caroline Don performing at an aquarium
Don’s silicone tails can weigh as much as 30 kilos.
Mermaid Lorelei

She will additionally maintain her breath for spectacular lengths of time. Her document whereas mendacity nonetheless is 2 minutes and 14 seconds.

“Shifting eats up your oxygen a lot quicker,” she mentioned. “So, I usually keep down for about 25 to 45 seconds every time I dive relying on the methods I am doing.”

The night time earlier than an occasion, Don spends the night prepping and packing her gear—quite a few tails and equipment together with her pointy mermaid tooth. She then will get up early to do her make-up and double-check her tools earlier than heading to the venue.

As soon as she arrives, she units up a spacious space to prepare as she wants to have the ability to lie right down to get into her tail. Most of her magnificence merchandise are waterproof and the ultimate look is secured with a powerful setting spray.

All her equipment are designed for underwater use, together with a crown with a particular fixing to assist it keep put.

In addition to water-based performances, Don is employed for picture alternatives. Her favourite factor about these meet-and-greets is the response of the kids.

“After I’m performing in an enormous aquarium or simply behind glass it is arduous to listen to and see how the kids are reacting,” she mentioned. “However in actual life, they get so excited to see you and contact the tail and ask you every little thing.”

Her husband Rick joins her at occasions, appearing as her “assistant.” The couple met at a gaming conference in 2013 and married six years later in a mermaid-themed ceremony on the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.

Rick, 54, works as an IT supervisor but additionally narrates a few of her reveals—dressed as a pirate. “He’s the very best husband I may have ever requested for,” she mentioned. “I would not commerce him for the world.”

Caroline Don and husband Rick
Rick, Caroline Don’s husband, is an IT supervisor but additionally attire up as a pirate to relate a few of her reveals.
Mermaid Lorelei

Though the 1989 animation nonetheless has a particular place in Don’s coronary heart, she is worked up for the live-action model of The Little Mermaid, which can be launched on Could 26 and stars Halle Bailey as Ariel.

“The trailer made me cry,” she mentioned. “The visuals are so gorgeous, however most of all Halle Bailey’s voice is past what phrases can describe. She has really introduced Ariel to life.”

‘You Have To Be Very Comfy With the Uncomfortable’

Pierce VanValkenburg, who makes use of they/them pronouns, was raised in a household of aggressive swimmers, however a sports activities damage in 2012 led them towards a efficiency profession. They found the mermaid neighborhood by means of MerNetwork.com, which they describe as “Fb for Mermaids.”

Their expertise in dance, gymnastics and diving made them a fantastic match and so they launched the Mermaid Echo enterprise in 2016.

Pierce Van Valkenburg as Mermaid Echo
Pierce VanValkenburg, 26, has carried out everywhere in the world as Mermaid Echo.
Casey Stupica/Mermaid Echo

“What I take pleasure in concerning the water is the creative freedom zero gravity offers me,” they mentioned. “Water is freedom, play, artwork, dance and all issues secure for me.”

VanValkenburg has since carried out as a part of a circus and at weddings, birthday events and aquariums—they’ve even appeared in an episode of journey actuality present The Wonderful Race.

Summers are significantly busy, with back-to-back reveals and occasions. This implies early mornings, publicity to frigid temperatures and joint ache.

VanValkenburg as Mermaid Echo with a sword
VanValkenburg has been fascinated by mermaids since childhood.
Casey Stupica/Mermaid Echo

“You must be on all day and bear in mind a ton of skits, songs and jokes,” VanValkenburg mentioned.

“You must belief your tools and your group wholly and utterly, and you must be very snug with the uncomfortable.”

Alongside their performances, VanValkenburg teaches a diving course on the way to swim in a tail. They’re additionally a skilled Pink Cross lifeguard, an open water scuba diver and an emergency first response first aider.

“At its core, mermaiding is a hazard sport, and doing it in a secure and efficient means ensures my security and the continuation of the trade as a complete,” they mentioned.

VanValkenburg as Mermaid Echo on the beach
All of VanValkenburg’s costumes are eco-friendly.
Sean Nee/Mermaid Echo

One in every of their favourite components of the job is enjoying with kids by means of the glass at aquariums. Rock, paper, scissors and the Macarena are significantly well-liked with crowds.

“I additionally like to blow bubble rings and swim by means of them to get to the floor,” their mentioned.

VanValkenburg makes their very own tops however will get tails from specialist creators. The heaviest tail weighs 40 kilos. All of the costumes are eco-friendly, from headdresses to make-up.

“Something unintentionally swallowed by a fish or different creature will hurt them, and it’s a mermaid’s duty to guard the underwater creatures we name pals,” they mentioned.

VanValkenburg is presently finding out for a grasp’s diploma in freshwater sciences on the College of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I really like giving children a possibility to attach with STEM in a means I by no means had, a means that’s enjoyable, approachable, foolish and kooky,” they mentioned. “Echo is a dwelling, respiratory instance of why we must always defend our most endangered aquatic assets.”

VanValkenburg as Mermaid Echo performing under water
VanValkenburg makes use of the mermaid alter-ego to show kids concerning the surroundings.
Whimzsea/Mermaid Echo

VanValkenburg has quite a lot of fish pals. They described them as light creatures and mentioned research had proven they’ve related cognition patterns to canine, cats and guinea pigs.

“There’s a sturgeon on the aquarium named Karl who I consider acknowledges me, and at all times approaches me for pets in the identical means,” they mentioned. “He’s a troublemaker generally. He is even nibbled my head.”

This sounds very “Disney mermaid” however VanValkenburg shouldn’t be a fan of Ariel’s angle to life beneath the ocean.

“She wished to go away the water,” they mentioned. “I’ve spent my life attempting to spend as a lot time on or beneath it as I can.”

Do you may have any fascinating footage or movies you wish to share? We wish to see the very best ones! Ship them in to [email protected] and so they may seem on our website.