Full Mermaid Melissa Video Playlist:
Most of us as a child have a very active imagination & believe that anything is possible! Those of us who grow up and live the dream, are some of the lucky ones! We have encapsulated those dreams of being part of something bigger than ourselves by diving into the unknown with open arms.
My lifestyle as a young surfer girl from Saint Augustine, Florida grew into something of a lifelong quest to achieve an aquatic career that seemed only a fantasy -that I was determined to make into my reality. What started as a summer hobby visiting the ocean, Aquariums, or in my pool from almost sunup to sundown, led to the realization early on (at age 12) that I could hold my breath for over 2 and a half minutes.
With the nickname “fish” evolving into being called, “Dolphin” as my skill level improved… Trying to experiment by using a garden hose to try to breathe underwater, it quickly became apparent that this was not possible as an option as I had hoped! With my passion to stay submersed as long as possible, free diving was the natural progression that I pursued full time into adulthood.
At the age of 13 this small town girl was becoming restless, like a big fish in a small pond. Moving felt like Orlando was Hollywood and the theme park entertainment capital. I quickly found my self in modeling and acting school working on The Disney Cruise Line National commercial, and at age 15 I found a job at Universal Studios Florida. Even then I was driven… With the goal in mind to work as a Ride and show attendant till I caught the attention of the Animal Actor show team, and at 16 was already hired on to be a cage cleaner. This opened the door for me to prove myself, working very hard and finally being part of the show, and even going on location to movie sets with my trained animals.
After the thrill of working on so many film projects I moved to Los Angeles, California at 18 years old. This was my first step for a longing to travel and see the world and make a check off my list of “things I wanted to do in life”.
I gained a lot of wisdom and the courage to take on the good and the bad in Los Angeles. You need that type of exposure if pursuing the entertainment field to learn what type of person you really are & what you will tolerate. Most importantly you learn how to grow stronger, apply it to how to manage your own your life and career goals.
In 2005 that land mark moment for any ocean lover was finally achieved when the water brought me back to Florida, finishing my scuba courses, and got PADI certified for open water. I cannot ever find the right words to describe the freedom given when looking up close at a reef without the concern to come up for air and relish in the moment for as long as my tanks would permit. Once I sank to depths that seem to take with it the light piercing from above, it became clear just how small I am and how little is known beyond below the salty ocean surface.
This same year, my career as a professional free diver was checked off my list of goals. Never would I have thought it possible to make a living from something that comes so natural to me and -that I would otherwise have been doing- in my free time if not getting paid to to this. Perfecting my record for breath holds, I worked my way up to 4:18 seconds underwater in 2006 and another on video captured 2013 same spot as years prior at 4:32 underwater! By working diligently on my Static Apnea Breath Hold, laying at the surface of the water allowed me to push the limits further to 5 minutes as a personal best.
The next transfer in aquatic ventures was into working with marine mammals. Aquariums have always been an an inspiration to me as a child allowing me access to creatures I would have never otherwise known about. It was hard not to fall in love with their mysterious nature and become passionate to develop a strong rapport.
This career path is both physically & mentally demanding. A sacrifice of your personal life that becomes dedicate to a life give to the animals I worked with. It is not a 9am to 5pm job. Having a career in an industry with marine mammals, I find a perspective of all sides of conservation issues. Understanding the value in it’s education to view marine mammals up close for a lasting impact, yet also understanding the shift that is increasing worldwide towards seeing animals in a more natural environment.
I grew up by an inlet coast called Flagler County, Florida where dolphins were constantly around me when I would swim. I can recall holding my head underwater unable to see anything but hearing their clicks all around me like a secrete code to come into their world. When it came time for me to work with these animals face to face, the adjustment came very easy having studied Marine Biology since I was a teen reading up on these fascinating animals of the sea.
My respect for the how fragile our blue planets eco system is grows daily from the relationships with animals, knowing that if we do not help them, who will? The tough decisions we all have to make together, determines our fate on how the planet thrives, how we survive, and will reflect on how we treat others in the future.
My aspirations as a mermaid has truly transformed me in more ways than the obvious. It is a self-made journey born out of love for the sea, that continues to grow from the years of hard work creating a business from the ground up completely on my own with no outside financing or sponsors.
The back story of this is very deep rooted. It was the ultimate fairy tale for any young girl who has watched “The Little Mermaid” and “Splash” -a way that I viewed to find a balance between staying human, and joining their world as part dolphin. Through much determination and imagination, I ventured into a field that no one viewed as an actual marketable skill & focused all my background knowledge into making this happen.
By spinning an educational message that is fresh & new, I continue to invite others to join me on new adventures on how to enjoy, save, and continue to share with others how to protect our blue planet. My future as a professional mermaid has reached great achievements but the potential for my company mission has many more chapters that are about to be written. Our belief in dreams coming true can be lived, with each new passion that we pursue!
With the momentum building from a lifetime of aquatic skills growing and evolving in my life daily… I have found my calling to reach the masses with a message, “Let’s save the oceans before all creatures become mythical.” As a mascot for the marine animals who have no voice, I worked hard to entertain those with a positive message on how to save our seas without the negative backlash one usually hears about how depressing and bleak our future could be. Becoming a source of inspiration to motivate others to peruse their own passions in life, and help with a good cause close to their heart, that will in turn inspire others.
What is a professional mermaid for hire?
With personal credentials including extensive high profile experience working for multiple aquariums, hands on experience with marine mammals, utilizing my background managing underwater shows, & being a professional free diver, was just a few of the invaluable set of skills that helped shape my mermaid resume.
Both dedication and discipline to the mermaid company brand is evident by also providing services & talent that no one else in the world can match. The most complex array of customized mermaid tails, show experience, equipment, 6 mermaid tanks, and full service aquatic performance team. Of the hundreds that have applied, & of few who made it to the audition process… Only the most qualified make the final cut who eventually move on to an active role as professional mermaid hired to perform at a live events with my company. When there is water involved, safety and experience go hand in hand, which is why so few ever make the final cut to expand our team. We believe in quality over quantity.
At the end of 2013-2014 was dedicate my environmental motivational efforts for the preservation of helping to save our oceans, “Mermaid Melissa” became the official legal name change. As I vow to live true to a cause close to my heart, and serve as a daily reminder that this is a life long process to learn, evolve, and be willing adapt to change for the sake of something bigger than ourselves. If we hope to spread a message to help save our blue planet and all that makes it unique, remember that one act of kindness through conservation can make all the difference.
Currently she is actively involved with joining ocean projects to generate awareness for our fragile ocean Eco system by swimming with the animals of the sea for photo shoots, films, documentary projects, and independent movies with similar causes.
2015 has seen Mermaid Melissa swimming in the Caribbean Sea with the stingrays, eels, sea stars, diving in shipwrecks, and exploring the local culture of the Cayman Islands beautiful coral reefs. During this visit to Grand Cayman, a large event was open to the public advertised on the news and interviews as a real life mermaid.
Summer 2015 in Australia I performed in a giant fish tank 40 foot long outdoor display aquarium for a live public event. Partnering with eco friendly private islands such as Great Keppel island, Lady Elliot island, and Heron Island. It is an awe-inspiring and life changing experience to swim along side giant Manta Rays, sharks, dolphins, humpback whales & thousands of marine life teaming together in harmony at The Great Barrier Reef. I feel honored to be sharing my life along side such beautiful creatures that I witnessed living among some of the most beautiful coral reefs I’ve ever seen.
New developments for 2016 include a full schedule traveling overseas to locations such as the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Bahamas, Grand Cayman Island, Mexico, and many other locations. Images and video from each location will be added throughout the year with new information on each project as the months unfold. There is still time to add more adventures to the list! If you have a special event in your country and looking to have a mermaid swim the oceans and visit you direct, email MermaidMelissa@gmail.com with the date, location, and details of your specific request!
— Mermaid Melissa, professional mermaid
Living Underwater: Real Life Mermaid Melissa
Mermaid Performer – Professional Mermaid For Hire – Mermaid Job – Mermaid Career
As squealing pre-teen girls gather before a large tank at a Florida aquatic park, Mermaid Melissa wriggles into a 60-pound silicone tail and a clamshell bra.
Backstage, Mermaid Melissa nods to her production team, then, with the free-flowing finesse of a sea creature, careens into the water. Slowly and gracefully, she glides 14 feet below the surface; here, she’ll hold her breath for 5 minutes while doing tricks for the crowd on the other side of the glass.
With platinum blonde hair and blue eyes, Melissa looks more like a Barbie doll than Ariel. But for more than a decade, she has made a living in one of America’s strangest trades: the “professional mermaid” business.
The life of a mermaid, especially one who makes a living at her craft, is not for the weak-willed. It is a job that requires synchronous expertise in freediving, swimming, marine biology, and CPR — not to mention a superior level of physical fitness and core strength. With nearly a decade of experience as a professional freediver and underwater performer, Melissa fits the bill. But she is also a consummate entrepreneur who has built a thriving business around her mermaid alter-ego.
As a child in the coastal town of St. Augustine, Florida, Melissa Dawn spent her early days reading books on marine biology, and exploring the treasures brought in by the tide. She developed a fascination with sea life (“Teachers identified my assignments by the dolphin drawings on them,” she says), and eventually sought to connect with them in real life:
“I would often join my older sister and go surfing…I’d place a tape recorder with recordings of dolphin echolocation in a Ziplock bag, and I’d try and play it to the wild pods of dolphins that visited the inlet I swam in. At 12 years old, I was convinced this would work, and was fascinated at the idea of better understanding, or one day cracking, the ‘dolphin communication code.’”
In her early teens, Melissa moved with her family to Orlando, and, for the first time, the shy, quiet animal lover “came out of [her] shell.” With dreams of someday working with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, she secured a weekend job as a show attendant in the sea creature stadium; by 16, she’d worked her way up to part-time cage cleaner, and by 18, she was tasked with directly helping the performers.
Eventually, she graduated college with a marine biology degree, became a certified freediver, and was hired by “the largest marine life park in Orlando” to be an underwater performer. For 8 to 12 hours a day, she swam in large aquatic tanks, entertaining thousands of tourists. It was a job that required a unique blend of advanced swimming skill, technical diving know-how, endurance, and extreme breath-holding.
“I worked my way up to where I was holding my breath for four minutes and 32 seconds underwater, and then, five minutes,” she says. “It required constant training, and I soon got to the point where swimming was as natural to me as breathing.”
Renowned for her breath-holding and underwater tricks, the venue began announcing her to the crowds as “Mermaid Melissa.” It wasn’t before long that audience members began to ask her where her tail was.
A Business Tail
Melissa has always favored Jacques Cousteau over Ariel: “I didn’t grow up obsessed with mermaids,” she admits. “I watched The Little Mermaid as a kid, but never thought I’d actually turn into one myself.”
Yet after dozens of inquires about her lack of a tail, Melissa realized it was time to suit up; when she did, she figured she’d also spread her new brand name outside of the confines of the Universal theme park.
In 2006, just after YouTube launched, she began posting videos of herself free diving; eventually, she moved onto swimming in full mermaid regalia — clamshell-embossed bra and 60-pound, realistic tail included. “There was nothing like this on the Internet at the time,” she says, “and I received a lot of positive feedback from viewers asking to see more content.” Very quickly, she became an Internet sensation, sparking long-winded debates among impressionable commenters over whether or not she was a “real-life mermaid.”
After a few of her videos went viral, Melissa posted a promotion offering her services as “mermaid for hire” at children’s birthday pool parties. The ad generated so much interest that she decided to launch her own professional mermaid service company.
Since 2007, Melissa has run her own mermaid mini-empire.
What started as her offering to perform at children’s’ parties has since expanded into a fully-staffed “mermaiding troupe” that puts on shows all over the world, and an arsenal of five custom-made mermaid performance tanks that are rented out frequently for private parties.
“I identify myself as a businesswoman with a mission statement of promoting ocean education through underwater entertainment,” she says. “For me, my mermaid persona is an escape from the norm — it makes me feel like Clark Kent transforming into Superman.”
Her performance company, “Mermaid Aquatic Entertainment,” is composed of a highly-trained team of merfolk, all of whom she sourced from theme parks in Orlando and Los Angeles. She doesn’t just hire any old mermaid: her performers are skilled acrobats, swimmers, and, most importantly, freedivers:
“Freediving is a dangerous skill. It takes a lot of training and it is something you can lose if you do not continuously maintain it. I train my performers how to be the best at mermaiding, but I do not hire those without the skills to be safe and athletic underwater. The people I hire at my company have a strong background in freediving, and most have had experience entertaining in underwater tanks on a single breath.”
And who exactly hires a troupe of mermaids?
In the past few years alone, Melissa and her mer-crew have been hired by aquariums, hotels, resorts, movie directors, event planners, corporate companies, photographers, charities, reality shows, fairs, concerts, fashion designers, and corporate events — just to name a few. She’s worked every type of event, from lavish VIP parties to Hollywood movie shoots, and her work has taken her across the world: Japan, Dubai, Australia, Germany, the Bahamas, Italy, Belgium, France, London, Portugal, Jamaica…the list is exhaustive.
Often, clients request that she wear a tail of a specific color, and she’ll have to get it custom-made. But like any good mermaid, Melissa has learned there is much more to the profession than the quality of one’s tail: “It is one of many tools,” she says, “and, as with any business, no one thing guarantees success.”
Melissa has managed to build out an impressive online fan base: 250,000,000 views, and her 1,000,000+ Facebook fans provide her with an endless stream of business.
“My rates vary a lot based on what type of event the client requests,” she tells us, “but I will say that I do not get paid in sand dollars.”
A Mermaid With a Message
When theme park-goers first gave Melissa the nickname “Mermaid Melissa” ten years ago, she was a bit reticent to accept the title; since then, she’s not only launched a thriving business, but has legally changed her name to “Mermaid.”
“I guess I just decided to take it to a whole different level than they ever imagined,” she admits.
Her company’s slogan — “Let’s help save the oceans before all creatures become mythical” — voices her vision: a world focused on protecting and saving the sea and its dignified creatures. In a roundabout way, it’s a message that harkens back to her dream as a child.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up fast so I could have an adult job, and achieve my dream [of working with marine animals],” she says. “It’s pretty ironic how I’ve come full-circle: now that I’m finally an adult, I’m living out every little girl’s childhood fantasy.”