Yes, you read that correctly – you can make money as a mermaid!
The art of mermaiding has become serious business indeed and an excellent way to combine a love for the ocean with performance art skills…and some pretty cute bikini tops!
Always eager to find out about out-of-the-ordinary careers, MoneyMagpie has decided to dive into the depths and uncover a few of the mysteries of making money as a professional mermaid.
Come join us for the swim!
- What do mermaids do?
- Where to train as a mermaid?
- Equipment required
- Where to be a mermaid?
- Be a mermaid for a good cause
- How much can you make?
Granted, it may sound a little too mystical for the more level-headed among us, but being a mermaid these days no longer revolves around luring sailors overboard, but rather focuses on the art of entertainment.
So, while a lithe body and a long breath may come in handy, making money as a mermaid really comes down to a love for the limelight and the ability to keep a crowd coming back for more.
Where it all started
We can quite confidently trace the history of making money as a mermaid back to the early 1900s when the legendary Annette Kellermann carved out a career for herself as a specialist underwater vaudeville star. The dark-haired beauty first appeared on screen in a glittery tail and bikini top in the appropriately named film, The Mermaid (1911) and later Queen of the Sea (1918).
Her legacy lived on in the likes of Ester Williams, an American actress and swimmer, who filled roles in films such as Million Dollar Mermaid.
The start of modern-day mermaiding
The mermaiding phenomenon we’re seeing unfold right now may, however, have its roots directly in Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. With an 18-seat theatre – submerged six feet under water – the park was the very first place known to host mermaid performances, starting in October 1947.
The tradition was instated by then owner, Newton Perry, who scouted out pretty girls – first from the US and then from all corners of the globe – and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. Later, he added other novelties to their repertoire such as eating bananas and drinking soda under water plus aquatic ballet.
Amazingly, the park is still going strong with its mermaid shows and remains a sought-after reference for anyone who dreams of making money as a mermaid.
Where we stand today
While mermaiding has hardly become mainstream, you can expect to enjoy performances at a variety of niche locations: from the Disney Princess-themed kiddies’ party down the road to various aquariums and waterparks around the world.
even men can do it
Since making money as a mermaid is really open to people of all ages and genders, the ‘maid’ is often dropped and performers are merely referred to as ‘mers’.
Tickled by the idea?
Various training academies right across the UK offer a range of mermaiding courses. Here are a few to check out if you want to make money as a mermaid.
Mayim Mermaid Academy, Bournemouth
Founded by Michelle Forsbrey (known as MerShell in the mermaiding world) in 2015, the Mayin Mermaid Academy has been making waves, receiving stellar reviews in various publications over the past few months.
Forsbrey and her team offer four different courses, starting with mermaiding basics during Level 1 and progressing a five-day intensive Level 5 in partnership with The International Mermaid Swimming Instructors Association (IMSIA).
Although Level 1 is open to absolute beginners of all ages, the more advanced courses generally require participants to have a swimming instructor qualification and as well as a valid safeguard certificate.
While the prices for classes depend greatly on the size of the group and the quality of the pool being used, you can expect to pay about £80 per person for two-person classes, and £100 per person for one-on-one sessions.
Find out more by visiting the Mayim Mermaid Academy website.
Freedive UK, Newquay
Freedive UK was the very first school to introduce mermaid courses in the UK and remains a trusted name among dedicated mer-people.
The courses revolve around becoming comfortable underwater in a professional mermaid tail and fin.
Depending on which level you sign up for, students will learn the arts of graceful movement, swimming with their eyes open and generally just looking as beautiful as possible, despite the various discomforts.
Course costs range from £100 per person for the one-day introduction, while the more advanced three-day course – which covers all the basics of freediving – will set you back £400.
Find out more by visiting the Freedive UK website.
Mermaids UK, North Devon
Similarly to Mayim, Mermaids UK was set up by a number of trained swimming teachers as a response to the worldwide mermaiding phenomenon.
Those wanting to undergo mer-training here must be at least six years of age, able to swim 25 metres comfortably with their face submerged and demonstrate a basic dolphin kick for 5 metres.
Apart from their basic courses, Mermaids UK is also one of the top manufacturers of beautiful mermaid tails of high quality.
Depending on the size, you can expect to pay between £105 and £115 for an adult tail and £78 for children’s tails.
Find out more by visiting the Mermaids UK website.
The only equipment you really need to kick off your career is… you guessed it… an actual tail (and probably a matching top).
Whilst starting off with an affordable fabric tail is a great idea, you may want to invest in a custom-designed silicone version later on.
As to be expected, these do not come cheap and you could fork out anything from £1500 upwards per tail.
Joining a reliable agency may be your first and wisest step toward making money as a professional mermaid. Here in the UK specialist agencies are
From the safety of their networks, you may find some enticing opportunities in the following places:
While it may seem silly, themed birthday parties are excellent opportunities to get your fin in the mother-of-pearl door. With Ariel being an all-time favourite Disney princess, you may want to invest in a fiery red wig, purple bikini top and turquoise tail.
As you work your way up, you may find opportunities to appeal to more diverse crowds. Corporate event organisers, for instance, may rope you in to help add an edge to bland canapes and boring small talk.
Aquariums and waterparks
If you’re feeling comfortable with your repertoire, why not explore the possibility of performing for bigger audiences? A number of local aquariums host mermaid shows and some may even be looking to do so in the future.
Get a little peek into this world by checkin out Manchester SEA LIFE’s Merry Mermaids.
Finally, the skills you’ve acquired offer you the unique opportunity of making money as a mermaid by posing for underwater photographs.
Once again, make sure you don’t get ripped off by booking your shoots through a trustworthy agency.
One thing most mer-people have in common is a fierce love for the ocean and the desire to help protect it.
If you’re thinking of making money as a mermaid, work an educational edge into your performance by focusing on conservation. This will help to spread the word about the need to conserve sea-life, particularly when you do children’s parties.
As with all performance artists, making money as a mermaid requires a good deal of hard work and patience. At the start you may not get too many gigs, but as you become more experienced, network with potential employers and become known in the field, your gigs should increase.
According to a recent Dazed article, ‘dry’ performances – where you don’t do any swimming – could earn you around £35 an hour, while the rate for ‘wet gigs’ starts at about £50 an hour.
Of course, the more famous you get, the more you can charge.Also, the more skills you have, the more saleable you become. Work on your swimming technique, keep your body in good shape, learn extras like aquatic ballet and you will be able to charge more.
So, work hard to make a name for yourself and reap the rewards.