‘I work as a pro mermaid and wear a £1.7k tail – it’s harder than it looks’

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A woman who wanted to take her love for the water a step further decided to become a professional mermaid.

Felicia Flaherty, 26, from Maryland, USA, embarked on the unusual underwater career eight years ago.

Determined to be successful, she became scuba dive certified and free dive certified before she purchased her first mermaid tail.

Now she performs in tanks across the United States and spends thousands on the perfect fin.

"When I first discovered that being a mermaid was a thing I thought I should have the training done first to be safe but also be proficient in a tail," she told the Daily Star.

"I was good in the water before but the free dive training helped with breath-holding techniques but really it comes down to enjoying being in the water and feeling calm.

"If you're enjoying it, it makes it more magical for everyone."

Felicia said the tails are "really expensive" but are obviously integral to the outfit.

She has a custom silicon tail — which can range from $2,000 (£1,484) to $10,000 (£7,421) — with hers having set her back $2,300 (£1,707) after a discount.

"An industry standard is nobody is to be in a tail for more than two hours at a time because we do have to go to the bathroom and stretch and things," she explained.

"My shift when I'm performing is usually an hour at a time and I do multiple sets a day but I do get a break in between. Even though our water is heated it's still not heated to body temperature, so we do get cold eventually.

"My physical limit is usually my bladder, unfortunately. Everything else will be fine but I'll need to go to the bathroom. Rule number two is no peeing in the tank."

Felicia had been a model and actress for eight years when she was hired for a mattress commercial that was filmed underwater.

This led her to want to do more underwater work, so she started researching and came across professional mermaids online.

"I was like 'Oh my gosh, this makes so much sense, why have I not discovered this before?' It was my destiny," she said.

The 26-year-old then attended a mermaid convention and the experience was "so fun" she knew that she had to pursue it as her career.

"There are tonnes of different avenues to be a mermaid, which makes it really exciting," she told us.

"You can do birthday parties and events or you can do performances in tanks or aquariums.

"You can even be live decor, which is more like an aesthetic kind of mermaid.

"Primarily what I do is performing live in tanks around the country. Anywhere from a four by eight-foot tank to huge tanks on the side of a building for a live performance."

Felicia is well-recognised in the industry, as she recently was crowned Miss Mermaid USA after competing in the national pageant.

She had to compete in a long-distance swim, a creativity competition where they had to make their own tops and a traditional eveningwear competition.

They also had to compete in underwater modelling, where each contestant had to pose as much as they could and then their pictures were given a score.

"I won a national competition which was really cool, I haven't done pageants before but I thought this was the perfect opportunity to combine all of my skills," Felicia revealed.

"Then once a date is decided I'm flown out for the international pageant, which is still being determined."

Felicia has always loved the water and her father's side of the family used to all be competitive swimmers.

Her uncle even has his own swimming lesson company.

"That was definitely was a part of my formative years and I loved being in the water but I was not good at going fast," the model said.

"I didn't have the motivation. I was like 'Why are we going so fast? I actually like swimming, I want to be in the pool, I don't want to swim and get out.'

"My uncle would always say that I had such good technique with the stroke and things but he couldn't get me to want to go faster but now it makes perfect sense as I am very performance-based in the water and made a whole career out of it."

While Felicia is living her dream, this doesn't mean the job is always as glamorous as it looks.

"I have a lot of sinus problems, whenever I go upside down or anything in the water I flood my whole nose and I'm often left having to use a lot of tissues afterwards," she said.

"Getting out of the tank and blowing your nose isn't the most glamorous part of it."

It might come as a surprise to those who have seen Felicia perform that she can't see in the water either.

Her acting is so convincing though, no one would blame you if you thought she could.

"My family came to visit me at a performance recently and they really thought that I could see everything," she said.

"Acting and convincing people that you can see what's going on is a part of [the job]. I can't see anything but you almost gain this extra perception.

"I can see shapes and things moving around and people come and put their hands up on the glass and I can see that so I can connect with them that way."

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