Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
In part one of this article, I met with Smokie West, a plus size professional mermaid and spoke to her about her career.
During that interview she mentioned a few of her experiences as a plus size mermaid.
I wanted to know more, so here is our conversation.
Joy: “Hey, Smokie!”
Smokie: “Hey, Joy! How are you?”
Joy: “Fine, and yourself?”
Smokie: “I am good. Just got home from a trip to the craft store.”
Joy: “That’s great! Hope you got everything you needed?”
Smokie: “Yes I did. I may have bought stuff to make my own new tail.”
Joy: “That’s exciting! I hope to hear more about that soon, so last time we spoke you mentioned some expenses you’ve had as a mermaid.
I believe you mentioned being passed over for a job at one time, can you tell me more about that?”
Smokie: “Thank you. As a professional mermaid, you pay for trainings, certifications and insurance both individual and for performances. Professional mermaids encourage you to not do volunteer gigs as it reduces the value for everyone; however, I applied to volunteer for a fundraising event a few months ago.
Several plus size mermaids applied, as the company claimed they wanted diversity in those chosen. They chose several beautiful mermaids, but none were over a size 8 and the diversity they had was hair color.
I am happy for those chosen because they brought joy to others, however, it was odd to have only petite mermaids that looked like sisters. That does not say diversity to me.”
Joy: “I see what you mean, It is odd, sadly some ads are like that, have you had any other similar experiences?”
Smokie: ”I have been turned down for other events because of either visible tattoos or my body size. Most plus size mermaids struggle to find their niche at first.
Joy: “Do you think it’s because employers have a certain idea of what a mermaid should look like? I mean, in TV shows, movies and even legends mermaids are typically depicted as thin with clear skin and such.”
Smokie: “I have seen smaller mermaids declined for jobs for tattoos, which is present in almost every industry. Most social media comments use either “Ariel” or “Ursula.”
I feel there is not enough representation for curves in the Mermaid world.
Despite my size, kids of all ages (even kids at heart) get excited to see a Mermaid swimming or at an event. Only a few ever mention my size. If they do, it is generally more they did not feel they could be a Mermaid because of their own curves or size.”
Joy: “Well I certainly understand that, I imagine when people first learn about mermaiding there are a lot of assumptions, even subconsciously. It would be better if all sizes were represented as you mentioned. People might not know they can be mermaids as well.
Last time we spoke I think you also talked about qualifications? I assume you meant diving qualifications, are there others?”
Smokie: “I never realized how much representation can matter to people, especially myself. I have certifications for Mermaid, free diving, scuba and water rescues. I am finishing up Mermaid instructor training and another type of training at the same time.”
Joy: “That’s cool! Do qualifications like that help your chances when applying for jobs as a mermaid? I’d imagine they do, if I was hiring a mermaid for a show I’d certainly give greater consideration to someone with those qualifications over someone who doesn’t have any.”
Smokie: “For aquariums, resorts, businesses, and certain types of performance troupes, they are a necessity. For birthday parties and land events, not so much. For smaller or land events, most people want a lower cost.”
Joy: “That makes sense, it was great speaking to you again. Thanks for taking the time to do so! And definitely keep me updated on that tail, don’t think I’ve forgotten!”
Smokie: “It is always great speaking with you! I will definitely keep you updated on my tails. One shipped today.”