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How Professional Mermaids Make (Sand) Dollars

The mertailing economy—from tails to training classes—is booming.
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The Mermaid Swimming in (Sand) Dollars

Life as a mermaid isn’t always glamorous. “You have to tolerate chlorine and salt in your eyes and keep them open like it’s no problem,” says Linden Wolbert, a self-described “entrepremermaid” in Los Angeles. “There are times when I get out of the water and I can’t even see to drive home.” Wolbert also has to hold her breath for minutes at a time, smile without swallowing water, and swim in a silicone tail that weighs almost 50 pounds. (She usually has spotters.) Other than routine physical torture, being a mermaid for hire is “merrific” and “mermazing,” she says. She’s been one for more than a decade, working private events for celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, and Justin Timberlake. Her “merformances”—events at which she swims mostly in pools, though sometimes in the ocean or at aquariums—start at $1,000, and she says she earns “more, hourly, for some projects than many lawyers I know.” Her YouTube channel brings in four figures a month.

Hiring mermaids has been popular for years, as has pretending to be one. Lady Gaga, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Katy Perry have all worn tails for costume balls, music videos, or publicity shoots. Their passion has helped inspire a “mertailing” industry to support aspiring sea maidens, and it’s thriving: In October, Walmart Stores ordered 58,000 of the Mermaid Linden kids’ monofins—flippers like the kind you use to snorkel but fused together—Wolbert makes with outfitters Body Glove International. Wolbert and Body Glove also teamed up to make a spandex children’s tail that’s patterned on a parrotfish. (The tail doesn’t come with any kind of flipper attached.) “We think it’s going to be incredibly successful,” says Body Glove President Russ Lesser.