Swimming with the fishes. Local mermaid shares her tails of becoming an aquatic entertainer in the HRM
We spoke to Raina about her love of her unique passion for spreading joy and seeing smiles from the crowd as a Halifax mermaid.
(photo by Brett Stanley)
Name / Company or Organization
Raina the Halifax mermaid, Owner of Halifax Mermaids
(photo by Lloyd Bond)
What do you do and how long have you been doing this?
I am a professional mermaid performer and children’s entertainer and educator. I started doing birthday parties part time 13 years ago, but when I graduated with my degree in education there was a bottleneck of teachers and I couldn’t even get sub work. I decided to focus on building up my mermaid business and now it’s an empire.
I employ 15-20 performers who also have backgrounds in science and education. Together we do everything from a travelling tank show you can catch on the Bedford waterfront, swimming in the Dalhousie Aquatron aquarium while giving educational talks about our ocean, meeting kiddos during World Oceans Day at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, kids parties and lessons all over the maritime provinces, and filming for TV, movies, and music videos. I also have an active Youtube where we document our journey, have published 3 books about my “fishy business”, and travel often to the US to give talks and help train other companies. On the side we do volunteer work and donate time to many local and international causes for both kids and wildlife. Sometimes you can catch us at Hope for Wildlife during an open house, other times we’re helping to grant wishes with Make a Wish and Children’s wish foundation. We team up with the many pirates from Eastern Passage to Digby and take part in parades, story time, and more.
(photo by Brett McCombs)
What inspired you to do this and what is your motivation for continuing this?
I became a mermaid as a way to cope with chronic illness and pain. I saw a documentary about the first professional mermaid from the late 1800s to early 1900s – Annette Kellerman.
She invented the modern day bathing suit, wrote the first fitness book, and starred in the first Hollywood film that contained nudity. She invented synchronized swimming and also overcame debilitating chronic pain to do this. I thought if she could do it, so could I. My early motivations were to continue with physio and working out so I could be strong enough to swim in a beautiful costume, but it soon evolved as I learned more about the power imagination has in helping both children and adults live healthy lives. I see myself as an advocate for play, and a bridge to the ocean. I can empower others, educate them about the sea, and leave them with lasting memories. I recently became a mom and I do less parties and visits, and do more choreographed shows and filming. But I always will have a special place for kids and hope that I give them a magical experience.
(photo by Sean Norman)
What was your favorite show?
I love the movie Splash from the 80s and when I became successful as a mermaid I got to meet the Oscar Winning sfx artist who made the costume, Robert Short. He has become a mentor of mine and taught me a lot. He gave me my own tour of the WB lot and some memorabilia from the film. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few exchanges online with leading mermaid lady Daryl Hannah as well. She is also a huge inspiration, not just for the groundbreaking underwater work she did at the time, but for her activism for the environment.
Any advice for people thinking about getting into this?
Mermaid swimming can be a really empowering experience that is great fitness and lots of fun. It needs to be done safely as all water sports should be, with adequate supervision (even the pros like me have a spotter! We call ours a mer-wrangler) with reliable equipment (not cheap knockoffs that aren’t safe). Any adult who wants to try or wants their child to try should properly research online, and be competent swimmers. There will be certification available soon through PADI and we hope to be able to offer lessons that give this certification in the future. In the meantime you can check out my free safety resources, my books, and my youtube tutorials too!
(photo by Brett Stanley)
Any other comments?
I’m a trained freediver and helped establish the Halifax Freediving club. I can hold my breath for 3 minutes. I have swam with sharks, manatees, and all sorts of fish. You can sometimes catch me swimming around the islands in St Margarets Bay where I like to prank boaters. My costumes are custom made and can cost up to 6000$ CAD for the high quality movie realistic ones, and weigh 60lbs. I even did mermaiding (yes, it’s a verb) while 9 months pregnant.
Website / contact
(photo by Sean Norman)