CAITLIN NIELSEN: I’m a mermaid.
I’m literally a real-life mermaid. COMM: You may think that mermaids are only seen in fairy tales or Disney films, but there
is a secret community of mer-folk growing. THOR RADFORD: At first it looked like, I was, I thought I was seeing things, you know, I
was like, “What was that?” You know, “Is that a dolphin that got into the lake?”
Because every once in a while we get seals and what not. They will come into the lake.
And here comes this giant tail and up pops Ed, and I was like…it shocked me. It was
really, it was crazy. ED BROWN: It’s a bit of lifestyle for me because I live on a boat. I always like to
be around the water. I work on a boat. My mer-name is Mahtlinnie. I think it can be
like a hobby and a passion and a way of life for a lot of people, like it’s all three
wrapped into one. People are into it for conservation reasons, because they want to try and promote
conservation of ocean life. COMM: Ed, Tessie and Caitlin are all part of an emerging community of mer-people in
Seattle. CAITLIN NIELSEN: My mermaid name is Cyanea. A little while back I did quit my day job,
so that I could focus full time on being a mermaid, so now, I currently work out of my
home, in this little studio that I have set up in our spare room and I make prosthetic-quality
silicon tails out of dragon skin, platinum silicon. I also make accessories and I make little sea creatures as well. This is my sea serpent tail. CAITLIN NIELSEN: The inspiration for this was part biology and part fantasy, obviously.
It took me an entire year to make. CAITLIN NIELSEN: When I was kindergarten and the teacher asked everyone to go around and
say what they want to be when they grew up, I said a mermaid. Everyone laughed at me and
now here I am, I’m a mermaid. ED BROWN: As a mer-person, I’m not that different from the way I am on land. But I
feel like, I’m a lot, it’s a lot easier to talk to people. If I’m in street clothes
and I’m out on the town, I really don’t like it when people talk to me, l get really
nervous. But when I’m in my tail, it’s a lot easier to talk to people. TESSIE LAMOUREA: My mermaid name is Mermaid Essie, I have a lot of body insecurities.
I think a lot of people do. But when I’m in my tail, I don’t feel insecure anymore.
Because suddenly, it doesn’t matter what size I am, because I’m a mermaid and that’s
what people really focus on. When I take my tail off, it almost feels like a piece of
me has come off. CAITLIN NIELSEN: I’ve always felt a little bit of, kind of an outsider or a loner and
a little bit eccentric. So, discovering that there was a mermaid community and that I could
actually wear a mermaid tail and outwardly express what I always felt that I was inside,
it was really freeing and so, I do, I do feel like I’m showing my true self to the world. TESSIE LAMOUREA: I think a lot of people do get into it because putting on a tail is probably
one of the greatest feelings in the world. CAITLIN NIELSEN: It really is. COMM: And having a beautiful fish tail is absolutely imperative to being a dedicated
mer-person. CAITLIN NIELSEN: I do feel like my tail is a part of me. And I do actually feel like
it is a prosthetic limb. I sometimes joke that I wear a prosthetic, because I was born
with a terrible birth defect, which is legs. ED BROWN: I like it because, I personally think it is fun. Like I can never have a bad
day swimming, no matter what happens. When I’m in the water with my tail on, it’s
just, it’s like magic. I just automatically feel less like an awkward person swimming and more like a creature that belongs in the water. TESSIE LAMOUREA: When I put it on, it’s like nothing else matters and I’m a mermaid and I can do whatever it is that I feel like doing. COMM: But being a mermaid is not something that’s easy for everyone to understand. TESSIE LAMOUREA: When I told my mother I wanted to be a mermaid, she just kept laughing at me. CORA LAMOUREA: I thought it was a stupid idea at first. I thought it will just be a waste
of money and a waste of time. I thought her time can best be used studying her lessons
as a graduate student, rather than swimming with a tail in the ocean or swimming pool
or some place. And I said, “Forget it. That’s a lot of money invested in tails” and she
said, ‘I’ll save every money that I have and I’m gonna get my first tail.” TESSIE LAMOUREA: My mother has been incredible despite the fact that she thinks that this
is an absolute ludicrous thing to do. ED BROWN: The best part of being a mer-person is I think the chance to sort of live out
a dream or a fantasy, to be something other than who you are for a little while. CAITLIN NIELSEN: I’ve always felt really at one with the water and the ocean. TESSIE LAMOUREA: I love how children’s eyes light up. I love the way that, when they look
at you as a mermaid, suddenly everything is possible again and that magic is real. There
is no rules involved. You can do whatever it is that you want to do and no one can tell
you that it’s wrong.