Q: You own a mermaid school.
A: We teach people to swim with a mermaid tail. It’s a fitness activity.
Q: How did you start this?
A: I was modeling and a friend asked me to do an underwater session in a mermaid tail. It was fun, people liked it, and I really enjoyed it.
I’ve always been a good swimmer. I’ve worked with synchronized swimmers… And I created this discipline — I guess out of my mind. I started to put things together myself, and it took off.
Q: How long have you been doing it?
A: In February, 2015 I started, so about two years ago, almost two years.
It started in Montreal in one pool. Now we have eight locations in Canada and the U.S.
Q: So it was popular right away?
A: Yes. It seems the first thing people want to do after a class is to show photos of themselves to their friends, so it went viral.
Q: And what is your role?
A: I started as an instructor myself but now I’m helping people open their own mermaid schools.
We also manufacture mermaid tails.
Q: What is a mermaid tail like?
A: There are two parts — the mono fin, which is the two feet attached together, and then on top is bathing suit fabric.
Q: Is it hard to swim with that thing on?
A: We use smaller fins when you start. Sometimes people feel claustrophobic when they first get in.
People are used to kicking from the knee but it’s a lot of hips. The first time you do it, your arms will be sore because you didn’t push from your hips. After a while you don’t have to use your arms at all.
What’s really interesting about the discipline is that you get to go really fast. It’s a fun feeling to experience that. It’s a big wave movement of your entire body so there’s a lot of cardio and core.
Q: What are your customers like?
A: At first I didn’t know if more kids or adults would be interested in it, but it’s about half and half.
It’s the dream for kids. It really encourages young girls to do sports. With this, they forget they’re swimming, and they feel like little mermaids. And for adults it’s a sport but you also get the dream.
Recently, I had a 50-year-old woman who had a mermaid party for her birthday. And you see the same sparkle in her eyes as you would for a seven-year-old.
Some people come every week and get stronger. Especially women come for fitness and fun.
I appreciate a lot of people who are overweight and it’s the only sport they can do.
We don’t have that many guys. But a lot of guys who try it say it’s harder than it looks.
Q: Are there people who are very passionate about it?
A: One customer has five or six mermaid tails she made herself. One of them you should see — she glued thousands of sequins onto it. It’s very impressive how people invest time and energy into this.
There is also a mermaid conference in North Carolina each year. It was about 200 mermaids. I gave a speech about how to be a professional mermaid or merman.
Q: How do you become a professional?
A: There are three ways. You can be a swim instructor, you can be a mermaid school owner, or you can be a mermaid performer.
As a performer, I’ve done some weddings — swimming in the pool at weddings. We also did an event for Bud Light. They set me in a bath of rose petals at a party. And they also had a commercial.
Some people buy beautiful silicone $3000 tails and advertise themselves as performers. In Florida they do mermaid shows; they have tubes for the girls who are underwater giving shows. But being a performer is pretty hard.
Q: It sounds like your business has been pretty successful.
A: We are expanding like crazy. We’re starting to partner with resorts. At the resorts it’s different because it’s a one-time discovery activity.
People are fascinated with mermaids you know? Like bad mermaids who want to kill sailors…
There are movies like Splash and Pirates of the Caribbean. When you start paying attention you see mermaids everywhere.
Q: Is yours the only mermaid school in the world?
A: We have the only chain of mermaid schools. One of the first mermaid schools was in the Philippines.
Q: What do your friends and family think?
A: At the beginning they were skeptical but now they call me “the Mermaid” and they want to help me.
People make fun of me because “Marielle” is so close to “Ariel.” They say I was meant to be a mermaid.
Q: Are you going to do this for the rest of your life?
A: My goal was to have mermaid schools in all the big cities in Canada and the U.S.
It’s great — you get to make people happy. But it could be a fad like any of these fitness things. Maybe in a few years it will be unicorns, you know?