A love of the open ocean, costume making and a Disney inspired dream sparked a career in a newly found obsession, mermaids.
Recently Kelly Grace, owner and performer of Caribbean Mermaid Academy, brought the mermaid experience to the Alice Natatorium and Water Park.
Kelly Grace along with a trainer and photographer from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands held a mermaid photo session and classes. Kelly Grace has been teaching children and adults how to swim like a mermaid.
“We don't only teach our students to swim like mermaids,” Kelly Grace stated. “We educate them about the ecosystem, on conservation, history, being good to each other and being comfortable with who you are.”
For many people, mermaids are beautiful, alluring and mysterious creatures. Mythical creatures that they can portray.
“When I first started the business two years ago I was very surprised to find that my cliental where adults ages 20 to 60. We grew up watching The Little Mermaid,” she stated. “It's a childhood fantasy for many adults.”
The Caribbean Mermaid Academy is a mixture of all the best (mermaid) businesses in the world, according to Kelly Grace. The academy does birthday parties, photography, modeling, and charter mermaid swims to name a few.
Kelly Grace is originally from Brownsville where her parents had a home in South Padre Island. According to Kelly Grace, her parents insisted she learn how to swim in case she happened to be in the ocean or to fall into the pool. Due to the age difference between her and her siblings Kelly Grace spent much of her childhood alone in the water playing mermaid.
When the chance to be in the mermaid business she took it. But she is not alone in the business. There are approximately 25 mermaids (men and women) who do different parts of the mermaid experience; some mermaids teach, some perform and some do charity events.
It's a magical experience for everyone especially a child. One of Kelly Grace's rules is to never remove a tail in front of children 6 and under in order not to ruin the fantasy.
“You dress up as a mermaid, merman or shark,” Kelly Grace said. There's a tail and mermaid makeovers with glittery tattoos.”
But before anyone goes in the water safety is number one priority. Gear is tested and swimmers are evaluated. Before lessons a pre-interview is conducted to determine how good of a swimmer the participant is and their medical history.
“It's important to know how strong of a swimmer the child is,” Kelly Grace said. “It lets us know what is safe for each individual child.”
Because there is a big difference in swimming with two feet and swimming with legs together in a tail lessons start with simple underwater games taught by Kelly Grace and her “teaching” mermaids. The games help the swimmer stay underwater longer.
In 2017, Kelly Grace will expand for Mermaid Academy with two more branches in Austin and Houston.