Q&A: Mermaid Jackie Steinert

From the February 21, 2013 edition

You may not have noticed, but mermaids do exist. And Columbus even has one in Jackie Steinert. Steinert has always been enamored with mermaids, and about a year ago she decided to take her love of the mythical sea creatures to another level by purchasing a tail.

Since then Steinert has turned her hobby into a business. That’s right, you can rent a mermaid for your next party. Steinert performs in full mermaid regalia as Mermaid Nerenia — on land or in water — for a whole host of events.

I always wanted to be a mermaid. When I was little I loved the movie “The Little Mermaid,” and I remember watching a show about the Weeki Wachee Mermaids from Florida. Seeing them swim in the springs with their mermaid tails was just the coolest thing I’d ever seen. From then on, I thought, “I can do that. I want to be a mermaid.”

People think it’s really cool to watch somebody swim as a mermaid. It’s a different experience to see a creature out of myth right there in front of you. I started last year doing children’s parties. I enjoy seeing the kids’ faces when there’s a real mermaid at their birthday or get to swim with a real mermaid. I also did a couple nightlife events where I would sit on the bar and hand out shots. People thought it was cool to get their picture with a mermaid. You can hire me for birthday parties, graduation parties, or corporate events at a country club with a pool. I’ve booked a wedding this June. The reception will be around a pool and I have a sunken pirate’s chest that I’ll bring. They’re giving out silver paper weights as wedding favors and … I’ll dive down, retrieve one of the favors from the treasure chest and bring it back to the person.

My tail costs about $2,000. The inside is made of Neoprene, the same material wet suits are made of, and the outside is made of latex. My tail is from the same tail maker who did Lady Gaga’s tail for one of her videos. His name is The Mertailor. It’s very much a special effects makeup kind of procedure to make one. A basic spandex mermaid tail for children, or somebody starting out who doesn’t want to do it professionally, just swim around and have fun, costs about $500. They go up to $5,000 to $7,000. It’s not a cheap hobby.

I have a mertender. They basically go out with me to gigs and help me with my costume, getting one of my props or grabbing a towel for me. It’s just a helping hand because once you’re in the tail you can’t walk, obviously. You can flop and that’s about it. For kids’ parties he dresses up like a pirate and is silly and goofy interacting with me. I am always on the lookout for other mertenders who would be interested in helping out.

Once I got the tail, I felt like a fish out of water. What the hell do I do with it? Then I found MerNetwork, a social networking site for Mers. It has everything from professional mermaiding, mermaiding as a hobby to ocean conservation — something mermaids are passionate about and advocate for. It has Mers in the news and the media. Even tips on how to become a mermaid, make your own tail, how to do your makeup — anything and everything that the mermaid would want to know is on MerNetwork.