Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Mermaid's Tail

K, time to show off my favorite part of Saturday's Ren Fest: taking pics of my friend Christie.

You ready, Christie?

Yeah, I think she's ready.


Ok, so I've posted pics of Christie as a mermaid in my DragonCon posts before, but there's only so much you can do shooting from above in a hotel swimming pool. She also wasn't in character for those shots, since it was a private pool with almost no one around.

Here, however, Christie - performing as "Kyrin" - has a whole crowd to perform for:

I have to say, the Festival has done a great job setting the scene. This little display shows you which of the three mermaids is currently in the tank:

And the large fenced-in area that corrals the crowd is themed with flowers, hanging seaweed, netting, and shells:

The mermaid tank is just large enough for one adult mermaid - humanely rescued and rehabilitated from the wild, of course. ;)

The mermaids are a free attraction provided by the Festival, but for a "small donation" (most give a dollar), Kyrin will fetch you a sparkly glass stone from the bottom of her tank.

"The Giving of the Stone"

As an added bonus, you may get a little mermaid splash in the process. :) The tips are divided equally among the 5 workers at the Grotto.

Here Kyrin takes a breather - literally - while showing off her tail:

To avoid the inevitable barrage of questions, the crowd is informed that mermaids only communicate in little trills and squeaks, kind of like a dolphin, which is pretty stinking adorable.

Kyrin doesn't need words to connect with the kids, though:

In fact, this is where the real magic happens. Every child that approaches the tank is met face-to-face, and hand-to-hand. Kyrin draws hearts on the glass, plays patty-cake, trills and purrs, and poses for picture after picture with adults and kids alike.

Some are shy, like this little cutie:

Eventually she's coaxed into place by her parents, but you can see she's still a little hesitant:

After the picture the two share a moment, though, and she's all smiles:


When one little boy started pulling faces at her through the glass, Kyrin matched him, sticking out her tongue and crossing her eyes. The boy was completely charmed, and walked away beaming.

I like the way her hair catches the light in this shot.

As small as the tank is, if the mermaids maneuver themselves just so, they can place their tails flat against the glass. Each time Christie did this, she was rushed by a new wave of little girls, all eagerly patting the glass & oohing:

Heck, I almost did, too. That copper & teal tail is gorgeous
(Since I know I'll get asked: it's Mertailor tail.)

Each of the mermaids provides her own costume and accessories, so they're all a bit different. I only caught the tail end [heh] of her set, but here's mermaid Star:

She has a reddish orange tail and some fabulous shell hairpieces:

Each mermaid is out for 45 minutes to an hour at a time, and they do two sets each per day. By the end of their first set their eyes are firey red; keeping your eyes open under water that long really takes its toll! This is a labor of love, though; they are paid, but I know at least in Christie's case that pretty much just covers travel expenses. (She drives over 8 hours each weekend for the show.) She's there because she loves it, and it shows.

I hope you enjoyed your virtual visit to Mermaid's Grotto! If nothing else, I know *I* had fun playing with all these pictures.

Oh, and if you want to see her in person, Christie/Kyrin will be at the Bay Area Ren Fest every weekend except the 22nd & 23rd (because MegaCon!) through April 6th. She also has a Facebook page with her sister Robyn for all their cosplay pics, if you want to keep up with her that way. Tell her I sent you! 


  1. wow, amazing shots Jen! She looks like she really enjoys doing that, her costume is gorgeous!



    anyways. as someone who's been swimming competitively for over half her life, this a waaaaay glamorous version of something i love ^.^ wish i could see it in person, but florida is not close :(

    1. You might check your local aquariums; a few of them around the country are adding mermaid shows, which is super cool!

  3. So cool! Do you know how she keeps her eye makeup on?

    1. I'm not sure if she uses anything special - other than waterproof eyeliner - but I can ask! (I know cream-based colors tend to be more water-resistant, though.)

  4. OK this might be a dumb question but how long does she stay under at a go, and how does she not drown and look so graceful underwater with her mouth open??

    1. Christie spends most of the set fetching stones for people, so that requires her to pop out of the water every minute or so to hand over the gem. When there's a lull she stays down longer, though - maybe a few minutes at a time? As for how she does it while looking so great: all I can say is talent & experience!

      (If you really want your mind blown, though, check out the Weeki Wachee Mermaids, who both eat & drink underwater. It's crazy!)

  5. You really captured the joy in her face and the excitement in her eyes with each photo. Great job, Jen!!!

    To be that photogenic underwater... yep, she is a real mermaid, I tell ya. She is stunning.

    Thanks for the great post.
    Karla in CA.

  6. This is awesome. My nine year old son just said "Is that a real mermaid???" It's so realistic! Also, does anyone else not get reminded of Daryl Hannah from Splash as a mermaid when they see her? Christie is gorgeous!

  7. The first of the pictures with the little girls made me squeal with adorable overload :). These are gorgeous pictures and this is so cool!

  8. Wow! Beautiful! It almost made me cry to see her interacting with the kids. My girls would DIE if they got to see something that cool!

  9. Wow, she is absolutely beautiful, as is her costume!

    Her smile is absolutely enchanting, and I love the way she connects with the kids. :)

  10. I could gaze at her for hours and I'm 27 years old, no wonder the kids were so enchanted!

  11. We're going for the first time the last weekend of March and taking our almost 7 year old daughter and her bestie- these ladies are the part they're most excited about!

  12. So fun! Thanks for sharing those great pics.

  13. Mermaid Star is my friend Alexie. She's awesome. She did a kickstarter last year to do a whole new tail with silicone, she's mid process on it now.

  14. This is so utterly enchanting! I can only imagine how magical it must be for children, a really special memory!

  15. Love this - just finished reading the Museum of Extraordinary Things...mermaids are popping everywhere in my life these days!

  16. I just love all of the pictures with the kids, but I especially love the one in which the dad (I'm assuming) is wearing the princess backpack and giving his daughter (again, assuming) a boost. What a man!

  17. I'm kind of envious that she can keep her eyes open underwater, eve if they do turn red. I've tried it, and always end up snapping them closed, and acting like someone poured acid in them. "Mine eyeeeees! Aaaahhh! Mine eyeeeeeeeeeeeees!"

    I also never look that graceful underwater. Imagine a frog having a seizure.

  18. So pretty! I would've died of excitement and happiness if I saw that when I was a kid.

    Gorgeous photos, Jen!

    Christie's really great at mermaiding. Bet those kids will remember that interaction with her their whole lives.

    Can she get the tail on and off by herself, or is that a two-person job?


  19. I just showed this page to my 12 year old daughter, showing her the pics and skipping past the words. Her jaw dropped, and she said, "A real mermaid? I thought they didn't exist?" I said, "Well, who else is going to have a tail like that?" My frequently sassy, opinionated and hormonal baby is an innocent believer. I nearly cried. Thank you, Kyrin and Jen for preserving her innocence.
    ~ Rachel ~

  20. That is so awesome!!! I wish I could do something like this but I would never be able to hold my breath long enough without sounding like I was dying when I surfaced every (maybe) 20 seconds. LOL. Mad props to her and I wish I lived nearby so I could see it and meet her because you can tell she absolutely loves doing it with all her heart. She's ecstatic in every photo!

  21. This is amazing! I really, really wish this was closer to us so that I could take my daughter to see this.

  22. My husband wanted to go to the Ren Fest this weekend, but I was tired from a long few days at Disney with visiting family. We will definitely have to make time for it after seeing these pictures. We're from Plant City. Sorry the Strawberry festival slowed down your progress getting there. :)

  23. Beautiful. Along similar/interesting lines-
    Seems like something many of your readers would enjoy.

  24. Wow, she's lovely!

    I wonder if there is a reason why the water in the tank couldn't be isotonic saline so it would be easier on the mermaids' eyes? :)

  25. I've seen this exact same performance by it's originator.

  26. How do you get into this kind of thing? I used to be a synchronized swimmer and fell in love with the whole mermaid thing once I found out about it. Not in the kind of shape to do it these days, but it's on my bucket list!

  27. I went to the Ren Fest yesterday, Jenn. Saw Star and got a couple good pics of her. Your pics of the mermaids were great. However did you get them without anyone in the frame?

  28. Well, we stayed the whole 45 minute set, which helped; there were times when the crowd ebbed. I also stayed to the side, which had more clear shots, and sometimes I just zoomed and cropped. Then at the very end they let us stay an extra few minutes after they cleared everyone out, so I could get those extreme close-ups of Christie in the tank - but really, you could do the same just walking up for a minute, so long as you're quick & don't block the tank too long.


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