What being a professional mermaid entails

Shannon Dawn Green, or Mermaid Shannon, took professional photographs at Neptune Beach with local photographer Jo Beaudreau. The two artists met in Florence. Mermaid Shannon became a professional after she started doing some- thing she loved: wearing a tail and splashing around. Now, she has a social media following and is helping make wishes come true. (Photos by Jo Beaudreau)

Mermaid Shannon visits the Oregon Coast

July 27, 2022 — It started with a visit to the art store for watercolor supplies and became a collaboration. Shannon Dawn Green, a professional mermaid and artist, stopped into BeauxArts Fine Art Materials & Gallery in Florence earlier this month. While there, she talked with store owner Jo Beaudreau, a professional photographer. It wasn’t until the City of Florence’s “Blast on Bay Street” Block Party, however, that the pair decided to combine their talents.

“She's like, ‘What do you do?’ And I'm like, ‘I am a mermaid.’ And she's like, ‘What?!’” Green said. “I show her the tail and she told she wanted to take my picture.”

Beaudreau brought Green and her silicone tail to Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint for a mermaid photoshoot. 

Before Beaudreau took her there, Green’s only other Oregon beach visit was to the South Jetty, where she had to hike up a dune to access the ocean. 

“There's no freaking way I can go up that and then back down, even without the tail,” she said. “But Jo told me, ‘I know where the starfish are.’” 

The shoot involved the beach’s natural beauty, bright sunshine, locally blown glass floats, seashells and Green, fully bedecked in a custom mermaid tail and costume.

For someone from New Mexico, it was “so cold.” 

“I just love swimming. I was born in Albuquerque, so I was a desert mermaid,” Green said. “But I also can hold my breath a really long time, because, since I was little, I refuse to breathe in public bathrooms. So, I accidentally trained myself up for that.”

The ability to her breath is an important skill for the mermaid.

Like many other children who grew up near water, Green would put something around her feet to keep her legs together and practiced dolphin-like swimming through the water.

Green went on to work in broadcast journalism, among other fields. One of her final stories was on mermaids, and they even put her in a spandex tail, which she was allowed to keep.

Later, “I was just playing around in the pool, and people were like, ‘Wow, can you take a picture with my kids? Oh, here's some money. Do you take donations? Can you do birthday parties?’ And this job just kind of fell into my lap.”

As “Mermaid Shannon,” Green eventually invested in a much nicer tail, like ones crafted from FlipTails, Mertailor or Fin Fun Mermaid. Hers was crafted specially for her own body by a movie effect artist. It was definitely an investment, as quality tails can cost multiple thousands of dollars.

“It's a business expense,” she said. “I bought a tail, and then I just kept getting work and I upgraded into aquariums.”

According to Aquamermaid’s article, “What Makes a Professional Mermaid?,” professional merfolk must have strong swimming and water safety skills, along with a tail. There are various certifications they can achieve. They also perform publicly, either out of the water or swimming.

“It's very hard to make money doing it, because the equipment is very expensive,” Green said. “You have to have certain insurance, or the aquariums won't let you just jump into a tank with real coral in it. You can't put sparkly makeup on and swim with a tiny little environment with fish.” 

She uses food-safe pigments, and only on her lips, when she does work in aquariums. She also deals with the water temperature, which is set for the actual aquarium denizens and not the magical performers who are just stopping by.

“I liked doing it because I felt pretty as a mermaid,” Green said. “But I'm a grown adult, so I considered how I can make this useful. So, I wrote kids’ books about the ocean and stuff.”

Her books are available in aquariums and online.

And now, years after leaving TV behind, Green was featured on Fox News on July 6 and has been in magazines and other news segments. 

Most importantly, however, is her work for charity and with Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I love working with them. It's really crazy to find out that a kid could have wished for anybody, and they wanted me to come,” Green said. “I'll spend the whole day with them and just swim around with them.”

Now, she has been a mermaid for 12 years and found a network of merfolk, who often appear in the same shows and attend MerMagic Con and Renaissance Faires. With recent hype for Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” and other mermaid-centric shows, “It’s a really hot thing right now.”

Green also believes that anyone can be a merfolk.

“We’re super inclusive. My team makes sure we hire mermaids of color, mermaids that are plus size, mermaids that are older, we have mermen, we have transitioning merfolk. We want everybody to know that it is for everybody. It's not for cookie cutter skinny white girls. It's for everybody,” she said. “It's just fun. It doesn't matter what size you are.”

Green is spending the summer traveling with her husband. He is working remotely and she has time to work on her art. They also get to meet people like Beaudreau.

“That's what I really about this area. Going through all these big cities, a lot of people aren't very kind. But not Florence,” she said. “The only other town that I love this much was Key West, because they are so weird.”

Green also noted that the Florence area doesn’t have its own merfolk.

“There is no mermaid that lives here, I looked,” she said. “You could be it!”

For more information about Green, visit mermaidshannon.wordpress.com and www.instagram.com/themermaidshannon.

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