Children with disabilities being treated at Brazil’s hospitals, where economic hardship has crimped services, are getting an emotional lift from a mythical creature of the sea — a mermaid. But in this instance, the siren is quite real.
Sereia Carol (Mermaid Carol) has earned her living portraying a mermaid and teaching mermaid since 2012 when she left her job of 10 years as a veterinarian. She is paid for performing at events such as children’s parties but donates her time to hospitals.
Positioned in a wheelchair so that wheelchair-bound children can relate to her, Sereia Carol says volunteering at hospitals is among her most rewarding experiences. Dressed in costume with a long, shiny green tail, she chats with young patients and “they feel included, cherished.”
“It is a very beautiful and gratifying thing.”
Sereia Carol says demand for her services, which declined in the midst of Brazil’s worst recession in more than 100 years, recovered because of a soap opera called “A Force do Querer,” in which a woman deceives her family so she can work as a mermaid at an aquarium.
Like the fictional character, Serena Carol is hired by aquariums in the summertime, but much of her work entails classes and parties. She does her mermaid routine in a pool whenever one is available at an event. Otherwise, the “mermaid” assumes her throne in an armchair.
Thais Picchi, a former ballet dancer turned civic rights trainer in the capital Brasilia, dove into mermaids after a personal crisis four years ago prompted her to find ways to reduce stress.
She got into diving, sought lessons in underwater dancing and then discovered the mermaid movement. Picchi took a month-long course last year in the Philippines to learn free diving and mermaid skills.
Picchi now teaches classes around Brazil.
“I fell in love with it,” Picchi says, noting that many of her clients associate mermaids with beauty, sensuality, freedom, and motherhood.
“When they dress up as mermaids,” she says, ” … the session changes because they identify with those values.”
Women in Brazil are not unique in their affinity for mermaids. Classes are held as far away as Texas and some folks wonder if mermaids will be the next fitness craze.
Only tails will tell.