Meet Catalina Mermaid, the founder of Sheroes Entertainment in Hollywood California! Sheroes is THE company to make your party dreams come true. They are an event service providing character entertainment,
specializing in Mermaids! Catalina, played by Virginia Hankins, loves her company and enjoys cooking when she can. She works with Hollywood film sets and runs the LA Mermaid School. On top of that, she is on a professional search and rescue dive team. Keep reading to learn more about her!
Meet Virginia the Sheroes Mermaid!
Where did you learn your love for the water?
My grandparents and my mom were all sailors but I think it’s just because I love a challenge and the people I meet through the water.
Why do you love Mermaid so much?
I love being able to help a person to believe in a better, more magical, world – even if it’s just for a few minutes. Being a creature character of fantasy has such power for people. This month at the Carolina Renaissance Festival I had one woman cry because she was so happy and felt so relieved that someone “saw her.”
I approach every event guest I meet as a mermaid as the most wonderful, special, incredible, and beautiful person that I’ve ever met. That has such power. So many people are used to being overlooked, suddenly having this magical creature be fully present and happy with them, even for a moment, can change a person’s life.
How long have you been using a Mermaid Tail?
Six years… I helped make my first three tails (now retired), as back then there weren’t many mass-market options. I think that Sheroes Entertainment currently has around 15 silicone tails, 10 neoprene tails, and 40 fabric tails now for all of the film, training, and party work that we do.
I’m still in love with my retired Merbella Studios (tail #5) ivory, copper, and gold tail. That one tail represented so much of my character dreams and looks organic on me. I wish I could get another one from them but their wait time is over 5 years now… it’s just not realistic for an active performer to wait that long for a costume.
I have had a wonderful experience with Mernation on orders. They are excellent at communication and staying on deadlines and budget. Their Genesis line options are surprisingly durable for their price too!
What about tops?
What do you think people can learn from Mermaids?
That it’s important to act as an ambassador and connector between multiple worlds. Mermaids merge the ocean and human worlds. The more we connect with people from different places and can speak about differing ideas the more we grow. Life shouldn’t be an echo chamber, it should be a delight in learning and exploration.
What camps or mermaid gatherings have you been to or wish to go to? What was your favorite part?
I’ve been so very lucky to work with underwater photographer Brenda Stumpf on several of her underwater workshops and destination shoots. I love the sense of adventure in it all – first seeing a name, then getting to know the person, and then helping them to become their best while troubleshooting the local environment and helping find amazing locations.
This upcoming year, I believe that I will be a guest speaker at the California Mermaid Convention and Mer-Magic Con in Washington DC if everything goes well. I’m also running an 18 and over mermaid training intensive camp next year for LA Mermaid School that will be fin-credible!
Tell me more about your “How to be a mermaid” book!
It’s available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble – it’s a fun read about mermaid lifestyle, everything from choosing a tail to makeovers and cooking tips that I was blessed to write for Ulysses Press.
Where do you see the mermaid industry going in the next 10 years?
Like any trend in the USA eventually reaches a peak, the mermaid tail trend has already been overtaken by unicorns this year. While mermaids have been a part of legends for thousands of years this particular fad has been fairly amazing. It reminds me a lot of other fads that hit strong and eventually died down in the USA such as roller discos in the 1970s, Troll dolls in the 1990s, or the iconic sock hops of the 1950s.
Right now what we are seeing is a mass market saturation of people who have now bought mermaid tails. The new “must have” item of a silicone tail, or a neoprene look-alike of a silicone tail has been bought.
That means, that people will start to become bored with the product unless there is some new design, new thing, new interest, new adventure, to keep them hooked. I’m extremely excited to see that happen because as people become bored they start thinking of new ways to work and create to evolve… that’s where some amazing content comes from.
What is the job outlook for mermaids in Hollywood?
It sickens me to know that I can name three “professional” mermaids in California who are lying about having those certifications right now to clients just to try to look comparable for party sales. That type of laziness is pure negligence and, frankly, fraud. All it takes is for one child to drown as a result of some “professional” mermaid out there not being aware and our entire industry will make negative national news and drive clients away. It’s up to all of us to take water safety seriously and to strive to be as aware and informed as possible.
It is extremely difficult to break into Hollywood as a professional mermaid for film or set work as there are very few opportunities for it. Water projects tend to be rarer as they are more expensive and prone to variables than standard sets. Normally film companies hire an established training provider, such as LA Mermaid School, which trained the mermaid models for Germany’s Next Top Model, to train their pre-chosen actors rather than hiring an established mermaid. If they are hiring an established mermaid then they are looking for someone who looks like the actor with a long water safety and credit resume and references from other major studios.
What does your involvement in water rescue look like? How does it correlate with mermaids?
I’m honored to be one of two women on my county’s Underwater Search and Rescue (SAR) Dive Team. It’s definitely one of the hardest things that I have done in my life and a huge change from the “Rescue Diver” type of consumer SCUBA certifications available to the mass market. In order to make the team I had to attend a full classroom and water-based academy, skills tests, first responder courses, purchase all of my personal gear and make some specialized search equipment, and undergo a one year long probation under the watch of my senior team members with monthly deployments for training and call outs for emergency situations.
Most of our work is in body and evidence recoveries such as weapons, vehicles, or the deceased from water scenes in extremely limited visibility conditions such as reservoirs, the ocean, and lakes with a variety of technology like underwater communications units, remotely operated vehicles, sonar systems, and super specialized team deployment and procedural strategies.
What do your dives look like?
Typically the water we work in is dark, cold, and easy to get disoriented in. Thankfully, as a mermaid, I’m used to working blind underwater and not panicking. In that way, mermaiding has served me well in my education with the team.
My work in underwater Search and Rescue has also tremendously helped me in professional mermaid work as it has given me unique opportunities in crew positions behind the camera as an expert water safety and training consultant. I love teaching so when I’m able to team with a great photographer on a destination clinic it’s very fulfilling. They focus on art and I focus on mermaid training, wellness, and safety. It’s a great experience for all and the content turns out SO well.
Having trained in lifeguard, SCUBA, apnea diving, and mermaid modeling make me a quadruple threat, if you will. I’m able to talk to experts in all of those fields, as well as rescue teams and aquarium teams, and both speak their unique technical languages and understand each group’s fears, needs, and protocols. That means that I’m invaluable on set for predicting problems and concerns before they arise and save productions an average of 4 hours per shoot day and up to a month of pre-production crew and material sourcing… a substantial amount of money on a large set where the time of dozens of people can translate to a substantial amount of money
Do you think more aquariums should have live mermaids? What are the benefits?
It depends on the motive of the mermaid. In my experience, the mermaid needs to genuinely care about the mission of the aquarium. If a mermaid is only there to brag that they work in an aquarium, post a bunch of underwater social media pictures, and get the rush of being adored by toddlers that they can barely see through an acrylic tank, then that’s not ideal. Aquariums are so utterly hounded by mermaids like that.
In order to bring in mermaids, there are a lot of behind the scenes logistics, approvals, internal politics, and labor concerns to address. That’s a substantial time and money expense for the aquarium, and many aquariums see through most mermaids as not being in accordance with a mission of education or conservation.
In contrast, when Sheroes Entertainment teams with an aquarium it’s a methodical, professional, and immersive process where we get to genuinely know them as an organization and as a team of real people with various needs. We offer turnkey mermaid risk management programs and integrate with their safety officers to enhance their existing procedures. We offer proven low investment cost fundraising and educational suggestions relating to our entertainment to help them to grow their market and raise money for their animals. We provide marketing materials and news connection assistance to them to get the word out about their programs. While we do stunning swimming mermaid appearances and enchanting character encounters for aquariums, we aren’t just pretty women in tails… we pull from our Hollywood and business backgrounds to approach their organization holistically, identifying and creating custom shows that fit their demographics, local environment, educational benchmarks, and mission. In short, we’re there as their aquatic edu-tainment experts to help them to thrive in the long run, not just to be a one-time gate sales boost.
I support my local aquarium programs as I think that their work with children is very important to creating local behavioral change.
What advice would you give to aspiring mermaids?
The best advice I can give is to take safety seriously and to NEVER lie about your safety credentials or abilities. You can die doing this job if you are untrained or ignorant. It’s so much more than just buying a costume and calling yourself a professional. It takes physical fitness, wellness, stamina, performance training, creativity, and a huge duty to safety and risk management.
Sheroes Entertainment, my company, is actually Red Cross sanctioned for lifeguard training and our Mermaids in Training undergo a rigorous five months of 30-40 hours a week of course-load to work towards the title of “professional mermaid” and earn the respect of our team. Every summer we prevent countless children from drowning and have responded to vehicle crashes, drug overdoses, seizures, diabetic emergencies, strokes, heart attacks, and more both at events and in our personal lives.
Be original. Don’t copy other people. Who they are will always be their top strength and your “second best,” so be creative enough to be you.
Make sure to follow Virginia the sheroes mermaid on her adventures!
Main Blog Photo by Brenda Stumpf