| WOMEN IN THE WILD

Linda Stephanie

| Areas of Expertise

Biology & Education

| Born

Los Angeles, California

| Currently

Atlanta, Georgia

| Favorite Quote

The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.

Jacques Cousteau

| Job Title

Mermaid Entrepreneur

| Degree

Major-Biology, Minor-Chemistry

| Biography

When I was a child and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded with, “A mermaid.”  People laughed and giggled, but my love for mermaids and the ocean was profound.  Twenty years later I responded to my calling and moved to the island of Oahu, Hawaii, where I lived for eight years.  It wasn’t too long before I had the desire to tell others about marine life and the issues that plague the ocean as a mermaid.  It took two years to develop a working mermaid tail and another year to get a business together.  For the next five years I worked birthday parties, events and community projects where I was able to teach children and adults about the diversity of the sea and how they can do their part to help marine life.      I began selling mermaid tails to children and adults whereby the recipient of the tail would take an oath that, as a mermaid, she would help spread awareness of the threats that face marine life and help keep the oceans clean of debris.  I soon started performing in an aquarium where people were able to view the tails I created, each having a story and a message.  My passion has led me to Atlanta, Georgia, which has a desperate need of education about the threats that plague the ocean.  I have hopes of spreading this message in the greater Atlanta area as a mermaid entertainer and entrepreneur because I believe one person can make a difference.  If I can sway even one person’s life decision that makes a positive impact for marine life, then I know all the hard work and sacrifices are worth the effort. 

| Just like with every job, some days are better than others.

| Showing teens the magical power of sea turtles hatching.

| Challenges

There were many times I stood in my own way of pursuing my goals and almost quit multiple times.  In the two years it took me to develop a working mermaid tail, there were many failures, which brought even more frustrations. Luckily, my longing to be a mermaid to share my passion was stronger than my frustration.  Once I had a successful prototype, I was then fearful of the mockery and judgement that I might face if I continued, but once I started working parties and events, I found that instead of people laughing at me, they were laughing with joy; and, instead of judgement, there was a shared passion and excitement.      I was extremely nervous for the very first birthday party I worked.  Although I had an idea of what I wanted to do and say, I wasn’t sure how the kids were going to react to a mermaid.  I myself had never even had a mermaid interaction.  After being carried in, I introduced myself to the party and the rest–as they say–was history.  I was no longer worried about the kids’ response or what I was supposed to do or say.  The conversation between my mermaid self and the children was fluid.  They had so many questions that I had never even thought to ask, such as: “Do you have pets in the ocean?”  “Where do you sleep?”  “How do you go to the bathroom?”  They were fun questions which I was able to segway into information on how other sea animals behave in the sea and how we can help them.       The hour went by quicker than I wished it would have.  The birthday girl had me sign her mermaid book and then shouted, “This is the best day of my life!”  Little did she know that that day was one of the best days of mine too.  Leaving the party I truly felt like I had found my purpose and, not only that, it had been fulfilled in these kids who are the future of our planet.    

| Emotional Story

Recently I was hosting an episode for the southern travel show I work on and I straight up lost it on-camera.  I’ve teared up here and there on various episodes before, but this one was different. We were touring a beautiful Southern plantation and one of the events that the plantation showcases throughout the day is a play about Gullah language and culture and paints a picture of what slavery was like throughout the south at that time.  Before the play began, the plantation staff had set up an interview for me with the lead actor to get a crash course in Gullah culture. During the interview, I asked Gullah Joe why it was important to pay tribute to this time in American history. And he said, in the most beautiful Gullah accent, “if people learn to know my culture, they will respect it.”  He continued on to speak with an eloquence that was so ironic about how his people were discriminated for centuries not just for the color of their skin, but for their lack of intelligence.  They were ridiculed for not being able to speak the English language upon arrival (despite the fact that they were from different areas of Africa and many didn’t even speak the same African languages as each other).  They were chastised for their strange customs and for singing songs of hope, despite the unbearable conditions they were placed in.  But instead of carrying a message of hurt and heartbreak and bitterness (which I would have understood) Gullah Joe ended his thought by talking about his grandmother.  And how grateful she was for what she had.  (This is where I lost it…)  And how she refused to focus on what she had been deprived of and instead, spoke only of the bright future her family was going to have.  There will always be opportunities for heartache, pain, loss, unfairness, discrimination, injustice, and deceit in this world.  But there is an equal amount of love, kindness, hope, truth, humility and faith – we just have to choose to see it.  

| Conservation Tip

To help the planet there is plenty that women can do.  If there is one thing I emphasize it is to watch your plastic consumption.  Even in areas that are inland from the ocean, items like straws and plastics bags find their way to lakes and streams and can eventually find their way out to sea.  There, animals like sea turtles and dolphins can mistake these for food items.  Ingesting these plastics can be a fatal mistake, so limit the plastics you use by buying reusable bags and opting to do away with plastic straws and releasing balloons (which are rubber, but can still have a fatal result). 

| Advice

1. Don’t give up!  Keep going even when you don’t know how or when times get tough.  The answers are out there if you look hard enough. 
2. Know your purpose.  It is a great honor to be a public figure, but an even greater honor to be able to be the voice for a great cause so remember what you stand for.   
3. Learn from your failures.  Failures are going to happen, but learning from them–and not regretting them–makes way for improvement.  Because of all the failures I made when learning to make tails, I learned so much more than if someone had laid it all out for me.  

| If You Could Be Any Animal, What Would You Be?

If I could be any animal (besides half fish) I would perhaps choose the Black Blotched Fantail Ray.  Their diaphanous bodies and their beautiful coloring make them so intriguing to watch, and I wonder what it be like to swim in the water like one.

| Contact

Email: MermaidLindaStephanie@gmail.com