Mermaids are real. At least that's what one Austin-based company wants you to believe.
Sirenalia is an all-inclusive mermaid production company. That means they sell mermaid tails and tops and hire out mermaids to attend your events. Starting at $275, a mermaid can – and probably should – be the center of your next office Christmas party.
Sirenalia has just one mermaid based out of the North Texas area, but others can travel to DFW for events. Her name is Chelbi Pena and she is a high school student in Waxahachie. We met up with her at a local Starbucks. She showed up sporting "Mermaid Off-Duty" shirt and told us her summer will be booked with parties working as a mermaid.
Pena is a family friend of the owner, Maria Russo. That, plus Pena's long hair, made her a shoe-in for the mermaid business. Russo first asked Pena to model for a mermaid photo shoot, and from there, she began working events.
Identifying as a mermaid is a growing trend. Even Russo says she's a full-time mermaid. But while Pena says she doesn't fully identify as a mermaid, she has to commit to her character when she's working.
"You are a real mermaid. And I've had some kids ask me some crazy questions," she says. "Like, 'How did you get to my house?' I'm like, 'Well, I swam all the way over here, and I had my sailor pick me up at the water on land, and he came here, and when I leave I'm going to go back to the ocean!' I am a real mermaid to these kids."
Sometimes Pena is asked to swim at the parties and sometimes she simply sits there, either posing for pictures or playing with the kids.
"That's another quality that you have to have, is you have to be a strong swimmer," Pena says. "You have to be open-minded, and you have to be a fast thinker, because kids are always, or just people in general, are always asking questions, and you kind of have to think about the right answer that you want to give them. Especially when kids are like, 'Do you have feet? Where are your feet at?' And you're like, 'I don't have feet.'"
The kids are oddly specific, she says, asking what kind of things she finds in the ocean. Sometimes the adults become inappropriate.
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"I've had a few people, like men, like, sexual attraction. It's kind of a little weird," she says. "There's been a couple rude comments, or inappropriate comments. I'm like, 'Whoa, dude.'"
Along with the events, Sirenalia also does retreats twice per year, where the mermaids travel to different locations to promote river and environmental health. Pena went to the San Marcos retreat last year.
But does Pena believe in mermaids?
"Absolutely," she says, and her answer only seems half canned.