Cynthia: Hello Shelly, tell us about yourself.
Shelly: My name is Shelly LaPointe, aka Mermaid Shelly. I’m originally from Sacramento, California but spent many years in the San Francisco Bay area and finally moved to San Diego almost six years ago. My background is in Conservational Biology and electronic education, so I like to use those skills to bring awareness to environmental issues.
Shelly: When I was about nine years old, I saw the movie Splash for the first time and was forever changed. My younger sister Wendy and I used to pretend to be mermaids every chance we got, except I didn’t grow out of it with age. If anything, as I grew up I identified with the myth of mermaids even more! I was always a shy person, so imagining an underwater world where I could retreat to was comforting to me. A place where no one could touch me, I could be elusive, and I would be safe from the cruelties of the above-water world. When I was a freshman in high school, I met my (now) husband, Chris. It was wonderful to finally meet someone who felt the same way and was as drawn to it as I was! Needless to say, it has been a lifelong journey for us and we have built our lives around it.
Cynthia: Please tell us about Shell Tail Labs.
Shelly: Shell Tail Labs is a very cottage business that we have started making mermaid tails. I still have my busy day job as an analyst in the bio-pharmaceutical world, but when I get home at night there is no better way to relax than painting a tail! It started really when I was looking for a koi mermaid tail and could not find one available that I liked, so I decided to make one. Making tails is a fun creative outlet for me and also allows me to give something back to the community that has been so supportive of me. Also, it’s a way to generate funds for my favorite charity, the Surfrider Foundation, since a percentage of our profits go to them.
Cynthia: Do you do much recreational mermaid swimming?
Shelly: Absolutely! In fact, I’m sort of known around our condo complex as “the mermaid lady” since I am in our community pool as much as possible. I’m not the greatest swimmer or breath-holder since I have asthma, but I do have more than my fair share of fun! It seems like lately I’ve been swimming in my tails a lot more now that my husband has decided to finally join me. Sometimes it’s hard to find time between the two jobs to find time to relax and enjoy, but having someone like him encouraging me to take time out for myself and go swim has been wonderful.
Shelly: The environment is something that is on my mind every day. Unfortunately as a conservational biologist, my point of view of what is happening in our ecosystem is a little more negative than your average person. I see the correlation of environmental events from a biochemist’s perspective; how the toxic chemicals involved in an oil spill are integrated into the cells of plants and animals, leading to genetic problems like mutations and sterility and population decimation. I see that development and encroachment of open space is cascading its effects into species struggling with habitat loss, starvation and desperation. It is something that is hard to talk about with a lot of people because they just want to think that everything is alright. We all want that to be true, but I assure you, it really, really isn’t. Having a “doom and gloom” mindset isn’t helpful in the greater scheme of things though because nobody wants to hear a bunch of know-it-alls saying “I told you so” when it comes to the environment. Let’s face it, the damage is already done. So what I try to do is use my blog to focus my thoughts on these issues and discuss them in a respectful manner. I would like to focus on what we can do now, rather than look back on the mistakes that we have made. We can use green energy, we can recycle and keep our beaches clean, and we can influence policy in our governments to ensure that environmental regulations are supported and enforced. We might not be able to un-do what has been done, but we can be thoughtful in our daily lives and mindful of our place on this small planet.
Cynthia: Were your family and friends supportive of you being a mermaid in the beginning?
Shelly: This is a very interesting question… and I must say that no, they were not. Not that I was ever ridiculed or anything like that, but I think the tendency is to think that being “into” something as much as I am into mermaiding is a freakish thing. And if I am a freak, then so be it! I think I have changed their perceptions somewhat, but a misunderstanding still exists that it’s more of an obsession than a lifestyle. I guess you have to be one to know one perhaps? Honestly, my family is in the mer-world anyway.
Cynthia: Any stories related to folks seeing you in the water or for the first time?
|Shelly and Chris|
Cynthia: Have you been to any mermaid gatherings?
Shelly: Yes, and I hope to attend many more! Last year I went to MerCon in Las Vegas and had a wonderful time. It was so magical to be surrounded by like-minded souls that I became enslaved by a thirst for more! We’ve had a few mermaids visit us in San Diego on their swims through town, and it is always fun to get special time to build friendships by spending private time together. Then last month I attended Mermaids in the Desert in Desert Hot Springs and had a blast there too! There are so many wonderful mermaid gatherings this year; I am envious of anyone who gets a chance to attend them all. It seems to me that community is built through gatherings such as these, and it is truly a worthwhile way to spend your free time.
Cynthia: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Shelly: Just be yourself, whomever you choose to be. It is true, the quote by Bernard Baruch, “Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter.”
Thank you very much, Shelly. I hope to get back to visit San Diego one of these days. Be sure to look for Mermaid Shelly on Facebook as well as her blog.
Best wishes and starfishes,
cynthia (at) goldmermaid.com