Today we travel northward for a chat with Canadian mermaid Marie-Chantal... Mermaid, actress, artist, mom, and much more!
Marie: My name is Marie-Chantal, I’m 41 years old, I’m French Canadian and I live in the Montreal region. Though I earn a living by several different means, I mainly work as an actress. My entire life has been about learning new things and new skills. I like to try my hand a bit at everything. I love to challenge myself, and I always thrive for new experiences.
Cynthia: How did you first get interested in mermaids?
Marie: I think I was born fascinated by the fantasy world as I was raised by my grand-mama (the woman I called mom all my life) and she had angels, birds & fairies all over her house. They were a part of my daily life. But when I was 4 years old, my aunt took me to see Disney’s Fantasia; little did she know that this would influence my entire life from then on. The scenes from the Pastoral where the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my short life and I’ve decided that this was the kind of world I wanted to live in, beautiful, peaceful and colorful. I became infatuated with mythology and all its fantastic magical creatures.
I was very little when we first moved to the suburbs and got our first pool. I already knew how to swim but, just for safety, I was registered to swim classes. Back in the 70’s in Quebec we didn’t have certifications, we had badges. So I got my very first swim badge when I was 6 years old. That was also the year they aired TV series version of the Japanese anime “Marina the little mermaid”. That was it. I wanted to swim like a mermaid so bad that I started to tie my legs with a skipping rope to get in the pool and practice swimming like a dolphin. I’d practice to hold my breath until I was on the verge of fainting. But it wasn’t until the movie “Splash” came out in 1984 that this became a palpable reality for me, that movie really brought all the magic to life.
Marie: Mom (my grand-mama) was a professional seamstress and she was working from home, so my entire childhood I watched and learned. At the age of 6, I started to make all my doll’s clothes and by the age of 12, I was making my own clothing for school. We didn’t have the money to buy the latest trends and I was tired of being laughed at and bullied so I took matters into my own hands!
I made my first crinoline gown when I was 12, inspired by Cindy Lauper, and I’ve made my first historically inspired costume at the age of 16 for a huge costume ball that I attended. That’s when I first became aware that there was such a thing as an historical society out there.
I believe I had my first customer at the age of 14; I was commissioned a prom ball gown. The gown was a success so I started to receive more commission work over time. I then went to study in fashion design even though I could have been the one teaching them a thing or two! Hehe! But that piece of paper saying that I was qualified was required to get a better position so I took the class regardless.
I joined the Society for creative anachronism over 20 years ago but it was focused on role playing rather than on historical research, so I left to join a more serious group. At first I was only making historical costumes for fun but then I took a trip to France in 1995 and I was shocked to realize that museum guides were promoting some totally bogus myths just about everything but particularly clothing. That’s when I realized that so many people were miss-informed about their past and culture and so, I made it my personal mission to start educating them the right way. I started to make costumes out of natural fibers, dyed my fabrics by hand with vegetable dyes, cut everything based on archeological findings and hand sewed everything from top to bottom. My public displays and online tutorials became so popular that I started to be commissioned by European museums and historical re-enactors world wide.
Now-a-days, I’m not as much involved with history due to a lack of time but I still enjoy costuming. I make most of my mermaid tails and accessories when time permits.
Marie: Yes, I think I was drawing and painting before I even learned to walk. Mom was not only a fantastic seamstress but she was also very crafty, so I had access to all the art supplies my heart ever desired. I had the chance to experiment with countless forms of media as a kid, which has opened so many great doors for me my entire life.
I sold my first painting when I was 14. I took dance and ballet lessons most of my childhood. I started to teach aerobics to younger kids in summer camps when I was just 14. I opened my first photo studio with my boyfriend at the time when I was just 19. As I said before, I’ve always been thriving to learn new things so I went to learn photography and how to operate a lab, I took a make-up and hair dressing class so not to have to hire stylists. I had also been modeling since the age of 6 so this was a great opportunity for me to experiment with new concepts, which later brought me to digital photography and digital art.
Cynthia: Who has been an inspiration to you?
Marie: My grand-mama of course, she was an angel on Earth. She wasn’t just very talented; she had the biggest heart and generosity anyone could have. She was extremely religious and she devoted her entire life in helping others through community work, charity and such. And I chose to follow in her footsteps; I now devote half of my time to my community, to charities and to helping wherever and whenever I can. I’ve been a volunteer in a women center and community center for nearly 15 years now. Among other things, I teach art to the elders, French to immigrants, and organize events and benefits for the poor.
Some of the other people that have inspired me were Walt Disney, Leonardo da Vinci (not for his art but rather for his beautiful inventive and innovative mind), John William Waterhouse, Mother Teresa, Bob Ross, Albert Einstein, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Jules Vernes, Terry Fox, Marguerite d’Youville, Socrates and so many more, but there is also my son; Regardless of the difficulties (he’s mildly mentally challenged), he’s always a smiling sunshine!
Marie: Oh goodness! I could write a novel with the bloopers alone! Hehe! But the one thing that never ceases to move me to tears over the years is hearing the hysterical screams of a child in the distance when they first get a glance at me “MOM MOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!! Look, it’s a mermaid mom, a REALLY REAL mermaid!!!” See, I’m crying just writing about it! That’s what makes everything worthwhile, THIS is what the real magic is all about.
Cynthia: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Marie: Over the course of my life I found that I don’t only yearn to learn, I also love to teach. Whatever my field of work or hobbies, somehow they always bring me to teaching others what I know. This is fundamentally part of what I do and who I am. Being a mermaid is no different; it’s all about teaching people to care by not only providing them with useful information but mostly, by opening their eyes and hearts to the beauty of our planet and to the cruel reality that threatens it all. My mission is to get people out of their materialistic routine world and bringing them back in contact with nature in hopes of a better tomorrow. I like to help and get involved wherever help is needed; right now it’s our sharks that are on the critical verge of extinction, so I’ve become a shark defender. I’ve always had a soft spot for the misfits and misunderstood creatures anyhoo, so this is the perfect job for me! ;)
Cynthia: Thank you for visiting with us, Marie! Swim on over and visit Marie-Chantal on Facebook and check out her other cool photographs.
Best wishes and starfishes,
cynthia (at) goldmermaid.com
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