Many little girls dream of swimming with or meeting a mermaid, but Linden Wolbert actually left her day job to become one.
“I have always had a magnetism to water,” she told Yahoo! Shine in an interview. “I have always been fascinated with it, not just because of the animals that live in it, but because I feel so comfortable swimming in it. I just was always a swimmer and loved to be in the water.”
After three years of working 9 to 5 as a residence director for Emerson College, “I was just daydreaming over every single lunch break about being in the water and among the fish,” she said. An avid swimmer and SCUBA diver, Wolbert also loves freediving, in which you dive as deep as you can and swim back up to the surface in a single breath—perfect training for a professional life as a mermaid. She made the leap from office worker to mermaid in 2005 and hasn’t looked back since.
Though Wolbert, 32, adored movies like “The Little Mermaid” and “Splash” as a kid, she says that she really spent most of her time watching wildlife documentaries. She has a bachelors degree in film and science from Emerson College—”My goal was to become an underwater wildlife documentary filmmaker like Jacques Cousteau,” she says—and she also works in the Los Angeles area as a consultant on underwater photo and video shoots. When special-effects artist Allan Holt asked her to help him with an underwater music video a few years ago, she mentioned that she’d always wanted a prosthetic mermaid tail but didn’t know where to find one.
Holt ended up crafting a 35-pound, 6-foot-long hydro-dynamic tail for her, sealing a monofin inside high-quality silicone, hand-sculpting the scales, and creating a detailed fiberglass mold of Wolbert’s body. It took seven months to complete and cost approximately $15,000.
“It’s very cumbersome on land. It’s meant to be in the water,” she told Yahoo! Shine. “It doesn’t sink or float… it’s the most powerful piece of dive equipment I own!” (It does take a toll on her feet “after a few hours,” she admits, but she’s willing to pay that price.) She also has two other tails and there are two more in production—one of them by famed fashion designer Evey Rothstein.
“She approached me about doing a tail and holy cow, it is the most sparkling, blingtastic, covered in gems and rhinestones tail,” Wolbert told Yahoo! Shine. “It comes up like an evening gown.”
All of her tails are “swimmable,” she says, and each one moves differently in the water. Thanks to her training as a freediver, Wolbert can hold her breath for five full minutes and dive down 30 meters (about 100 feet) deep, which, when paired with a shimmering mermaid tail, makes her performance as realistic as can be. “I have yet to hit my limits as a freediver, which is very exciting when it comes to mermaiding,” she told mermaid fan site iamamermaid.com. “I feel more and more like a ‘real’ mermaid the better my diving gets.”
While Wolbert has appeared as “Mermaid Linden” at high-end Hollywood parties for Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, and Shia LeBouf, she also does a lot of pro-bono work, slipping into her mermaid tail for charities, environmental fundraisers, and children’s parties. She can’t disclose how much she makes per appearance (you can request a quote on her website), she spends her time at big events interacting with guests and performing in and out of the water. She also produces and stars in her own online show, “The Mermaid Minute,” in which she teaches kids about the oceans and the creatures that lives in them.
“I am a geeky science mermaid,” she told Yahoo! Shine. “The bread-and-butter stuff is high end and can be really fun and glamorous, but working with children is my favorite.”
Read more: Yahoo! Shine