Hannah Fraser Professional Mermaid, Performance Artist, and Conservationist

Interview on the Jason Hennessey Podcast 12-15-2021 - Episode 9
Hannah Fraser

How Mermaid Hannah Fraser Helps Conserve the Ocean’s Treasures

From Los Angeles to Australia, to India, and to the depths of the ocean floor, Hannah Fraser made a name for herself by being the world’s first freelance mermaid. However, she’s much more than just a woman playing dress-up.
From fishing out pennies at the bottom of the pool as a kid, to creating her first fully functional mermaid tail, to swimming with great whites and stingrays, Hannah is an ocean enthusiast, a conservationist, an underwater performer, and an all-around creative visionary.
She’s referred to as the “Queen of the Mermaids” and can hold her breath for up to 4 minutes, freediving to depths of over 50 feet. Listen in as she gives us tips on how you can become a mermaid or merman, and how you can help conserve and raise awareness to endangered habitats and animals.
Join us for a fascinating conversation where we dive below the surface to find out what it’s like to be a real-life mermaid with a purpose.
Please hit the play button at the top of the page and follow along below. Thank you for listening to today’s enchanting episode.

In this Episode

[01:16] Jason and Hannah Frasier dive into today’s conversation with Hannah explaining her title as a professional mermaid and where she developed her unique accent.

[03:13] Hannah tells us of her parents’ prominent careers and the valuable skills, love, and time she’s received from both.

[05:37] Hannah describes how the movie Splash sparked her dream of becoming a mermaid and her entry into modeling. She also recounts meeting Daryl Hannah at an Earth Day event and how both support the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

[08:45] Jason is fascinated by Hannah’s Instagram that features her photoshoots. She looks back on her most memorable travels to swim with tiger sharks, manta rays, whales, and dolphins in an effort to bring awareness to these species.

[17:36] Hannah reflects on her most dangerous moments in the ocean. These include getting a sea urchin spike stuck in her foot, a mishap with a wedding dress, and going face-to-face with a great white shark.

[21:44] Jason thinks Hannah leads a fascinating life and Hanna delves deeper into her underwater adventures with whales, turtles, dolphins, and sharks in places like the Bahamas, Tonga, and Kona. Jason also recounts a swimming adventure he had.

[24:58] Hannah tells us how her mermaid tails are made, and how she feels like a superhero while swimming with one. She explains the positives of the growth of mermaid culture, what is was like to perform at Adele’s birthday party, and her experience as a speaker at a psychedelic convention.

[31:30] Jason and Hannah play a game of Mermaid History and Ocean Trivia. Hannah impresses us with her knowledge of mermaid mythology, geography, and popular culture references.

[34:42] Hannah discusses the many ways she’s involved in helping to preserve and protest the decimation of wetlands, forests, marine life. She details her work with Ric O’Barry of The Cove and their progress with saving dolphins in Japan.

[42:48] Hannah reveals that she’s currently working on a coffee table book that includes pictures and stories of her memorable photoshoots and travels. Jason also invites her to share how we can help conserve our earth and wildlife.

[45:44] Jason requests that Hannah help him become a merman. She gives Jason tips on how to get started and exercises to work on. She also offers online trainings and travel retreats to help people become mermaids or mermen.

[47:10] Hannah updates us on her social media accounts so we can follow her for further inspiration and information on her conservation and creative efforts as they conclude today’s episode.

Transcript

Jason Hennessey: Hannah Mermaid, welcome to The Jason Hennessey Podcast.

Hannah Fraser: Such a pleasure to be here, Jason. Thank you so much.

Thank you. Appreciate you coming up for a breath with us, I guess, out of the water.

Yeah. I thought you guys are going to have a tank ready for me, but it’s alright, I won’t dry out.

I’ve been excited about this episode, and I know that we’ve rescheduled it a couple times. Thank you for your flexibility.

COVID times, what are you going to do?

Right? But this is wild. Tell everybody what you do for a living.

Okay. So, I am a professional mermaid and what that means is I create these amazing functional and yet very beautiful mermaid tails, and I perform in them underwater for film and television, lots of conservation activities.

But my favorite thing is to go and swim with large animals in the ocean, such as sharks, whales, dolphins, manta rays, stingrays, you name it, I’m in it.

Huh. So, I’ve got so many questions and we’re going to dissect a lot of that.

As you do.

First of all, let’s go back. Where did you grow up? Do I get an accent? I hear an accent.

Yeah, it’s kind of a schizophrenic mess. My dad was English, my mom was Australian. I grew up in LA for the first 7 years and then moved to Australia, came back to LA about a decade ago. So, it’s a bit of everything.

Wow. So, you lived your childhood in LA till you’re 7.

Yes.

Then, moved back to Australia and then back here.

With a year in India in between, so yeah.

My favorite thing is to go and swim with large animals in the ocean, such as sharks, whales, dolphins, manta rays, stingrays.

Just because.

Just casually.

So, do you remember LA as a child?

I do. And funnily enough, I’ve ended up living one block from where I last lived in Los Angeles, out in Tujunga.

I remember, like, little vignettes as a child, but I don’t remember the city. So, it’s really re-imagining and getting re-inspired by this place. Of course, it’s very, very different. I’m talking like 40 years later. That’s aging me now, but.

Well, so what did your parents do for work?

So, my dad was a bit of a rock star in the ’70s. He was the bass player and co-songwriter of the band Free.

Really?

And people don’t always know the name, but they know the songs.

Bread?

All Right Now.”

Oh, yes.

“Baby, it’s all right now.”

Oh, my God.

He played that famous bass riff.

I totally know that song.

So, yeah, he was at that. He was very young. He was like, age 15 to 20 was when they peaked. And he met my mom shortly after that ended.

She was an Australian-traveling hippie through all of Morocco and whatnot. And they met on a boat in England and connected and had me and then thought, “Shit, we better get married.”

And she ended up being a fascinating woman, also. She’s a psychotherapist, counselor, healer, past life regressionist, meditation, yoga, and painting teacher.

She needs to pick up her game a little bit.

She’s not very skilled. No, she is an amazing, angelic being.

So cool. So, what was it like having a rock star dad and such a sophisticated mom growing up, for you?

Yeah. Well, they broke up when I was 7 and that’s when we left America. And so, I didn’t get to spend much time with him. And we’ve reconnected when I was in my early 20s. And at that stage, we made this awesome friendship based on me helping him with his musical career and vice versa.

And so, I was in some of his music videos as a mermaid. I also did a lot of photoshoots for him as a photographer. I even did a music video where I directed for him. So, we started this really beautiful thing.

And my mom is just hands-on-the-ground, just the uber-mom of all moms, super caring. She taught me yoga, meditation, breath work, and took me to India to hang out in ashrams with meditation teachers. I had a really eclectic, amazing childhood.

And unbeknownst to my future self, it gave me all of these skill sets that I would need as a mermaid. So, being able to have yoga flexibility, the breath work, the meditation gave me the strength and willpower to be able to make it through really challenging situations.

When did you have this, I guess, vision where you wanted to maybe take your career or your life into this mermaid land?

So, I was that kid that was always at the bottom of the pool laying. How long can I stay down there? And having my own little tea parties and picking up pennies from the bottom of the pool.

And I saw the film Splash that featured Daryl Hannah, the actress, when I was 9 years old, and that inspired me to make my first tail.

I think every little kid probably wanted to be a mermaid at that point, right?

Right, after that. She was so glorious. And the fact that her name was Hannah and that she was a vegetarian, like myself, so I was extra, extra inspired by her. And she ended up being such an incredible role model in a lot of other ways. She’s super green, she’s off-grid, she goes to Burning Man, all the things that I’m about.

I realized that I had this skill to just be really chill under water and hold my breath a long time.

So, that was a little vignette in time for 6 months. I swam around in this tail, but I always held on to that vision of I would like to do that again.

And then in my 20s, I started doing modeling and I got hired for an underwater shoot, against all these other girls that were super gorgeous and tall and younger and prettier and skinnier and all the things that I perceived, but when they got in the water, they looked like dying blowfish. And I realized that I had this skill to just be really chill under water and hold my breath a long time.

And I’ve been a visual artist for many years. And I’ve been painting all of these mermaid scenes and fairy scenes. And I realized, underwater was the way that I could become my artwork.

 

So, I started making mermaid tails. And I didn’t do it as a career move. It was an artistic expression. And then, once I started making photoshoots and everything, people are like, “Oh, we want to hire you as a mermaid.”

So, have you ever met Daryl Hannah?

Yes. I actually had a couple meetings with her. I spoke on stage at Earth Day LA 2010, and she was also speaking. And my friend who was putting it on introduced us.

And she was very sweet and accommodating to me because I don’t get star struck by anybody but seeing her, because she had such a formative influence on me, I was just like, “Oh my God, you don’t understand. I’m a mermaid because you were a mermaid.” I turned into my little 9-year-old self.

And I’m sure that’s not conversations that she has on a regular basis, right?

Yeah, probably not all the time. Anyway, so, she was very sweet. She’s like, “Show me your tail.” She came backstage. I put my tail on and she was sitting next to me and putting her legs under my tail saying, “Oh, yours is so much prettier than mine was.” And I’m like, “Girl, I do not believe you for a second, but you’re very sweet. Thank you for making all my 9-year-old dreams come true.”

She was also a supporter of Sea Shepherd. And I performed at a Sea Shepherd event to help with fundraising and so forth.

What is a Sea Shepherd event? What is that?

Sea Shepherd is an organization, nonprofit organization, that sends big ships out into Antarctica and all around the world to defend animals against poaching, overfishing, whaling. So, they’re very, very hardcore environmentalists that put animals first.

Wow. So, you’ve done some pretty amazing and elaborate photoshoots.

Indeed.

I was looking at your Instagram and I think there was one that you just did. It was like a vintage dive suit inspired one.

 

Yeah. So, I have two fantastic photographers in Los Angeles. And I’ve never worked with them together. I put their heads together and we came up with this concept.

We’d seen this beautiful artwork online and it’s a picture of a mermaid approaching an old school vintage diver. And she looks like she’s coming in for an intimate moment with him, but in fact, out of the diver’s eye, she has a knife and she’s about to cut his air hose.

And we just fell in love with this image. We’re like, “What if we could create this for real?” But then it became like, “Okay, where do we find a vintage diver?” Because those suits are so obsolete, so dangerous.

And we connected with this guy who’s a badass commercial diver who’s been in the most life-threatening, insane situations.

And he was like, “Yep, I’m going to do this.” He found a vintage, like World War II era dive suit, with the old metal bell helmet with the little tiny portals, and it’s connected back from the helmet back to the boat; 50 feet of hose. And he said, “I’ll do it.”

So, it was like a stunt in itself to have him in this suit and shoot him. And then you add me, legs bound in a mermaid tail, out in the open ocean with swell happening and me with a very, very sharp knife next to his air hose, trying not to actually cut it, but make it look like I was.

So, this was quite the undertaking that we did last week. We haven’t even released the pictures yet, but it’s going to be- It’s a world first. No one’s done it before.

It all started with a vision and you guys actually went out and made it happen.

That’s my specialty.

I love it, love it, love it. So, aside from that, you’ve had, probably, a lot of other incredible photoshoots. Is there any other ones that come to mind?

Absolutely. Probably the most crazy visual one was swimming with tiger sharks.

What?

And this came about because I’d done a lot of shoots with whales and dolphins and manta rays. And these animals are not dangerous, non-threatening. And so, it’s very easy to get people to love them.

However, humans kill over 100 million sharks every year. They are decimating the species and we got to do something about it. So, I was talking to my underwater photographer, Shawn Heinrichs, who’s just an amazing conservationist in his own right. And we were like, “How do we get people to care about sharks?” It’s a hard job.

And so, we decided we would go to the Bahamas where this place called Tiger Beach, and they have huge, like 17-foot tiger sharks in the wild, but they’re very used to seeing divers there every day.

We have a friend, Jim Abernethy, who does shark tours and has been swimming with these sharks for 20 years. He knows them all by name. They’re very comfortable with them. And he was able to train me and get me up to speed on: how do you interact with these animals safely?

Then it was, how do we make this look awesome and safe at the same time. We put weights inside my shoes underwater, that was 12 pounds of weight, so that I wouldn’t lift up from the ocean floor. I had a couple of safety divers that would hand me air when I ask for it. I had wrist cuffs that were actually like very hard leathers. So, in the off chance that I needed to defend myself, it would be like Wonder Woman. Take that pit first.

We had painted my entire body a dark blue kind of pattern shape that was reminiscent of the tiger shark patterns on their bodies. But it was more so because we didn’t want any really light colors because they get activated by lighter colors, like the underbody of a fish is white, and they’re very used to seeing divers in dark blue and black colors. So, we went to every length to make it safe and look awesome. And I actually ended up looking like an Avatar creature under there. It was very cool.

And then, swimming with them and dancing with them underwater was just magnificent. And out of all the animals in the ocean that I’ve swum with, all the friendly dolphins and whales and whatnot, tiger sharks were the only ones that actually came up to me and didn’t mind being touched. They seem to present themselves for, like a snout rub, or like, tickle on the belly. It’s the last thing you think a shark would want to do with you.

But they were very interactive and I didn’t feel in danger the whole time. Obviously, you have to be very careful and understand their behavior patterns. And if they start getting activated, you get out. But if you understand them, you can really have this beautiful close interaction with them.

And I remember my fingertips trailing along the body of a tiger shark underneath and just feeling its musculature and its strength and the way that it moved. It was absolutely mind-blowing.

You’re scared probably, right?

I was terrified before I got there, like dreams. And I said to my mom, poor mom- I had to say my goodbyes in a way that if I didn’t come back, it would be okay. So, it’s pretty serious stuff. But once you get in the water, you cannot be scared.

Yeah, your adrenaline-

Because they pick up on that.

Sure.

This is where all the meditation training comes in and that breath work and just get myself into this very calm, very alpha state that projects to them, “I’m in charge. I am not dinner. Don’t fuck with me.” But- Sorry, I don’t know if I can say it. “Beep.”

It’s all good. It’s all good.

Yeah.

Wow.

And so, that video was actually seen about 50 million times in the first 24 hours that we released it through news and on social media, and it actually helped to get sharks protected with the laws around shark kills.

So, mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished.

Wow. Where could somebody see that? Is it on YouTube?

Yeah. If you just look up “TIGRESS – Hannah Mermaid.”

“TIGRESS – Hannah Mermaid” on YouTube.

Yeah. We also had a really big win with manta rays. That was in Hawaii, on Kona.

Hawaii, okay.

They have this amazing place where just off of the rocks, they have lights from the hotel that’s shining down into the water. And at nighttime, that brings the krill and the shrimp into the water and then the big manta rays come and just feed off of it. So, you can go out there in a dive boat and just watch them do this amazing ballet underwater.

And like with the sharks, they’re actually killing a lot of manta rays. And so, we decided we would create a video that would be shown to the Convention for International Trade on Endangered Species, which is a United Nations body that meets only every 3 years and they get to decide which animals have legal protection and which don’t.

And no one was really talking about manta rays, even though they’re so beautiful, they’re completely harmless, and they’re getting killed for their gills.

And we went to Hawaii and I was weighted to the bottom of the ocean at midnight, in freezing cold water, just wearing a tiny little outfit, holding my breath, blurry eyes, and there was even a viper eel wrapped itself around my leg at one stage. Terrifying. And then really bad swell, pushing me onto the rocks one way and the other.

I don’t know why anyone wants to go to outer space. We have the most insane, beautiful animals on this planet.

But it all just kind of disappeared because when the manta rays showed up, they were just like- It’s like meeting aliens, you know? Like, I don’t know why anyone wants to go to outer space. We have the most insane, beautiful animals on this planet.

That’s a good point. Yeah, you’re right.

Yeah. It was literally like Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind because there’s like all these lights shining down from the boat and then these huge flying creatures just circling around me, coming so close, like I could tickle their bellies.

And we got the most epic footage and we were able to show it to all the delegates at the Convention for International Trade on Endangered Species. And 80% of them stood up in favor of saving manta rays and-

Because the video kind of helped influence that.

Exactly, because they were able to see humans and manta rays interacting in a beautiful way.

So, awesome, the work that you do. When you came in, it’s like, “Oh, I’m a mermaid,” right? And I’m thinking like a mermaid that shows up at kid’s birthday parties, right? No.

No.

[both laugh]

You’re like “changing the world,” type of mermaid.

Yes. Guardians of the Deep.

I love it. I love it, I love it. So, have you ever gotten hurt at all doing what you do?

The worst thing that’s ever happened to me was getting a little sea urchin spine stuck in my foot, which is a great thing to be able to say after 20 years in the ocean swimming with great white sharks and tiger sharks and everything.

But yeah, they’re no joke. It’s like months of pain if you get a sea urchin stuck in your foot.

See, I’m not an ocean guy. I’ve always had the fear that I was going to die in the ocean, like die drowning. And so-

It’s funny. I was talking to someone else who had exactly the same phobia yesterday.

Really? Yeah, it’s like, weird. And so, I’m the kind of guy that tiptoes into the water and I’m afraid that I’m going to step on a jellyfish. That’s who I am, right, at the ocean.

I wasn’t born like this. I was naturally interested in the water but the ocean and all of the things in it. I remember the first time I saw a stingray, I literally jumped up out of the water and walked on it like Jesus, running to get out of there.

Yeah, sure. Yeah.

And so, it’s taken years of trying to understand and educate myself to realize there’s really not that much in the ocean that is out to hurt us. I mean, sharks will take a chomp if they’re curious, but we’re not on the menu.

It’s taken years of trying to understand and educate myself to realize there’s really not that much in the ocean that is out to hurt us.

The same guy, Jim Abernethy, that does the shark tours, he did this amazing test. He got cow blood, he put it in the water, the sharks didn’t react. He put human blood in the water, they did not react. He put fish blood in the water and they go crazy.

Interesting.

And the reason behind that is the oil content in the fish blood is so much higher than our land animals. And that’s really what they’re looking for.

I see.

And that’s why a lot of people will have a shark attack and lose a limb, very unfortunate, but they’re basically going, “Oh, you don’t taste good, ” and spitting the rest back out.

Ah, see? I just learned something.

So, hopefully, you’ll just be a little less scared of going in the ocean next time.

Well, I’ve been to Hawaii, I’ve been to The Bahamas where I had opportunities to go scuba diving. I’ve never took advantage of that at all. So, I’ve never seen the beauty under there.

It’s like another whole world.

I have not. Yeah.

And also, another thing to know is it’s much safer down underneath than like surfing is probably one of the more dangerous things that you can do. But once you’re under there and you’re looking at what’s happening, very low risk.

So, cool.

Yeah.

You might have inspired me. So, maybe the next time, I’ll have to get over my fear and go see this beautiful world that you live in.

Definitely.

Yes.

I mean, I definitely have had dangerous moments. I haven’t injured myself. But there was a moment with the manta rays where I was wearing a massive white wedding dress. And because the swell was so intense, it lifted the whole fabric up over my head and I couldn’t move the fabric to get the air hose.

And they were scrambling at it and I’m scrambling at it. Very last minute, I thought I was going to drown. And that was one of the most dangerous things of all. Just my dress going up.

And then, I did swim with great white sharks in Guadalupe Island in Mexico. And I mean, they’re terrifying animals, for sure. But I did it successfully, sort of 6 days swimming with a mermaid tail on in the open ocean.

And there was one moment where rather than the great white shark just circling around and being very wary, it got a little curious and it came directly at me. And it wasn’t like Jaws where it’s like gnashing his teeth and it’s like, I’m going to eat you, but it wasn’t scared anymore.

Interesting.

And at that point, everything slowed down to a very, very slow second by second, replaying every conversation I’d had about great white sharks in my head, and with the guys on the boat and them saying, “Don’t turn tail. Don’t run. You got to show who’s boss.”

And I put my hands up and I started swimming towards it and just screaming underwater, which of course just sounds like, “Bluh, bluh-bluh-bluh.”

Sure, sure.

But it was enough of an action that was not dinner to the shark that it turned around and swam away. So, understanding the behaviors of them-

I think they’re going to make a movie about you.

Working on it.

Seriously. Yeah. I would watch that movie.

All right.

It seems like you live a pretty fascinating life.

It’s a lot of fun.

And you get to travel, which is really cool.

I love traveling. Yeah, broadening the perspectives and seeing all the different cultures and all the people I get to meet.

Yeah. How often do you travel?

Well, we’re in COVID times now, it’s been highly curtailed. But generally, I’ll travel at least two or three months of the year to at least a couple of countries.

And you stay there for like weeks on end or?

Yeah. Generally, for going specifically to shoot with an animal, it’s like a week or two.

And you bring like a whole crew, your photographer, or do you meet with people there?

Generally, it’ll be like me and a photographer. And then we’ll go and we’ll meet with whoever’s the local experts in that area.

But with the tiger shark, we took a whole crew because that was insanely dangerous. And we actually had ABC News come with us on the boat. We brought a makeup artist. So, that was a very big production.

But mostly, it’ll just be me and a photographer, and maybe a safety diver friend that we meet up with.

Where would you say was the coolest place you’ve ever been?

Oh, my God. There’s so many.

It’s hard to pick one, right?

I love the Bahamas because it’s just so warm and the water is so clean, and you’ve got sharks and all sorts of beautiful animals. So, that’s my favorite place to just go and shoot.

But then, you have Tonga in the South Pacific, where it’s one of the only legal places you can swim with whales. So, to have that experience was just mind-blowing. They’re huge, the size of a bus.

They come and they eyeball you and their eyes are the size of your head. And they’re so playful and interactive. And they bring their babies to come and meet you. I mean, this is a species we have decimated for decades, and yet they’re still interactive. Amazing, amazing experience in Tonga. Yeah.

And Kona in Hawaii has probably the most amount of different species that I’ve managed to swim with all at one time. Like one day, you can see pilot whales, whales, dolphins, turtles, manta rays…

They’ve got it all.

…sharks. Yeah.

It was interesting. I guess I did get to swim with a species, the pig species. [laughs]

You swam with the pigs? Awesome.

In the Bahamas.

Oh cool.

I’m sure you’ve been there, right?

I haven’t swum with them.

You haven’t been there? Really?

No. You’re one up on me.

That’d be a cool shoot.

That would be.

It was like a thing. It was like, “Hey, you want to go swim with the pigs?” I’m like, “Swim with the what?” “The pigs.” I’m like, “That would be cool.”

So, we took the family there and we got a boat and went out there. It was a long ride, but the beautiful- the ocean is like, crystal clear.

Pristine.

Yeah. And we got there. I guess they brought these pigs over, right, and they’re basically just for food, for the, I guess there was people that were living on this island. And then-

They just bred and continued. It’s Pig Island.

Yeah, Pig Island. And so, there’s nobody that lives there no more.

Oh, wow.

And so, they rely 100% on tourists that come and bring food.

No way.

Yeah, yeah.

Wow.

And it’s in the Bahamas, somewhere. But it was a pretty cool experience.

What a trip.

Yeah. So, I hear you also spend time making functioning mermaid tails.

Yeah. So, they’re monofin on the inside, and then a wetsuit neoprene covering that comes up to the waist. And then on top of that, I hand stitch tiny little iridescent scales, thousands of them, all over that tail, in beautiful patterns. And then, we put hand-poured silicone fins on that.

So, yeah, it’s like a multi-process thing and it takes at least six months of labor for each tail, and multiple artisans that are now helping me to create each one.

Huh.

Yeah.

And do you make these for yourself or do you-

I make them for myself because they do take a lot of upkeep. So, every time I use them, they need maintenance. They’re very shape-specific, like, I cannot change shape. I can’t put on weight or I’m out of a job, can’t fit in my tail anymore. They have to be-

I have that problem but not with my mermaid tail, though.

Yeah. Trying to make them for other people, I would have to do it one by one. It’s a very-

It’s a big job.

Big job, and I would charge a lot. Hasn’t happened yet. But Beyoncé or Lady Gaga, if you’re out there, we’ll talk.

 

I’ll make sure they get this.

But I do create beautiful printed fabric tails with a company called Cape Cali Mermaids and they have those for sale.

Awesome.

And they’re also very stunning and have all these extra-long, beautiful flowy fins on them.

That’s cool. Yeah, my daughter went through that whole phase and so, yeah, she-

Yeah. I was just one that didn’t grow out of it.

She’s 5. And, yes, she has her-

She’s already gone through it?

She had her mermaid tail and she would swim around our living room and stuff. She was in that phase.

So, what’s something that the general public wouldn’t suspect about wearing a mermaid tail in the water? Is it easier or harder to swim with a tail?

It really was second nature to me, I guess, because by the time I got a tail on, I’d already been swimming with my legs together. And so, I was practiced.

But you’d put normal person that doesn’t swim that way in a tail and they get pretty freaked out. It can definitely feel like a weird bondage device.

Okay.

But because you get all this propulsion out of the monofin on the inside, it can make you go really fast, like a superpower. It’s like my Superman cape. I can fly through the water when I get that thing going.

You get all this propulsion out of the monofin on the inside, it can make you go really fast, like a superpower. It’s like my Superman cape.

So, often, people will find it very constrictive and tight and uncomfortable out of the water, and a little daunting when they first enter. But once they get to move down, then they’re off and it’s like, “Wow, I never knew this was possible and this feels so natural.” Yeah.

So, now, doing this as a career, as a profession, do you meet other people that have the same interest and passion as you that also do this?

Yeah, it’s kind of crazy. When I started, there was nowhere you could go online to buy a tail. That just wasn’t a thing. And there were no mermaids performing other than- There were some for specific films or a site-specific thing.

There were Disney mermaids at Disneyland. There’s the Florida Springs, Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids. But there was no one who was just a mermaid as a lifestyle, as a profession.

And so, I was like, okay, well, I guess I’ll be the world’s first freelance mermaid, and started getting work. And now, 20 years later, we have mermaid conventions, we have mermaid universities, we have mermaid-like PADI certificates. We have online groups all around the world. There’s just, it’s been an explosion of mermaid culture.

Wow.

And I think it’s really cool. Like, at first, it was kind of like, “Oh, well, I guess my unique thing is not that unique anymore.” And now I’m just so excited because these people are also very enthusiastic about the ocean and conservation.

And it’s like the mermaid is bringing nature to humanity in a very visceral, real way. And it’s like the icon of that mix. So, we all need a lot more nature loving in our lives right now.

Uh-huh. So, if there’s ever a Mount Rushmore of mermaids, I’m going to see you up there.

Yeah, that would be funny. We should make a Photoshop of that. That’d be fun.

We should totally do that, right? I love it.

So, have you gotten to- I know you’ve met Daryl Hannah. What other interesting people have you met through being a mermaid?

I mean, my favorite people are the unsung heroes, the ones that are out there literally like pulling in longline fishing nets and Sea Shepherd crew and the photographers, like Shawn Heinrichs, who’s just an absolute hero of mine because he puts his life on the line all the time to stop fishing.

As far as celebrities and things like that, well, I got to perform for Adele‘s birthday. That was fun.

Really? Here or in England?

Yup. In LA.

Okay.

Who else?

That’s awesome. How was that?

It was great. I mean, it was this fantastic, huge mansion somewhere. And they had me on this fountain and I was just greeting all of the guests as they came in. It was quite fun.

So, cool.

Yeah, I love doing the Hollywood parties. It’s always like so many characters.

And you, I guess, recently hosted a conference in Vegas.

I did.

What was that about?

It was a slight departure from my norm. But it was the onstage host for the psychedelic conference called Meet Delic. And it was about bringing all of the luminaries and the knowledgeable doctors and clinical trials around psychedelics and giving them a platform to speak in panels about their findings and how it can be really helpful for PTSD and trauma and depression and suicidal ideology and pain. And also marrying that with just the fun psychedelic culture that exists. And having DJs and performance artists and that kind of a thing.

So, it was this really wonderful melting pot. And I guess they got me because I’m weird and out of the box, and I’ve had some psychedelic experiences that I can share and who was happy to hold space on stage and tell some silly stories in between all of this very clinical data and, yeah.

Interesting. So, cool. You live such a fascinating life. I’m envious.

Yeah, I’m having fun.

I’m envious. So, we’re going to play a game.

Okay.

Okay. What I’m going to do is I’m going to ask- This is a Mermaid History and Ocean trivia game.

Oh, God, I’m going to fail. I’m so bad at trivia. Okay.

I did not pick the questions.

Who do I blame?

Jenna, who’s not here right now…

Okay.

…picked out all the questions. I am just the Alex Trebek that reads the questions here.

I’m too busy down in the ocean to know much trivia, but we’ll see how we go.

Okay. And she’s known to come up with tough questions, so don’t feel so bad.

So, is this the public humiliation portion of the show? Right?

All right, here we go. We’ll get started. In The Little Mermaid– Have you seen that movie?

I have.

Okay. Scuttle, the seagull, identifies the fork that Ariel and Flounder find in a sunken ship as what?

I know this one, Dinglehopper.

Yes.

Yes, ding, ding, ding, ding.

See? We’re off to a good start. All right. Selkies, have you ever heard that word?

Yes.

Okay. Are similar to mermaids. They are, what are they? They are shapeshifters popular in Celtic and Norse mythology who change from what animal into a human form.

Ding, seals.

See?

Yes. I’m winning.

You’re doing really well.

Thanks, Jenna.

This aquatic mythical character is often confused with a mermaid, but they’re not as benevolent. What are they called?

Ooh, not as benevolent. Siren?

You got it right.

All right.

See?

I was nearly going to go with a dugong when you said the one they got confused because that old rum-filled sailor is always confused, apparently. I don’t know how you would confuse me with a dugong, but there you go. But okay.

You’re acing this so far. What famous explorer had the first documented account of seeing a mermaid?

Oh, I do not know this one.

No?

Enlighten me.

Christopher Columbus.

Really?

Yes.

Okay. Very cool.

See? You might have to go look into that. How many oceans are there in the world?

I should know this. Seven seas?

You’re right.

All right, cool. Because I know that seas are not the same as ocean, so I wasn’t sure about that.

This one should be pretty easy. Who’s starred alongside Tom Hanks as a mermaid…

Daryl Hannah!

…in the 1984 movie Splash?

Yeah.

All right. Let’s see here. A couple more questions.

There is a very famous bronze statue of a little mermaid, okay, by Edvard Eriksen, depicting a mermaid becoming a human. The sculpture is displayed on a rock by the waterside in what Scandinavian city?

Copenhagen.

Bingo.

Bingo.

Anyway, you did really good.

Yay. Okay.

You got like, almost all of them right.

Thanks, Jenna.

So, congratulations there. I want to talk now about some of the charity work that you do. Yeah. Because you do, it seems like a lot.

So, being a mermaid is not just about looking amazing underwater. You’ve also put a massive effort into preserving our sacred oceans. So, how did you get involved with that?

Well, I was always really into dressing up. And as you know, I did that when I was 9. And then when I moved to Byron Bay in Australia- I mean, I’d done all these silly jobs, like dressing up as a giant strawberry and giving away free fruit when I first got a job. It was one of the first things I did. And then I dressed up as a character from a peanut TV commercial giving away Nobby’s nuts.

And then, so, I was like, “Okay, I’m good at dressing up. I’m comfortable being silly, how can I make this useful?”

And so, when I moved to Byron Bay, they were having troubles with a lot of the old growth being cut down in the forests. And so, I decided I would dress up as a fairy with these beautiful wings and go out and stand in front of bulldozers. And it was pretty effective at stopping these guys from rolling over me. And I was like, “Okay, cool, I’m onto something here.”

And then, I made the mermaid tail and I took that out to where they were destroying wetlands and creating this massive highway in a way that was really detrimental to the ocean. And I put the mermaid tail on at this protest, gotten on the bridge, and the cops came to move everybody away. And I was left there in the mermaid tail. And I was like, “Well, I can’t walk. What are you going to do?”

And they got this amazing photograph of me standing off against the cops holding a sign saying “Save the wetlands,” which went on to the front page of the paper. And I was like, “Oh, okay, I’m really on to something here.”

So, it wasn’t that I sort of became a mermaid and then got into conservation. It was like I utilized dressing up and the mermaid thing became really instrumental in my passion to help the environment. And so, it just continued on down that course of utilizing the persona of the mermaid to bring awareness.

Well, it’s an interesting way to spread the message. It’s different.

Yeah, people are much more interested and open to a pretty mermaid telling them what to do than somebody who’s in a suit or something.

And where was that?

That was in Byron Bay in Australia, which is the most easterly point of Australia. It’s a gorgeous surf town. Small population, but huge tourist influx every year. Green rolling hills, rainforest, whales and dolphins jumping, rainbows, alternative culture.

Okay.

Really fun place. And that’s where my mermaid-ness was born.

So, you like to go back to where it originated?

Yeah. Definitely.

Okay. I like that. So, there’s an academy award-winning documentary, The Cove.

Yeah.

Which brought awareness to a very serious topic about dolphin hunts, right?

Yeah. I was utterly shocked when one of my friends told me, this was like 20 years ago, that they kill dolphins in Japan, in a cove. I’m like, “Wait, what? On purpose? Why?”

Sure.

And they said, “Well, they don’t like them eating the fish and they eat some of the dolphin meat.” I’m like, “Are you kidding me? This can’t be real.” And he showed me footage.

And me and my partner at the time, who was an amazing surfer, David Rastovich, we decided to create an organization called Surfers 4 Cetaceans and go to Taiji, bring actresses, musicians, artists, conservationists, and paddle out and get in front of those fishermen who are killing the dolphins.

And we worked in with the creators of the film, The Cove, because they had been filming there for years, but undercover with like rock cams and spy cams and everything. And we worked with them and it was the big reveal that showed how under surveillance this cove was and what they were doing was, and with a guy named Ric O’Barry, who used to be the trainer of the Flipper dolphin on the TV series years ago, who is now one of the biggest defenders of animals, of dolphins being kept in the wild and not being killed.

And so, we paddled out there and they started hitting us with sticks and pushing their boat propellers into our legs and screaming at us. And we could see the dolphins roped off, half of them had been killed. There was blood in the water that we were in. It was just so heavy.

And afterwards, I just broke down crying and it was this weird feeling of being so sad to be a human being that would do something like this, that’s so disconnected from empathy and caring for our fellow animals. And you could hear the animals screaming. And there’s baby dolphins. It’s like, “What?”

And then, so inspired because I was with this group of people who were literally putting their life on the line to stand up for animals that can’t speak for themselves.

And it was dangerous. Apart from the physical violence that they were throwing our way, we were in most danger of being arrested and held in a Taiji jail for over 23 days. They don’t even have to give a reason for that.

So, we had our passports and legal numbers and everything in baggies in our wetsuits. And we managed to stay out there for about 20 minutes until they beat us back to the shore. And then we took off. And then just as we were leaving the car park, the cops were coming in, and we managed to escape.

And then they put out arrest warrants for us. And we managed to escape Japan just in time.

Oh, my God.

It was apparently against international trade was what they were calling it.

You would think you’re on the right side of the law.

You would think. But in the end, we did a lot of good. We brought the attention huge around the world to that issue. The Cove was voted Academy Award-winning Best Documentary of 2010. Millions of people saw it. We got a lot of pressure put on that, but they’re still doing it.

They took it out of the supermarkets that were selling dolphin meat, and they took it out of the school lunch program.

School lunch program?

School lunch program.

Oh, my God.

Yeah. So, we had some wins, and a lot more people know about it, but it is still happening. So, it’s an ongoing fight.

Wow. So, is there people still there trying to-

Every year, people go. I mean, there hasn’t been anything as explosive. They fenced off the entire place now and they put visual barracks up so you can’t see in as well. But yeah, it really has to come from the internal of Japan, the Japanese people, because they are very resistant to Westerners telling them what to do and rightly so.

We kill plenty of animals ourselves. I’m personally vegan, so I don’t subscribe to that way of life. It needs to come from the Japanese people realizing that that is not a lucrative business move for them anymore. There’s heavy metals and mercury and lead poisoning in the dolphins. So, it’s not even really an edible food source anymore. There’s really no reason for it, so.

So, so sad. I can’t even imagine seeing what you’ve seen there. But it sounds like you are making a big impact, little by little.

Little by little, yeah.

That’s all you can do, right?

Exactly. And the best thing is when I have put out those films, and then you get people writing to you, and just saying, “I was so scared to even enter the water because I literally thought a shark was going to come and just eat me alive. And seeing you interacting with those animals, I’ve gone and I got my scuba license. And now, I really want to be doing what you do. I bought a mermaid tail. I want to-”

Those people are just inspired by seeing humans interacting in a harmonious way with the ocean.

Sure, yeah. You ever think about writing a book?

Yes. I’m currently in process.

Really?

Yeah.

Yeah. I would be inspired to read the book…

Awesome.

…based on all these stories that you have shared.

I shall be calling you to buy the first copy.

Yes. Please do. So, that has been something you’ve been working on then?

Yeah.

Okay.

It’s going to be a big beautiful coffee table book with all the gorgeous imagery. But all of these stories that people are always asking, like, “How did you? Where did you? What?” The behind-the-scenes adventures that go along with it are really fun.

Well, there’s the stories, but the photos and the impact that you’ve made in the world, right, and your vision, your message to the people that are reading the book on how they can help too.

Mm-hmm. Exactly.

What do you say to people that believe what you believe? How could people make a difference? How could they help?

The easiest, most useful thing people can do is to reduce or stop their consumption of animals, especially the fish. Watch Seaspiracy. It will give you a really good understanding of how any kind of fishing industry at this point is untenable.

And then of course, your basic, like, stop the consumption of too much plastics, don’t litter, recycle, reuse. Just make better consumption choices because that’s where it all starts.

The most important thing is really changing laws. So, we have to elect people that are looking towards the environment and looking towards looking after animals. Because there’s only so much we can do as single people, but when we have lawmakers believing what we believe, then we’re making some big changes.

Sure, sure. Yeah. Do you ever get overwhelmed with what you do?

Yes.

Like you’re fighting a battle you can’t win?

Honestly, I see dark times ahead, but I’m also super inspired. And I’ve just come to the conclusion that you just get up and do everything you can to the best of your ability and then I can feel good about myself. And that’s all we can do.

But I don’t subscribe to the belief that I have to change the entire world myself because that’s too much of a burden for any one person. We just keep spreading the message and being good people and stay optimistic.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that I have to change the entire world myself because that’s too much of a burden for any one person.

So, it’s really fascinating. This is such an inspirational podcast. I appreciate you coming down.

Thank you.

What really touches my heart is there’s people that have children that have hopes and dreams of doing something different, right? And I think that’s what you do with your life. And you’re making such a radical impact on the world with what you believe in.

Yeah, I totally-

And you’re having fun doing it.

Yeah. There’s so much fun. But yeah, anyone can do anything. If I can wear a fishtail as a job, it really broadens the perspectives of what people can do with their life.

If I can wear a fishtail as a job, it really broadens the perspectives of what people can do with their life.

So, if I wanted to be a mermaid…

Yes. There’s plenty of mermen.

Merman, I guess. Right? What’s the movie with Ben Stiller?

“Merman, pop, I’m a merman.”

I’m a merman. Right?

Yeah.

Such a great scene. So, what advice would you give me if I wanted to be a merman? Like, what steps should I take?

Yeah, you can go and there’s so many tails available online these days. Get a little fabric tail so that it’s very easy, on and off, and not too heavy or scary to wear. And get in a pool and just start floating around and feeling what it feels like to move like a dolphin.

And do some yoga and breathwork. That will help you in all areas of your life. It de-stresses you. It gives your organs a really good workout. It lowers your cortisol. So, yeah, a little yoga, meditation, breath work.

See?

Yes. Easy. And then get out in the ocean. Go play with some sharks.

There you go, right. You might find me in Hawaii with my tail, right?

Absolutely.

Taking some nice photos with my crew and changing the world like you.

Exactly.

There you go.

Yeah. And I do teach people how to be a mermaid or merman. I’ve got personal training, I have an online training. I’m doing a retreat in Bali next year, mermaid and dance retreat with my friend Aradia who’s an incredible tribal belly dancer. And yeah, we take groups of people and just give them the whole training.

Wow. So, that was going to be my next question, right. So, if people want to follow you and be inspired and continue to be inspired, where can they find you?

Very easy to find, Hannah Mermaid, all the things. Hannah Mermaid Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and hannahmermaid.com.

Do you do TikTok too?

Am I old? I still haven’t figured that out.

See? I think you’d go viral on TikTok.

That’s what people keep telling me. I think I need to find some young teenager to do it for me. Show me this new tech.

There you go. And so, besides the book, some of the other things, like what are something else that you’ve got that you’re excited about?

Long-term project is creating a film, like a documentary, which will be similar to the book, just showcasing the amazing behind-the-scenes adventures that we’ve got going on.

And yeah, so the retreat that we’re working on, that’s taking up a lot of time right now. And the diver shoot that we did with the old school bell helmet, we’re going to go back and do that in video form and make a little video film out of it.

Awesome.

So, we’ve got some cool little projects on the creative and the progressive conservation side.

Awesome. Well, I look forward to keeping up with you via social media.

Thank you so much for having me. Such a joy to talk to you.

It’s been a pleasure. I appreciate you being on the show. And we’ll stay in touch, for sure.

Absolutely.

Important Links

Hannah Fraser’s IMDb Page

Hannah Fraser’s Website

Hannah Fraser on Instagram

Hannah Fraser on TikTok

Hannah Fraser on Twitter

Hannah Fraser on Facebook

Watch The Cove on Vimeo

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Website