A professional mermaid overcame a 'huge fear' of water to perform with sharks and stingrays in a 25-foot tank
- Elle Jimenez is a professional mermaid performer who swims alongside sharks and stingrays.
- Jimenez started her career as a dancer and starred in a music video with Kanye West.
Most of us have to overcome challenges at work. But Elle Jimenez's challenges are a tad more unusual that most.
Jimenez, 34, is a professional mermaid performer based in Miami who goes by the name Mermaid Elle on TikTok, where she has 2.2 million followers at the time of writing on Tuesday.
Jimenez, from Puerto Rico, uses her platform to share snapshots of her work at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, where she performs in a 25-foot tank aquarium. She frequently shares behind-the-scenes snippets of her mermaid makeup routine and various performances, including a video taken at Atlantis where she swam in the same tank as a shark.
@themermaidelle Shark swimming by and I didnt even notice HAD to repost it with this audio! #mermaid #shark #professionalmermaid ♬ original sound - Vanessa Sirias
Speaking to Insider, Jimenez said she had to overcome a "huge fear" of water and couldn't swim before becoming a mermaid. But the experience has changed her life, she said.
From dancing with Kanye West to swimming with sharks
Prior to her mermaid work, Jimenez said she was a professional dancer who appeared in several music videos, including the video for Kid Sister's "Pro Nails" featuring Kanye West in 2007.
"It was shot in this tiny nail salon in Chicago, and we waited hours for Kanye to show up," Jimenez said.
"I was one of the dancers. I also taught Kanye how to finger dance. I was doing a lot of break dancing at the time, and the theme of the video was nails. They had these little shoes that they put on his fingers, and he didn't know what to do with them, so I taught him how to do a crip walk," she added.
In 2016, Jimenez launched her own company, the now-defunct VIVA Entertainment, offering Latin dance shows, circus entertainment, and themed acts for corporate events and weddings. That same year, a client asked if Jimenez would be able to perform as a mermaid for a private event, she told Insider.
"I was terrified of it. I actually said no at first, but my client was very persistent," Jimenez said. "I was like, 'Okay, I have three months. Maybe I can learn how to swim.'"
Jimenez said that even though she had a "huge fear of water" she was drawn to the idea of mermaid performance because it was different and new.
She said she spent three months learning how to swim and taking scuba diving classes. But when the day finally came for Jimenez to put on her mermaid costume for the first time, she said her performance was canceled due to weather conditions.
Nonetheless, Jimenez said that by this point she had "fallen in love" with the water and it wasn't long before she offered mermaid performances for her other clients.
Jimenez closed her entertainment company earlier this year to focus solely on mermaid work, she said.
The performer has certainly come a long way. Jimenez said performing at the Atlantis aquarium involves holding her breath for up to three minutes while ensuring that she doesn't get in the way of marine creatures in the same tank.
"We have tons of stingrays and sharks so I make sure I keep my distance when performing. I also have safety divers letting me know at the surface when I'm in the clear to dive and no animals are in the way," she said.
"Of course, there are always dangers when swimming with marine life but in this tank, there's very little risk as long as I keep my distance," she added.
Jimenez also offers mermaid diving courses once a month in various locations across the US, the Bahamas, and Puerto Rico, she told Insider. There are a variety of courses on Jimenez's website that cost between $200 and $1,200 per person depending on the student's ability and the course package.
Jimenez describes the courses as "a mix between snorkeling and free diving" and that students are taught breathing techniques as well as different tricks and techniques including backflips while wearing mermaid tails.
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