ABC News’ Cameron Brock and Claire Shipman report:
In the eyes of most little girls, and some big ones, Melissa Dawn was already living the dream as a “professional mermaid” from Florida.
Dawn, better known as “Mermaid Melissa,” is an underwater performer for charity events, birthday parties and luxury resorts, and has expanded a troupe of more than 12 mermaids and mermen that work with her.
Her mermaid dream became a reality six years ago when Dawn, 31, designed a tail and made a video of her mermaid moves, which became an overnight sensation.
“I remember watching ‘The Little Mermaid’ and I’d go out to the pool, I’d jump in and I’d immediately start thinking of the songs and Prince Eric, and wishing I had friends in the ocean,” Dawn told ABC News.
So when she realized she had the ability to hold her breath for five minutes, Dawn turned that talent “into something that tells a story,” and Mermaid Melissa was officially born.
But just like the make-believe Ariel, she had a sense that something, or someone, was missing.
“I did picture, in my mind, a love story,” she said. “I wanted to find the right guy. I pictured him walking up to the water’s edge and me coming over as a mermaid and pulling him in and giving him a kiss underwater.”
And now, with a little help of mermaid magic, workplace romance will never sound mundane again. Fellow diver Antonio Padilla, 33, donned a tail to join Dawn’s traveling mermaid show and, before long, the two were in love.
“It’s definitely a fairy tale,” said Padilla. “But it’s the opposite of the traditional ‘guy gets the girl’ or ‘saves the damsel.’ She brought me down to join her in her mermaid world.”
But it’s not all romance. Their tails, designed by Dawn and made out of silicone, cost $5,000 each and weigh 60 pounds.
“Depending on what tail I’m wearing, I have to warn Antonio because they weigh so much,” she said.
But for Dawn and Padilla, the congruence of their underwater and land-based magic is worth the few raised eyebrows they receive.
“Getting to live my life as a mermaid, and I found a merman, that’s crazy,” said Dawn.