AUSTIN — A shimmering, blue and purple tail can sometimes be spotted rippling in bodies of water in and around Austin.
That’s Mermaid Luna Belle.
But out of the water, her name is Hope McAlister, 25, of Austin.
A professional mermaid, McAlister dons a silicon mermaid tail and performs to bring the fairy tale to life.
“My goal for doing this is just to make at least one person believe in magic again,” McAlister said. “You can physically see people light up as you start talking about it.”
Looking for a hobby after her time in the military three years ago, the Austin native stumbled upon the world of mermaid tails on Instagram.
She said she was hooked after she bought her first cheap, fabric tail three years ago.
The one she is currently performing in – named Amaya – is blue and purple, sparkly and has fins.
McAlister pairs the 30-pound silicon tail with a seashell and pearl bikini top and a fish(ing) net shawl to complete the look from head to fin.
The price of these kinds of tails can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, depending on type, material and customization.
She owns dozens of tails that range in size, material and price for her own use as well as for others to try.
But she said not just anyone can put on a tail and hop in the water.
“You can’t just throw anyone in a tail, that’s a big ‘no,’” McAlister said. “I do a lot of mermaid swimming lessons so they can swim safely in a tail – it’s all about safety.”
So, what’s it like to “become” a mermaid with these kinds of tails?
“Imagine putting on a rubber glove that is two sizes too small and your hand is sweaty in spots,” McAlister said with a laugh. “Or leather skinny jeans that are super tight and form fitting. You need to practice.”
Luckily, she’s got countless hours of swimming practice in, between being on swim teams in the past and being a lifeguard at the Austin YMCA.
For McAlister, this is a hobby and a profession. Whether she’s underwater for a long time or in the pool for hours, becoming Mermaid Luna Belle is mainly about the performing aspect it entails.
She performs mostly for pool parties at the Y.
She even has the color and pattern of her first tail’s scales tattooed on her leg.
Aside from the business aspect, what keeps her putting on the tail is the enchanting connections she makes with others.
“It is the greatest thing ever,” McAlister said. “In all ages, it really does inspire magic.”