Mom of the Week: Diving into the mermaid life

Mermaid Shannon came to be after Rauch had an idea while broadcast from a tank during the grand opening of Sea Life and had a fabric tail made.
Mermaid Shannon came to be after Rauch had an idea while broadcast from a tank during the grand opening of Sea Life and had a fabric tail made. Photo taken at a coporate event for Charlotte Magazine

Shannon Dawn Rauch, 35 of Myers Park became Mermaid Shannon this year and has had amazing feedback- so much so that she anticipates expanding by 300% and hiring next spring. Because Shannon has multiple sclerosis working at a place where she has to clock in every day just isn’t feasible. Shannon loves unique and exciting careers, so becoming Mermaid Shannon has been a dream come true.

Q. How did you get the idea for Mermaid Shannon?

A. The idea came from a segment at my previous employer, Fox Television. We pitched airing a broadcast from a tank during the grand opening of Sea Life. I had a fabric tail made, but the segment never came to fruition.

I kept the tail and began to swim in it. It was athletic and empowering. People noticed me and always took pictures. Children believed I was real and parents offered me money to do party appearances. Shortly after corporate appearances, came modeling, aquarium swims and tank performances, and a strong business was built.

Q. What all do you do?

A. I am sort of like a real life interactive aquarium exhibit that encourages the ocean conservation efforts and awareness to all ages and inspires the dreamers. To that end, I entertain as an underwater performer at children's parties. I bring along face painting and sparkly non-toxic body jewelry, teach about the ocean and promote conservation, and film and produce underwater footage into a souvenir video. I swim as a decorative surprise at elegant corporate events and I model for underwater photographers.

Q. What have been your favorite events so far being Mermaid Shannon?

A. A photo shoot with whale sharks in Mexico was magical! I was privileged to work with three of the best underwater photographers in the world to capture the most amazing images of peaceful whale sharks. I plan to use the images as a visual aid for my education and conservation awareness angle. They're also just beautiful!

Shannon & Whale
A highlight of Mermaid Shannon’s career was a photo shoot in Mexico with whale sharks. Diving with Whale Sharks in Mexico; Robert Minnick

Q. What all does a party with Mermaid Shannon entail?

A. I can do land or water events. It helps to have the ability to get into the water prior to the guests arriving. Getting into the tail isn't the most glamorous of activities. It is skin-tight dragon skin silicone and required lubrication to wiggle into. The tail weighs 50 lbs so I need my husband to carry me once I'm in it if I'm not exactly where I need to be.

Once in the water the party flow follows the attention span and pace that the age group sets on their own. The younger children require more variety. The older ones want to touch and play with the camera. I am always prepared with fun ocean facts, body tattoos, ocean songs, the underwater camera, ocean treasures for underwater hide and seek and plenty of photo ops.

At the request of the parent, I can also bring rental tails for the child of honor to try out being a mermaid. I also offer private "mermaid makeover/encounters" with one on one time, a special mermaid lesson with a tail they can try and underwater footage.

Q. What is the cost of a party?

The cost runs anywhere from $125 an hour for two hours for up to 6 kids and $150 an hour for up to 10 kids. More than 10 children requires an additional mermaid for $50 on top of that. Holidays like Memorial Day or July 4th, I find myself extremely booked so I charge an extra fee to double or triple book for that day.

My plan is to hire 3 more mermaids for my team. They will be similar in size to me, or have their own tail, because my tail (Made by Mike Van Daal, who is renowned for the craftsmanship of his tails) cost over $4000 and is custom molded to my body. A silicone tail costs anywhere from $500-$5000 depending on the maker and the added features. It also can take up to a year for a tail maker to produce a tail, as there are long wait lists.

I started with a fabric tail and upgraded to silicone when I became professional.

Q. What is your favorite part about being a mermaid?

A. My favorite part is that moment when the child first sees me and for that moment believes in magic. I love that I am a true testament to "you can be anything you can dream.” I have always been mermaid obsessed!

Q. Do your children love participating?

A. My son helps take pictures - kids are amazing with iPhones - and my daughter volunteers as a mermaid sometimes! She even has her own silicone tail. I am hoping to get her CPR certified so she can do her own parties, but she should be ready next summer.

Q. How has having multiple sclerosis affected your ability to work?

A. It is a very painful and unpredictable disease, but fortunately I control my own schedule and know my limits. I am at the very early stages so it hasn't really interfered, but I do have to make sure I get plenty of rest. I can be out of commission for days at a time due to fatigue.

Q. What else do you do when you are not being Mermaid Shannon?

A. I am a corporate flight attendant working on privately owned jets. The craziest thing I ever asked Santa for as a child was wings or a mermaid tail - and now I have both!

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