Mermaids are real. One lives in Minnesota.
Hope McAllister had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Training for amphibious and expeditionary warfare is hard work, and our hero was feeling a bit burned out after waking up at 0400 hours every day. In her few free moments Hope liked to unwind while looking at photos on Instagram – particularly those of mermaids.
“I found this one picture with a caption that read ‘Let’s be mermaids,'” said Hope, “and that sounded absolutely wonderful to me. I already loved working with kids and had ten years of experience as a swim instructor and lifeguard, so becoming a professional mermaid felt like a natural next step.
“Even back while I was wearing my tacky $85 ‘starting tail,’ most little kids thought I was the genuine article. Children have such an amazing sense of make-believe, and meeting a real, live mermaid basically confirms for them that magic exists. A lot of kids who are old enough to appreciate that The Little Mermaid isn’t a documentary still think it’s the coolest thing in the world that they can be mermaids, too.
“There are always going to be naysayers, of course, but they’re easy to look past when I see so many other kids with dropped jaws and eyes as wide as pie plates. The first time I wore a fabric tail in public, a young brother and sister came up to me. The brother said I wasn’t real – harsh – but the sister, sweet as sugar, said ‘I don’t think you’re a fake mermaid! Are you?’ So I said to her: ‘What do you think I am?’
“That blew her mind. I spent the next three hours swimming in the lake with this little girl attached to me at the fin. If I can make just one person smile, that’s good enough for me.
“Over time I improved as a mermaid. The old fabric tail is now permanently retired, as I’ve upgraded to a movie-quality silicone tail. It took some time to master swimming in a tail, which pretty much limits you to the dolphin kick. I’ve also gotten better at relating to children. Fortunately I happen to be a huge Disney nerd, and being able to talk about Frozen and Moana really helps to solidify that you’re part of a fantasy world. ‘Oh yes, Moana – I know her!’
“When I first began performing as a mermaid, I was in the military and physically fit. Over time I gained a lot of weight, though, and just existing became difficult for me. But even while I was struggling with my own body image, I realized that the kids weren’t seeing me as a plus-size mermaid. In their eyes I was just a mermaid! That helped me to see the best in myself and inspired me to go on a fitness journey. Now, two years later, I’ve lost all the weight. Hands down, being a mermaid is 100 percent the reason why I’m still here today. It has helped me find the magic in myself as well.
“Over the years I’ve appeared at birthday parties, fairs and festivals, SeaQuest in Roseville, and lots of other special events. But no matter what I’m doing, whenever I put on the tail, my only goal is to make someone’s day. I’m not here to prove that mermaids exist. I’m here to show that magic is real!”
Hope performs as Mermaid Luna Belle. She is available for parties, mermaid lessons, book readings, appearances, and any other special occasion that could do with a little more magic. You may reach out to Hope on Instagram or Facebook. @mermaid_luna.belle facebook.com/MermaidLunaBelle
By David Scheller