Mermaids will no longer be confined to story books for Hawke's Bay children - with the Mermaid Lady soon to make her first New Zealand appearance.
Ashley Knight will be bringing joy to young and old at the National Aquarium of New Zealand where she will be reading mermaid and pirate stories, and interacting at the penguin exhibit. She will also be swimming in the oceanarium in her custom-made tail.
"I chose pink and purple as the colours show up very well against the blues in the swimming pool ... it is made of dragonskin silicone - the same material used for prosthetics."
She said there were no secrets to dealing with the tail's weight besides lots of practice and keeping fit. "I have great abs ... swimming in my tail works my entire body," she said.
The Hastings woman said bringing "utter joy and excitement" to children was incredibly special, especially for children with learning disabilities.
For those wishing to follow Ms Knight and transform themselves into mermaids, she suggested becoming a strong swimmer, sticking to the shallows until confident enough to go into the deep end, and always have someone around for safety.
"Even now I always have my mer-wrangler (handler) with me. This is mostly due to crowd control and PR, but he comes in handy should I need him in a pinch.
"Most importantly, don't be embarrassed because of what others think ... this is your life."
- The Mermaid Lady will be at the National Aquarium of New Zealand tomorrow, January 30, and February 7. Standard aquairum entry prices apply. For more information, visit nationalaquarium.co.nz.