We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor to the success behind the brand of my LLC Mermaid and Mom, and our convention, The California Mermaid Convention, is community and genuine authenticity. We owe our success almost fully to those who have helped us build our business, the community we entertain and serve, and the work we do to give back to those who have assisted us. In a time when surface qualities seem to be celebrated and admired, we strive to be as genuine in our ethics, presentation and performance. We are who we proclaim to be, and we to our best to hold ourselves to a high standard.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In November of 2010, I responded to an add looking for women to swim in a 40 ft saltwater aquarium with live fish at a venue called Dive Bar in Sacramento, CA. I was fortunate enough to be hired, and have worked as the Head Mermaid training, hiring, making costumes, planning special events, prop building and doing admin and payroll for 10 years! Dive Bar opened new doors to performance, travel and networking that I never would have dreamed of. Among many examples, in 2019 I was fortunate enough to train actress Jenna Malone to swim in the Dive Bar tank as part of an independent film, Lorelei. I even made a small cameo! In addition to working at Dive Bar, I also own an LLC Mermaid and Mom. Mermaid and Mom is a live mermaid Entertainment Company, as well as a Mermaid Costume, Accessory and Art Shop. Together with my mother, Laurie Smith, we perform at private and public events, festivals, parades and fairs for children and adults, My mother, a seamstress with experience in children’s education, recreation and entertainment for over 30 years, usually assists me as I perform as ‘Mermaid Rachel’. We do events and parties both in water, and on dry land. Our online store sells fabric mermaid tails, tops, crowns, accessories, paper dolls, art and…more! To say that the mermaid industry is niche is an understatement, at least. When Dive Bar opened in January of 2011, we knew very little. How to repair costumes, how to keep the tank at its best, how to schedule and deal with sickness… so many issues arose that we had to feel our way through, and few other venues did the same work we did. When we began to perform at private and public venues outside of Dive Bar, whole other problems arose for us to solve. How do you transport a performer who can’t walk once in costume? Is the pool you want the mermaid to swim in, in February heated? How long can a performer safely be in a mermaid tail? We learned as we went, forging ahead with the passion that only comes when someone truly loves what they do, and wants to make it safe, accessible and beautiful for everyone who wants to witness, or be involved. So much more goes into being a mermaid performer, than buying a tail and ‘looking pretty’. It is a dangerous, athletic, uncomfortable job. But it is the best job I have ever done. Through Mermaid and Mom, through Dive Bar, and through the California Mermaid Convention, I hope that all children and al adults can experience magic and inclusion through play. Whether that is seeing a mermaid at your 6th birthday party, watching a mermaid in awe as you sip your favorite cocktail, or live your fantasy by putting on a tail and swimming with other like-minded merfolk. Everyone is always welcome, and these communities are only made more precious and valuable by the variety and representation of merfolk who engage in them.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I genuinely love Sacramento and the surrounding areas; I love being a part of the business community through Dive Bar, and putting on an international Convention in my hometown has only cemented that love. Sacramento gives back to those who care about it, it’s a big city that still feels connected and supportive of small business, and people. OF COURSE we would go to Dive Bar, probably for the Happy Hour show before crowds get to large, or if we are in the mood for night life, late on a Friday or Saturday to see the Mermaid AND Merman show. If we wanted some more night life, perhaps we would go dance at Faces, or check out their amazing drag shows. I would take them to shop at Racks Vintage, where I worked for a time. The selections never let me down and the owner, Rachel Fowler is a staple to the midtown Sacramento community. I also love shopping at Freestyle clothing exchange, and costume and vintage shop Prevues Peekaboo Lounge. There are too many amazing food venues in Sacramento to list… We would visit the Rind – a beer, wine and cheese venue that felt like home the first time I walked in. We would get treats and Ginger Elizabeth Chocolate, or Avocado Mouse from Magpie Cafe. As an avid poke lover, I always crave my favorite poke mix from Fish Face. The Fat Rabbit in Folsom is also worth mentioning for their scotch eggs. My favorite little hole in the wall karaoke bar is the Motherlode, which is so down to earth and empty that I hesitate to list it here in fear it will be come crowded! In the summer, there are many river spots to splash in, kayak down or picnic at. My fiancé and I love to pack a lunch and ride his motorcyle to the more rural areas around the city or river. Sacramento is also an hr away from Donner Lake, and an hr and a half from San Francisco, Reno and Lake Tahoe. So there is a world of possibilities for exploring a little further. No trip to Sacramento is complete without visiting the Old Sacramento Waterfront. This is a historic, Gold Rush era section of the city with shopping, food and entertainment running right next to the river. I love to get a glass of wine on the Delta King riverboat (or stay there the night), peruse the three-story costume shop Evangeline’s, look through the Garden of Enchantment metaphysical store, or just sit and watch the river. Old Town always has something fun going on, and the historic setting just hits all the right places for me. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As mentioned before, we would not be the success we are today without the support and assistance of our local Sacramento, and Northern California Community. I would specifically like to thank Linden Wolbert (Mermaid Linden) for teaching me the skills to do my job beautifully and safely, and for always being a resource for me and the teams I lead. I want to thank Marina Anderson (Medusirena the Fireeating Mermaid) for being a trailblazer in our industry, and the keeper of so much knowledge of performers who have swam before us. Her encouragement, and confidence in me has gotten me through some of the darkest times of my career. I am also lucky to have a mother – who is my LLC business partner – who has always encouraged my wildest dreams and artistic endeavors. It goes without saying that I would never be where I am without Dive Bar in Sacramento, CA. Over the decade that I have been Head Mermaid, I have learned so much, traveled, failed and triumphed. Without Dive Bar having faith and trust in me, and the vision of what a magical, and wonderful venue we can be, I know I would never have had the opportunities I have been blessed to have. Dive Bar is and always will be my cornerstone; and I am more grateful than I can say to the multiple owners, workers, and the business that gave me something to blossom into. I will be thankful for Dive Bar till the end of the my life. Lastly I want to shout out to my fiancé, Jeff Campbell, who tells me I can do anything, and then helps me achieve it.
Other: Please also include links to mermaidandmom.com Dive Bar – https://www.facebook.com/divebarmermaids
Merwrangler Photography – John Paulsen Byron Dazey Erin Nolan D.D Photography Stephen Johnson