"Mermaid Melissa" has found her true love: A merman.
Melissa Dawn, 31, better known as "Mermaid Melissa," and boyfriend Antonio Padilla, 33, work together for Dawn's Orlando-based entertainment agency. Together they dress and perform as mermaid and merman.
Dawn recently announced that she has been dating Padilla for about a year. The two met in 2009 when they were both working at SeaWorld.
At the time, she didn't want anything to distract from her business, which has grown to about 20 mermaids and a few mermen. So they became friends.
As friends, he started helping her with her show routines.
And then one day she said, "I think I could use you in my company."
But working with her merman is not always easy.
"It's a hard challenge to be his boss and his woman," Dawn said.
The 8-foot and 12-foot custom tanks, which Dawn uses for mermaid performances, weigh about 2,000 pounds without water. They have a heater and filtration device to control water temperature.
Dawn said the longest she stayed in one was about five hours during a rehearsal.
Another big part of her performances are her silicon, custom-designed tails, which cost about $5,000. Dawn has 12, and several more are in the works. She comes up with the concept and designs herself. Each tail, which can weigh up to 65 pounds, takes hours to mold and months to finish.
But the tails are not the most comfortable outfit. Dawn even compared one to a straightjacket.
"It looks cool, and it's worth it," she said, "But I have scars all over my feet from swimming in them."
Although being a professional mermaid can be a challenge, Dawn loves it.
"I work my tail off," she said.