Inside the Waterproof Makeup Routine of a Weeki Wachee Mermaid
When Clairol set out to promote its Great Body Conditioning Shampoo in 1971, the brand landed on the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs, an underwater tourist attraction that could only exist, for reasons of geology and curiosity, in the state of Florida. It was a stroke of inspired casting. Blessed with cascading, camera-ready hair—and taxed with long stints below the surface—the women had both aspirational appeal and a solid need for maintenance. How they escaped the attention of the waterproof makeup market is almost beyond comprehension.
Opened in 1947 off a sleepy two-lane road, Weeki Wachee established itself at the crossroads of fantasy and technology. Using a system of oxygen-supplying air hoses invented by the park’s founder, Newton Perry, the performers lived the life aquatic—at least for the duration of a choreographed 45-minute show. Nearly 70 years later, modern-day mermaids still do. The costumes reflect a cheery upgrade in palette, as if subliminally influenced by a certain Disney animation, and the beauty looks have evolved along with long-wear lipstick formulas. Still, there are constants, like the soda-drinking trick (in the repertoire since 1948) and the water temperature, a refreshing 74 degrees all year long.
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