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BBC News

A legendary ‘mermaid’ still swimming at 78

A tourist destination in Florida has for seven decades wowed audiences with the magic of its mermaid shows. Janine Zeitlin speaks to one of these “legends” who reflects on what the job means to her, and why she still puts on her fins.

Vicki Smith shrugs off signs near the mermaid dressing room.

Are you show ready? Hair and Makeup.

“I don’t wear all the makeup. It doesn’t do me any good,” says Smith. “I just put on tights and a swimming suit.”

Being a 78-year-old mermaid has its perks. She is free of some rules. But her self-deprecation betrays the grace of this great-grandmother with a pixie cut.

Smith is the matriarch of the Legendary Sirens of Weeki Wachee Springs, women in their 60s and 70s who volunteer to perform underwater as mermaids at this iconic central Florida attraction.

All swam here in their younger years. Smith became a mermaid at 17, two days after graduating high school in 1957. Options were limited in the rural surroundings.

“You either went on to college, you got married, or you became a Weeki Wachee mermaid,” she says.

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