MANSFIELD -- Tami Baker was a child in 1984 when actress Daryl Hannah swam across the movie screen as a mermaid in the movie Splash.
But the light-hearted comedy sparked a love inside Baker for the mythical half-woman/half-fish creatures that for centuries have been in the folklore of many cultures around the world.
The Crestview High School graduate has turned that love into a paying gig as a professional mermaid, available for aquatic performances for parties, photo/video shoots, corporate events, trade shows and more.
Now a Mansfield resident, "Mermaid Tami" has donned her tail at events around the country, including the North Carolina Renaissance Fair last year.
"I got to swim in a 3,000-gallon tank," Baker said this week. "That was a LOT of fun to swim in. It's the only one like it."
Baker said she has always loved to swim. In fact, her first job came as a lifeguard at the Ashland YMCA. Five years ago, she combined her love for water and interest in mermaids into a hobby, turning pro in 2017.
It's not a job that requires a great deal of training or licensure. Baker is comfortable underwater for long periods and swimming with the shimmering, silicone tails.
She also has a desire to perform for an audience and has developed savvy marketing skills, largely through her Facebook page and Instagram account, both of which offer booking details, photos and videos.
She can also be contacted via email at mermaidtami1@gmail.
"It's a lot of self-promotion," said Baker, who tells attentive children during her shows that she is "450 years old in mermaid years."
She is a member of the Circus Siren Pod, the water performance arm of Circus Siren Entertainment, a company based in Washington, D.C., that offers a variety of life performers, including fire breathers, aerialists, jugglers, contortionists, trick riders and clowns.
Baker is assisted in her work by her husband, Andy, who becomes her "mer-wrangler" by carrying her to the water after she puts on her 40-pound silicon tail.
"I can't walk in my tail," the 5-foot-2 Baker said. "It's neutral buoyancy when you are in the water, so once I get in, it's not bad at all."
Married seven years ago, Baker said her husband has been a supporter since she initially entertained the idea of aquatic entertaining.
"He was all for it," she said. "He said to do whatever made me happy."
Becoming a mermaid requires a financial investment. One of the newer tails Baker uses cost around $5,000, in addition to accessories like crowns, jewelry and more.
That investment requires a pay-off and like millions of two-legged humans, Baker's booking efforts have been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of her events have been postponed or cancelled, including the annual Pirate Fest at Put-in-Bay next weekend.
"I normally start my schedule in March and I have not been able to do anything thus far thus year," Baker said.
She does have events planned, hopeful the pandemic will allow, including "Mermaid Tami Returns to Clay's Park Resort" on July 11, the "Annual Swim with Mermaid Tami" on Aug. 1 at Rustic Lakes Campground in Sullivan and "Movie Night with Mermaid Tami" on Aug. 8 at Pleasant Hill Lake Park.
So what does the future hold for a mermaid?
"We have mermaids who are in their 60s," she said. "I hope to continue doing this for years."