KELOWNA - When Jennifer Grant is not working as a corporate image consultant, she is either swimming, or donned in glitter head to tail - a mermaid tail that is.
Grant is the mother mermaid of the Okanagan Mermaids, a group of five women who - you guessed it - dress as mermaids, and promote women in the community.
“I want to promote diversity and the idea that we all have a passion and we all have an inner something,” Grant says. “I don’t think there’s too may woman that haven’t thought of what it would be like to be a mermaid, or a princess, or just something else.”
An avid athlete, Grant has competed an Iron Man, as well as numerous other triathlons. However, after a race in Australia about seven years ago, an injury to her knee left her unable to run. Since then, Grant has turned to swimming
“I threw myself into swimming. I swim five to six times a week competitively with a masters swim group, and just about everyday from May to September in the lake,” she says. “It rejuvenates me - heals me, I can think about things I need to do, it’s a passion of mine.”
Grant has been a volunteer with the Across the Lake Swim Society for years, and this year will be her 17th time participating in the event. Last year, the society held an event at the Kelowna Yacht Club prior to the swim, it was then that Grant decided she would attend as a mermaid.
“It just came to me, I needed to go as a mermaid,” she says. “I rented a mermaid costume with a gold sequined top and green and turquoise skirt that looked like scales - it was amazing, and definitely not what people were expecting.”
Grant’s costume was so well received the Society asked her to be the official mascot of the Across the Lake Swim.
Over the past year, Grant says she has turned up as a mermaid at various events, including a B.C. Master’s swimming competition.
It was just six weeks ago that Grant thought of expanding her mermaid circle, and put out an advertisement on Facebook.
“I just have this idea of what it would be like to be surrounded by a group of women who love to be mermaids like I do,” she says. “I really want to show women of all ages to enjoy the freedom of expressing yourself.”
Currently, Grant has four other mermaids in the Okanagan Mermaids group. Their first public event was Canada Day, where they danced - two of the members are trained belly dancers - and took pictures with the public downtown.
“Everyone wanted a picture with us, we couldn’t go ten metres without someone coming up to us, it was great,” she says. “My goal is for it to be a business, a group promoting women and a charity.”
A portion of the proceeds from the Okanagan Mermaids will go towards the Okanagan Swims Program at the YMCA, which provides free swimming lessons for grade three students in the Central Okanagan School District.
The Okanagan Mermaids can be hired for almost any kind of event.
“This summer is a bit of a trial to see what the response will be like, but we want to get involved with all sorts of events,” she says. “People can hire us for corporate events, birthdays, even a bunch of people who just want a mermaid on their boat.”
The mermaids are not only a great photo opportunity, but according to Grant, they act as ambassadors of Okanagan Lake.
“Well two of us are professional belly dancers, and then we all know the folklore tails of Ogopogo, other than that, it makes for a great photo-op,” Grant says. “It will always be evolving, and we’ll continue to see what else we can offer and how we can grow.”
Grant is currently recruiting people to be a part of her mermaid group, and although they are focussed at promoting women, any men wanting to be mermen are welcome.
You can catch sight the Okanagan Mermaids at the Across the Lake Swim on July 15.
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