'Being a merman has taught me to be free and not to care what anyone thinks'

With his shimmering rainbow tail, waist-length hair and glittering eye-makeup, a professional merperson has become the latest man to challenge stereotypes and show that not all mermaids have blonde hair and blue eyes.

On land, Eric Nova is your average “two-legger” from the US city of Atlanta, Georgia. But when he slips on his silicon tail he becomes Blix the merman.

Similarly to cosplaying and other roleplay activities, “mermaiding” involves men and women donning fins to act out the lives merpeople, or "mers".

Blix was recently interviewed by blogger Davey Wavey as part of his series exploring the extraordinary lives of LGBT people. 

“Once I put this tail on and my legs are bound and I have this pretty tail I can just go in the water and just feel like I'm at peace," he told the blogger. "Being a merman has taught me to be free and not to care what anyone thinks."

He added: “Every mermaid you see has blonde hair and blue eyes. I’ve even had kids tell me 'I can’t be a mermaid because I’m black' but I say ‘no baby don’t say that. That should make you want to be the first one’.

"Just be like the ocean and follow your own current," he added.

Commenters on Wavey’s Facebook page praised Blix, with one user called Keisha Ellis-Carter identifying with his message in particular.

She wrote that people on a mermaid Facebook page expressed shock when she shared an photo of her young daughter dressed up as a mermaid because she is black.

The phenomenon of mermaiding has come to mainstream attention in recent years, and while it is a hobby for some, others - like Blix - make their living by appearing at events.

Mermaid Melissa, who has over a million likes on Facebook and more than 300,000 subscribers on YouTube, is among the most famous female merpeople online and works to raise awareness for environmental charities.  

Biting at her tail are the mermen. Eric Ducharme from Florida, who was the subject of a documentary called “My Crazy Obession”, and Merman Christian, who has over 20,000 followers on social media, are among the most high-profile mermen online.

Merman Christian, also known as Chris O'Brocki, told Broadly that young boys at the events he appears at “are so used to seeing mermaids almost all the time. They get such big smiles on their faces, it's adorable. They want to race me in the pool or ask if my dad is King Triton or Poseidon.” 

​Merman Christian poses in an image on his Instagram account

"Anyone can be a merman," O'Brocki added. “There is no mold that you have to be to fit in this community. It's a welcoming place that's as big as the ocean.”