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Interview with Laura Hudson – Miss Mermaid UK 2018

Photo by Adrienne Wilson at Miss Mermaid International 2019

Firstly thank you so for having this interview with me, I’ve been obsessed with the Miss Mermaid UK pageant since we met last year so I’m excited to read more about it.

So can you tell us about your pageant journey so far?

Miss Mermaid was my first pageant, and I had never really know how popular or massive they were at all – I didn’t realise there were so many out there! I LOVE Miss Congeniality and just thought this was an American thing but boy was I wrong! I am always up for new challenges and adventures and this was no different.

So can you tell us about your achievements through the Miss Mermaid System both UK and International and any other systems you have competed in since ?

Copyright Paul Dale Photography

Miss Mermaid Lincolnshire 2018, Miss Mermaid England and overall UK winner 2018/19, Miss Mermaid International 2019 overall Top 10, Talent Winners (UK Team of 4), and Top 7 for Best in Water with special mention for swimming the furthest distance overall (110 metres in one breath). Ms Scuba UK Finalist 2019.

What made you decide to compete in Miss. Mermaid U.K. ?

I started dying my hair green and people always joked that I looked like a mermaid. A friend even found a video advertising “Mermaid Camp” to learn how to be a mermaid in 2017 but I couldn’t afford to go as I had just quit my job to explore self employment. I had been offered a placed in the 2017 Miss Mermaid UK too but sadly couldn’t raise enough money/sponsorship to enter, so vowed I would go the following year after attending Mermaid Camp. I actually hadn’t submitted my entry that year and thought entries were closed by the time Camp came round, but fortunately I was told there were still spaces and my county didn’t have an entry, so I was in!

The day after I secured full sponsorship, and that was it, my journey was on a roll. From MerCamp, I discovered I had a natural breath holding and underwater ability, so I thought i’d do ok at the competition. I thought it would be great fun, and a chance to be on a stage feeling confident, powerful and doing something totally different to anything I’d done before. I like to challenge myself.

It was quite daunting going up against other girls who had been doing Mermaiding for a number of years, or had even competed in the pageant the previous year. I was incredibly nervous but also excited to show case what I had and who I was. I started to believe I could stand out with my creativity and unique look, with a pageant that played on lots of different skills.

What was it like winning the title of Miss Mermaid UK ?

To win the title of Miss Mermaid England was an absolute shock as I secured my spot at the International competition, to take home the overall title meant winning a few extra prizes and an amazing title I was proud to showcase and publicise (and still do!). I’d only been a mermaid for 3 months!!

What have you been doing since you competed at the Miss Mermaid International Pageant?

Since the International, I wanted to find my next challenge and entered the first MS Scuba UK, with the age range being opened up to those who couldn’t compete in Miss. Amazingly, thanks to all the girl’s involved, we managed to increase the age range of the International competition for 2020 onwards due to the work we were all doing. It was amazing to be part of, and my introduction to scuba too!

It’s a unique pageant can you tell us more about it?

Miss Mermaid is combining the traditional pageant rounds, and combining with a love of the water and a mission to protect it from pollution.

At the UK competition, we had an Eco creative round, where we had to create a costume entirely from second hand items, reusable materials or even rubbish. We couldn’t buy anything new, it was charity shop finds, donations from friends/family, or that delightful rubbish! My entire dress was made from plastic carrier bags, newspapers, plastic beer pack rings, ring pulls and plastic drinks and milk bottles!

The Bikini round is a “Beachwear” round too to really play to everyone’s confidence and allow you to wear anything from bikini to beach dress, and the chance to accessorise if you wish. It is amazing to see so many confident ladies taking to the stage in something they love, and showcasing their personalities.

The underwater rounds were completed the day before. We had an underwater photoshoot in our tails in the pool, and were only allowed a set number of dives each to get the perfect photo. The distance swim was to be completed in tails, with no goggles and no weights to really showcase that true mermaid look, but is of course much more challenging to see where you’re going in a chlorine pool and not float on the surface!

We still had an evening gown round, and some of us were pre selected by judged to perform our Talent (not for points, but for an additional sash award potential and for entertainment to break up the show)

At the Internationals, we have a creative round where we have to decorate our mermaid tops and accessories to be judged on our skills. I went with a bikini top, a floral and shell headdress and a belt that added texture and detail to the waist at the top of the tail.

Our underwater phtoshooot out in the Red Sea had to be postponed 3 times due to the high winds which was such a shame, so we had to stick to the pool, and were judged on our performance and poses. For me I pretended I was performing in an Aquarium to make it easier and less stressful, performing somersaults, making love hearts with my hands, and finishing with my iconic back bend.

Our distance swim was the same – no weights and goggles – and was set with Max points at 60 metres. I was the only mermaid I believe to turn around and come back, almost to the beginning, to hit 110 metres. Wherever we went, we took our tails – to a Waterpark, to a lagoon for a photoshoot and plastic pick up, and even to the dessert in case we had time to wear them on top of a camel (I am sad we didn’t have time, it would have been a brilliant photo!)

One evening, we were also being judged by hotel guests for the “Red Sea” award during the fish themed dinner. All the mermaids were positioned around the restaurant on chairs, bench tops and in archways for the guests to vote for their favourite mermaid!

We did some underwater photos and videos in the reef close to the hotel and on the shoreline for our tail sponsor, and had Mermaid Protector neoprene free suits gifted and had photographs in. Just pageantry with a twist!

We still had a Talent Show, Catwalks and Interviews, with Bikini rounds and Evening Gowns too, as well as my favourite, The National Costume. I LOVED making my replica of the Queen’s Coronation Dress with a twist.

The pageant opened many doors including being a real life mermaid what’s that like ?

I was fortunate enough that my life was going to go down the mermaid route regardless of the pageant outcome, it’s just made it easier to explain to people when you have that amazing title! Being a real life mermaid is what people dream of, and making mermazing memories for people when they come to visit our aquarium shows, meet and greets or other appearances is so fulfilling. I love seeing people’s videos and photos after shows to see their cute reactions. I often think the adults enjoy it more when you hear their reaction to us. It makes kids believe we are real, and life is magical. It provides a little hint of escapism and fantasy in our big scary world, and brings so much fun and excitement. My life has changed forever, truly it has, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have a whole new bunch of “Mersisters” to bond with and enjoy a job like no other

What’s the worst thing about being a mermaid ?

The absolute worst thing about being a mermaid is not being able to freely move! As a human, i’m usually incredibly independent. As a mermaid, I sometimes need wheelie chairs or plastic tubs on wheels to cart me about, sometimes a hand or an arm to lift when I have no energy left to lug myself in and out of tanks. It gets incredibly exhausting and painful, contrary to belief of how we appear!

How has Covid19 affected your mermaid life ?

Sadly Covid19 has meant all my mermaid shows/appearances have been postponed for the foreseeable future, which has meant a huge dip, not just for income, but socially and mentally too. Every event we do is a great chance to catch up with one or more of the mersisters and spend some time having a laugh and performing with them, although I hosted a mermaid quiz the last few weeks, so we have had a better chance of ALL seeing each other at the same time and having fun together, which never happens! Mentally it’s tough as being under the water is my happy place and I feel so relaxed and calm when I’m diving, all my troubles bubble away and I’m free. Sadly without that release, my fins are getting a little bit twitchy and my mermaid tail is drying up…..the only bonus is my hair is recovering from all the salt water and chlorine……sadly my eyes are still burning, just from hayfever, not chlorin!

You have been making scrubs for the NHS in lockdown why did you decide to do this ?

Without work, I was feeling very low sat at home wondering how I would wade through my incredibly long “To-do-lists” that have accumulated from being such a busy fish! Rather than tackle this head on, I actually discovered a group called “For The Love Of Scrubs” set up by one of our local nurses, that has now spread country wide! I could see my local doctors surgery had put in a request to my county group, and I offered my help, with a fashion degree and a job as a seamstress and sewing teacher, I felt the absolute necessity to help as my way to say Thank you in my own way. It has been very uplifting to be part of such a huge community project and help make some difference in the only way I can at the moment. The appreciation from the NHS we have directly helped has been incredible. I’ve completed 20 full sets and 5 extra individual pieces and secured a local sponsor to provide 175 metres of fabric to use, which I’m grateful for and proud to have helped gain for our local hospital.

Do you volunteer or help with other charities ?

I am always trying to fundraise in some way for other charities wherever I can. Over the years I have fundraised for British Heart Foundation, Heads Together, Marine Conservation Society, Sea Shepherd, Project Aware, and my main charity of choice, The PSP Association. The PSPA will always hold a strong personal connection for me, with my Grandad, Poppa, passing away from PSP 11 years ago. A rare, degenerative brain disease with no cure, we had never heard of it, and it’s now my mission to help raise awareness of them, the diseases PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) and CBD (Cortico Basal Degenration), and the need for funding and support for a small charity to continue the work they do to help those diagnosed, their loved ones, and help research these terrible diseases is so important. I take on so many challenges now to help towards my fundraising, starting with Tough Mudder, it’s progressed to Trekking challenges, virtual runs, and cycling Vietnam to Cambodia in 2017 and across Burma last year. I’ve already signed up to cycle across Thailand next year, which, contrary to belief, I do find challenging with my dodgy knees and my hatred of hills. I live in a very flat Lincolnshire so I never change gears, so that is a challenge in itself!!

What was the International final of Miss mermaid like ?

Miss Mermaid International by Laura Siddall (Creative Round)

The International final was very busy, we were always doing something, whether it was photoshoots or promotion for our sponsors, rehearsals or another round to be judged, and sometimes after dinner we had an evening meeting or had nights arranged to go out. I was trying to keep all my supporters back home up to date with daily posts as best as I could, and keep writing in my diary too to remember the experience by, often going to bed gone midnight, if not 1am! Luckily, my room mate, Miss Mermaid Scotland, was also doing the same, so we were fine! It was scary and intimidating as I’d never done this before – Miss Mermaid was my first pageant and I was thrust into the deep end VERY quickly, having only been a mermaid for a short amount of time, and was surrounded by a mx of other mermaids or professional models. Some girls were experiences pageant girls too, and some had previously competed at Miss Mermaid already. It was an absolute joy to be there with 3 other UK girls though, as we all represented each of our countries – England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland – it was the first year all 4 were represented! We made a formidable team, and one that everyone wanted to come and party with – we often heard “where’s the UK girls? We want to go with them!”. It made the experience a little less daunting, and our own Mersisters, Grace Page, the very first MMUK in 2016 is now the UK National Director and is part of the International Team, and Laura Siddall, MMUK and International winner for 2017, who made the STUNNING corwn for the Germany final and International winner. We were very fortunate to be there as a large team, and we made some fab friends too. One of our pro mermaids is the Swedish Director who I finally got to meet out there and had my last aquarium show with, and our Miss Mermaid Belgium came to see us all for a mermaid swim just before the New Year which was so sweet.

What have pageants taught you ?

They’ve taught me to be proud of who I am and not be afraid to shout from the rooftops! I always think I am going to be limited in which pageants I can enter as I’m not your “typical” pageant girl. I have blue/green hair, tattoos and piercings, I’m average height, but there’s nothing average about me in personality and life, and I’m excited to celebrate and showcase that where I can. Maybe I will have the confidence to try for some other pageants in the future and push the boundaries.

Would you compete again in a pageant ?

Yes! I would love to compete again

What’s the best advice you have for fellow pageant queens ?

Always be yourself. There’s no point hiding behind a façade because the competition is already going to be tough enough! Relax, have fun and just be yourself. I was always very conscious at the International about being too giggly or too silly, when in reality, being myself laughing and joking (in appropriate situations!) was like a breath of fresh air for myself and other contestants, and we had our most enjoyable memories then. I want to be the down to earth person I really am, why should I pretend to be someone I’m not?!

What do you think is a good pageant role model ?

A good role model is someone who can be genuine to everyone they meet and the person they are on stage. You won’t get anywhere if you’re not part of the team and you don’t build other women and girls up around you. You’re in that journey together, so straighten each other’s crowns, tell someone they have lipstick on their teeth, or tuck their dress label in! Go above and beyond to be a friend and a helping hand during a crisis. Encourage everyone in that room to go out with a smile on their face and spring in their step. Be the Queen everyone is ecstatic for when you win that title or crown. Be that person that everyone admires and is inspired by on your journey.

What’s your favourite pageant round ?

Evening dress, without a doubt at the moment, because I had such a beautiful dress I’d had in my wardrobe for about 8 years. I’d bought it in a sale online and hadn’t worn it yet as I was waiting for the perfect moment……Miss Mermaid was it, and it caused an audible gasp at the UK final when I appeared to the final chorus of Ashes by Celine Dion. I won’t ever forget that feeling, it still gives me goosebumps thinking about it From a Mermaid pageant point of view, it was the creative mermaid round. It played into my strengths of creativity and sewing, and I was so excited to put my entire look together on the very first day in Egypt for the very first time with my make up idea too. It has become my signature look and defined my mersona forever

How do you deal with pageant nerves ?

Nerves I’ve fortunately been able to shake off quite quickly, mostly from being a performer and getting pre-show jitters, I just used to put my microphone on, a smile on my face and go out with a big wave and hello and get on with it. It became second nature over time. I thought I was nervous at MMUK, but I found myself calming so many of the others girls around me down instead, I didn’t have time to focus on my own nerves. I loved being out on stage with my family and friends in the audience supporting me, and knowing others were watching live in anticipation. I was proud of how far I’d come in a short time and I was determined to enjoy it as much as I could. I think I was most nervous both at UK and International for the Talent rounds that didn’t even bring extra points, just the chance of another award! At the UK final, I got to perform my pole dancing, which has always been an interesting one due to it’s connotations in life and people’s assumptions. But having chosen Can’t Stop The Feeling by Justin Timberlake, the audience had no choice but to clap, cheer and smile along as I performed the splits, upside down tricks, and feats of strength. 10 seconds in and I was loving life freestyling to the song and showing people how beautiful pole can be. At the after party, even a competitor’s Dad came up to me and said how much I’d changed his perception on it, with strength, grace and fluidity – he was stunned at how much control there was, and was thrilled I’d won too. At the International, I’d made all our costumes (white chiffon skirts of different lengths to go over bought leotards, with black chiffon and lace wrap around dresses that would be seamlessly whipped off at different points during the routine to reveal our pure selves) and had helped choreograph the routine just 3 days before (mentally I’d been choreographing in my head every time the song came on in the car or while I was at home brainstorming) so it meant a huge deal to perform it. Considering how BADLY some of our rehearsals had gone, we were all nervous – my skirt came off on stage rehearsal and I ran around the entire routine in my leotard, dresses wouldn’t come off, lyrics forgotten, or union jack didn’t unfurl seamlessly……nightmare! I didn’t relax until the final chorus when the final dress reveal went perfectly and we ran out on the catwalks towards the audience for the final chorus. I beamed with absolute pride from that moment right up until the very end. It was perfect. We won But no……I didn’t shake the nerves off that time! With the other rounds I just smiled, enjoyed myself, appreciated the fact I was THERE more than anything and how far I’d come, and what an incredible opportunity it was. No nerves. Just smiles all round.

Thank you so much for speaking to me today it’s been amazing reading more about Miss Mermaid and also you life as a mermaid ! Hopefully you will be out swimming again soon ! I really hope to see you competing again in pageants soon ! Much love Charlotte, Ms Diamond South Yorkshire 2020.

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