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Mermaids Are Awesome: Small Town Hairdresser's Alter Ego Fights for Clean Water

With her seashell bra and gold lame´ fin, Vira Burgerman crusades for a healthy coast. She's taking her message to the global mermaid community.

Vira Burgerman makes a living styling hair in a cute little town on the Russian River in Sonoma County, California, but she grew up working on commercial fishing boats in nearby Bodega Bay, and she's got an unusually strong connection to the sea. These days when she's not clipping and perming, this 46 year-old assumes an alter ego—the California Mermaid—and she dolphin kicks at the drop of a captain's cap for just about any watershed protection event, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


"You never know where I'll show up," Burgerman told the paper. "If someone asks me, and it has an oceanic focus, I usually can't turn them down. I'm there." Since 1998, she's organized a local "Mermaid Fest" to go to creative lengths to raise money for the Community Clean Water Institute and raise awareness around local water health issues.

But the California Mermaid won't stop at preserving just her local watershed—she's taken her message to the grandest of all mermaid gatherings, the annual Merpalooza in Orlando, Florida, where she has quietly seeded her environmental agenda with younger, less aware sea sirens. This sorority of mermaids last month recognized her as their "International Community Environmental Mermaid of the Year."

Burgerman befriended several younger mermaids, adopted the persona of "Mer-Ma," and gave her proteges tips about how to draw attention to the environmental issues in their neighborhoods.

"They were like, 'Oh my God, we do have all this attention as mermaids. How can we use it for environmental awareness?' " Burgerman said. "I have this renewed energy around being a 'Mer-Ma' now and realizing I'm a teacher to these aspiring mermaids. Just think where you could take it."

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Snicker if you must, but we've long praised costumed cause fighters. If slipping into a pair of tights and a mask—or in Burgerman's case, a seashell bra and a gold lame´ fin—allows you to crusade for a cause you hold dear, more power to you.

Photo courtesy of The California Mermaid

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