We had the good fortune of connecting with Calypso Mahina and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Calypso, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
We had the idea to start The Sea Goddess Grotto as an effort to combine our love of the ocean and mermaids with our artistic endeavors in order to try and provide visibility and inclusion. As the lead performer and business owner I am a married LGBTQ+, multiracial, plus-sized, and disabled individual. My wife Luna began creating custom clothing and costuming as a hobby to allow me to bring out my inner mermaid. I needed to be able to swim comfortably in my mermaid tail and have comfortable ocean and mermaid inspired clothing to wear daily. We quickly saw there was a need for our designs to to be available to others for purchase. After being approached by numerous individuals in San Diego about performances, and meeting countless starry-eyed children both at the beach and around town who saw me as a real mermaid, we expanded The Sea Goddess Grotto to include public and private appearances and performances with a real life mermaid. Our goal as The Sea Goddess Grotto is to show that real magic still exists in this world and to use that magic to help everyone’s dreams come true.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a professional mermaid that has been performing since 2012. I attended a small liberal arts college and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Art, which allowed me to develop as an artist. When I graduated I had my first exposure to the community of mermaid cosplayers. In 2011 we were just a bunch of creatives turning swim fins and spandex into working mermaid tails and swimming around. As my skills and community grew over the following year I launched the first size-inclusive mermaid performance company in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Being a plus-sized, LGBTQ+, multiracial, disabled mermaid in Utah was challenging and difficult. I was constantly ridiculed and discriminated against. That discrimination pushed me to continue to perform because I wanted to prove to myself and my community that I could be successful, and I wanted to show others that they could do same. My small performance company grew and we performed at many events. To this day, the company I started is still performing.
Eventually, I felt the need to expand myself and my business opportunities. I wanted to live in a city that my diversity would not just be accepted, but embraced. My wife and I decided to uproot ourselves and move to beautiful San Diego. We felt that this city embodied the diversity we craved, while also being the perfect place for a mermaid to live. We moved here in late 2020 and began the journey of launching The Sea Goddess Grotto shortly after.
In addition to performing as a real mermaid I felt the need to express myself in the way that I dress and interact with the public. What began as a cosplay persona, quickly became my everyday life. I don’t just dress and perform as a mermaid for events, I live a mermaid lifestyle every day. My wife began creating patterns and sewing and altering my costumes as well as sewing nearly my entire wardrobe. I wanted clothing and costuming that I could wear comfortably every day despite my size and my disability. Part of my artistry is who I am as an individual both in my mermaid tail and out.
Eventually we grabbed the attention of others requesting custom costuming, clothing, and accessories which fueled our desires as artists to officially launch The Sea Goddess Grotto. Initially our goals were to just sell our custom creations. I became a walking advertisement with my unique sense of style that eventually caught the eyes of both adults and children wanting to live their best mermaid lives as well. We had so much community feedback about my unique appearance and countless people asking for pictures and performance information that we quickly added real life mermaid appearances to our artist lineup, and created the version of The Sea Goddess Grotto that you see today.
What began as my desire to just swim as a mermaid transformed me into a real life mermaid inside and out. My hope is to foster inclusion and self-love so that everyone gets to experience magic and their dreams coming true.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
San Diego is paradise for mermaids! Choosing a favorite place in this city is so difficult. Like all mermaids I adore visiting La Jolla, especially the tide pools. We love grabbing a bite to eat at The Taco Stand and having a picnic in the little gazebo that overlooks the tide pools. You can often find me swimming and taking pictures at La Jolla Cove as well. While in La Jolla we also love spending an evening with some amazing cocktails at a unique speakeasy, Raised by Wolves.
I take all my friends for an afternoon in Oceanside, visiting Harbor Fish and Chips for lunch and getting hand dipped onion rings from Angelo’s. We also stop in Carlsbad to visit Old Ivy Antiques for some of the most unique mermaid treasures and vintage finds in the city! We always take the long way home on Coast Highway 101 for a scenic ocean drive, stopping frequently along the way to enjoy the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.
I also love exploring Seaport Village, as they have some of the best boutiques with plenty of mermaid treasures. Our favorite stop in Seaport for shopping is Safari Animal Collection and the hidden historic jail is not to be missed! On Saturday mornings we love getting fresh seafood from the open air fish market on the pier. The Little Italy Mercato Farmer’s Market is a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Our favorite restaurants downtown are El Indio and Bluewater Grill, both are not to be missed.
Since I’m of Japanese descent we spend a lot of time doing our grocery shopping at Mitsuwa Market in Clairemont Mesa and frequently visit Katsu Cafe for a delicious Japanese lunch. There is a great hidden gem called Pacific Beads in Clairemont Mesa that sells crystals and strung beads. I often stop there to pick up my beading supplies. The owner is always warm and welcoming!
I think like all San Diegians we love visiting Balboa Park. There is so much diversity there! Unique street performers, tourists, locals, artists, etc. Sometimes you can even find me in mermaid form lounging by one of the fountains there. While in Balboa Park we highly recommend grabbing lunch outdoors at The Prado.
No San Diego trip would be complete without a trip to Old Town for their fresh handmade tortillas. We love exploring the beautiful grounds of the state park and learning about San Diego’s history along the way. There is some amazing shopping in the park as well including The American House Coffee and Tea, and a milliners, The Johnson House. We typically get something to eat at one of the many amazing Mexican restaurants in the area, and really love the food and ambiance at Barra Barra.
Since I’m a mermaid, I appreciate all of the ocean conservation efforts from both SeaWorld San Diego and The Birch Aquarium at Scripps. They both do such wonderful jobs in educating and conserving my ocean home, and both are exciting and educating day trips with so much to offer!
Last but not least, we love the unique people we meet in both Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach. There is always a plethora of unique and like-minded souls there. I feel like every time I visit I make a new friend. We love stopping for drinks and lunch at Woody’s in Pacific Beach, or Hodad’s in Ocean Beach. Both make great burgers!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My success is comes from my amazing wife and business partner, Luna. She is the heart and soul (and seamstress) of The Sea Goddess Grotto and without her, I wouldn’t be anywhere today. She spends hours of her time helping me develop this business and so much of her time sewing. I’m also so indebted to the mermaid community as a whole for their continued support. We also wouldn’t be anywhere we are without the help of my siblings and parents who spent hours helping me develop my business model and ideas, website, and licensing.
Photos by The Sea Goddess Grotto