By the time Nadya Vessey was 16, she had to have both of her legs amputated. She was born with a condition that prevented her legs from developing properly, but she continued her love of swimming with prosthetic limbs.
In her 50s, she was approached by a little boy asking her what happened to her legs as she took off the prosthetics. She told him she’s a mermaid. She remembers thinking, “I’ll have to turn up to that beach again sometime with my tail – just in case he’s there.” And that’s when the idea began to grow in her mind.
Vessey wrote to the Oscar award winning Weta Workshop (Chronicles of Narnia, King Kong) with a request for a mermaid tail. Sure enough, the talented crew agreed to make a prosthetic tail from wetsuit material and and plastic moulds.
“I never had a fantasy to be a mermaid,” explains Vessey. “I am still getting used to it because it requires you to swim in a different kind of way. Children sort of go ‘oh, a mermaid.’ People who like it more, I think, are adults.”
And swim differently, she does, as real mermaids would if they really existed. The construction of the tail allows Vessey to propel herself through the water with undulating movements…just like a mermaid.
“It was absolutely amazing [making the costume],” Costumer Lee Williams said: “It’s beautiful to watch Nadya swim and to see that dream come true and to be a part of it. I feel quite blessed. We wanted Nadya to be beautiful and sexy and it was important the tail looked realistic. What became apparent was that she actually physically wanted to look like a mermaid.”
Vessey, who began swimming at the age of seven, is considering wearing her tail for the swimming portion of a triathlon.