Brittany Sparkles, a Little Rock woman who bills herself on Facebook as “Arkansas’s First Professional Mermaid Entertainer,” is featured in “MerPeople,” a four-episode Netflix documentary series that comes out today. The series introduces viewers to the world of professional mermaiding, which is now a half-billion dollar industry that involves elaborate costuming and prosthetics and “pageants, conventions, competitions, audiences, shows.”
“MerPeople” interviews many mermaids about the challenges and sacrifices associated with being an aspiring underwater performer, including the fact that this pursuit is rife with life-threatening dangers due to how much time performers are expected to spend submerged in tanks of cold water. The context is a little murky, but at one point in the trailer, a mermaid becomes “hypothermic.”
Sparkles also gets a lot of airtime in the trailer. “I can’t really grow much as a mermaid in Arkansas ’cause I feel like I’m trapped in this box. I’m a landlocked mermaid,” she says over images of her traveling. Although Arkansas is literally a landlocked state, I get the impression that she means this figuratively and that the professional mermaiding scene in our state leaves something to be desired, likely both in terms of training opportunities and the enthusiasm of audiences. Hopefully, the exposure from her appearance in “MerPeople” will provide some momentum.
The last time we with caught up with Sparkles, she was acting in a 2017 Studio Theater production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Read more about that here.