If 2016 was the year of the unicorn, 2017 is quickly proving to be the year of the mermaid. And while for some of us that means dyeing our hair a rainbow of colors or getting magical ink, for others being a mermaid is way of life. 

At least, that is how it is for real-life professional mermaid Ariel "Mermaid Celeste" Stein (yes, her real name is Ariel) and her merMAN/nursing student Joseph Reddy. 

"Ever since I was little, I was obsessed with water, swimming, and dolphins," Stein told Revelist. "I grew up in a really rough home situation in Ohio, complicated by tons of medical, financial, and psychological issues with my family — all while battling clinical depression myself. Swimming seemed to be my only escape from all of my problems and worries. It was the only way I felt truly at peace."

For Stein, being a professional mermaid has been about so much more than cosplaying every day.

merm
photo: Ziggy Mack
"It's about using this artistic medium as an outlet to preach the importance of taking care of the environment, keeping imagination alive in children, destigmatizing mental illness, and encouraging those with seemingly insurmountable obstacles to do what they want to do. Like others in my profession, I strive to be a champion for change. I am becoming the role model that the younger version of me would have needed."  


But she never suspected to find the love of her life out of it. 

In January 2016, Stein and Reddy met for the first time at MerMania, an annual convention held in Greensboro, North Carolina. But as fate would have it, they already shared a mythical connection.

mermainia
photo: Liz Klein
"Our tails were created only months apart from each other. I was just recovering from a bad breakup, and used my mermaid personality — 'mersona' — to represent my bravery through those tough times. To him, his tail meant speed and strength — something he had always desired while swimming. When I saw our tail-maker post pictures of him in his new tail, I thought he was the most handsome merman I had ever seen."

Though he is in St. Louis, Missouri and she's in Orlando, Florida, they've managed to keep their relationship strong.

mercouple
photo: Dallas Pierce
"Even though I knew I was about to enter a long-distance relationship with a mythical creature, I was determined to make this work. ... We still talk to each other every night and video chat about once a week. We have visited each other only a handful of times, but each time, we made sure that the experience was nothing short of magical."

After a year and a half of working in his human job, Stein told us Reddy is preparing to move down to Florida so the two can perform side by side. And yes, matching tails are already in the works.

mermaids
photo: Dallas Pierce

"As a professional mermaid, I have translated that need to battle my mental illnesses with my love for performing. I can finally inspire others to reach out and do what they have always wanted to do-no matter how silly it sounds, and remind everyone to keep dreaming bigger."

We can't wait for these two to make magic under da' sea together!

mermaidmania
photo: Mountain Mermaid Photography

Here's to hoping they inspire others to chase their dreams as well.