By Paul Bonnette
If you have attended “FinTastic” events such as Tourism Days, Zoo Boo, Chamber of Commerce First Friday, and Pirates of the High Seas Fest, then chances are you may have had a mermaid sighting. For Bay County resident Misty Joy, the phrase “Mermaid Life” takes on a very literal meaning. Misty the Mermaid can be seen popping up out of the Gulf for numerous community activities and bringing smiles to the faces of adults and kids alike.
Almost a decade ago, just before mermaids started their massive rise in popularity in pop culture, Misty Joy was making a change that would impact her life and start her journey toward creating a whole new “Mer-sona.”
“It all began in 2015, I was working at Starbucks and my life situation had changed and I needed a way to support myself. I enjoyed my job at Starbucks, but I honestly believe the universe was setting up this path for me. For some reason at that time in my life, everybody kept telling me that I looked like a mermaid. I worked at Starbucks with a girl that dressed up as princesses for birthday parties… I just started thinking that I could be a mermaid for birthday parties and try to be a professional mermaid.
I started looking at tails and one of the tail makers was here in Florida. I got this fabric tail from Mertailor and started following them on Instagram and around that time they put out a casting call for mermaids. So, I answered the casting call for mermaid models. I had this new understanding on life and thought, ‘why not try for it, after all you never know what’s going to happen.’ So, I submitted my application and some photos, and they responded and said they would like for me to model his tails for his website. I was one of the ones chosen to model his 2016 silicone tail. Honestly, I’ll never forget when the day was done and I got into the car, I had this amazing, wonderful feeling of happiness. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If you can’t stop thinking about something, do it.”
For Misty, seeing herself on websites and Pinterest was enough for her to embrace the mermaid life and find more places to “stretch her legs.” Misty would find a good fit at a local motel on Panama City Beach.
“After I got my new mermaid tail, somebody else from Starbucks told me there was a hotel that has pirates and mermaids on the beach. I figured out that I needed to find other places and find a home. So, when she told me that Days Inn already has pirates and mermaids I reached out and started working as a mermaid at Days Inn.”
For most people, being a mermaid would be enough to draw a crowd, but for Misty, the idea of adding fire-breathing and fire-eating to the character to create an even more magical experience was a temptation that she could not resist.
“In going through this transition in my life, I needed things to focus on and so I attended a Pole Fitness class. I went and instantly fell in love with it. After they closed down, I discovered aerial circus, fabrics and hoops which got me into the circus and performing arts. It’s the same time period in my life where I’m just re-inventing and unveiling myself, blossoming and peeling back those layers and becoming something. The very first fire thing I did was spinning fire Poi. After that I actually went straight to breathing fire. I had a friend who taught me and from the very first breath I was a natural,” remembers Misty.
For Misty, performing became such an important part of her life that she branched out into other characters for events in the community such as Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” and The Raven Queen for Panama City Center for the Art’s Fright Nights Event in October as well as characters for Star Wars Day for Downtown Panama City. It is the love of the community and performing that gives Misty the meaning behind the characters and she has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.
“I love just being there in the community and making people smile. Creating experiences and memories for people, being the magic and making it fun, that’s what I love.