NARGIS MAGAZINE
Interview by editor-in-chief

Hannah. Dance with the ocean

Who among us in childhood did not read out the famous fairy tale of Andersen about the Little Mermaid? The mythical creature, half fish, half-human, seducer of navigators ̶ legends about them exist in the folklore of many nations of the world. According to one of the legends, without fear one can admire the beauty of the Undine if only gets the flower of a fern. But since Hannah Fraser, a model, actress and an experienced underwater swimmer, has reincarnated into a mermaid, everyone has the opportunity to admire this fabulous character...

From where did it occur to your mind  to become a mermaid?

From the early childhood. I was literally obsessed with mermaids. At the age of 3 I began to draw, and all the people I painted had mermaid tails. And also I molded their clay figures. I had some beautiful old books with illustrations of beautiful water maidens. I collected stickers with them, tried to find information about them in the library in order to understand how to become a mermaid.

I just wanted to live in the undine world. At the age of nine I was impressed by the movie “Splash” about the love of a mermaid and a man. The main character’s name was, like me, Hannah. Besides, she was a vegetarian, I also never ate meat in my life. Thanks to this film I understood what I really want. So my mother, who always supported me in all my beginnings, helped me in sewing my first mermaid tail.

What did you make your first tail of?

From an orange plastic tablecloth. And to make the tail look brilliant with water droplets, I scattered small golden scales across its surface.

But we were not sure did the tail was “active”. And in order to try it, I swam in a pool with legs tightly pressed to each other with fitted hangers at the end, depicting the tip of the tail. I almost drowned.

And how did this become your profession?

At first I was engaged in design at the school of graphic design, creating children's books, stickers, etc. I was also interested in photography, modeling. And at some point it all came together in a passion for mermaids. I understood how to become a mermaid, how to model and create a real mermaid's tail, how to photograph and pose under water.

Is it difficult to participate in underwater shooting?

Very difficult. I have a very heavy wetsuit with a large plastic motor fin.

Did you design it yourself?

Yes, I create all the tails by myself. Probably no one in the world spends so much time making tails and finishing them with scales. Each scale is very beautiful. Several women helped me with the decoration. But I did most of it by myself. Now I have seven active tails. Two of them are the most luxurious. Four more are in the manufacturing process. And since there were a lot of tails, I created a mermaid management company.

What this company is dedicated to?

The fact is that I was often asked: “Are there any other girls who can be attracted to underwater photo shoots?” That's why I began to teach other artists to my skills. To expand my organization, I invite girls and teach them to swim under water with tails. I conduct my entire business myself, as well as editing my videos.

Are you shooting all around the world?

I visit the most beautiful places on the planet. And the most beloved ones are Tahiti, Fiji and Maldives. In February, I was shooting in Hawaii with an amazing photographer Shawn Heinrichs. I think he is the most incredible underwater photographer in the world! And not only because of his skill of working with the camera, but also because he knows and feels the elements of the ocean. I call Shawn "ocean whisper" because he accurately determines the behavior of animals, feels in which direction they will move. It happens that we are trying to get a shot for a long time, and when he says: “This is just one more shot”, ̶ I know for sure that it’s already enough.

We share a reverent attitude to the environment. In Hawaii, we made the video “Manta. The Last Dance ” (manta, or sea devil is the largest ramp) in order to draw attention to the disappearance of these beautiful animals. At midnight, we sailed at the bottom of the ocean, and I was pulled to the bottom with fifty pounds of cargo.

Was it scary?

A bit. The wave pulls back, as if a large sea serpent has draped around my legs, nothing is visible, because there are no goggles, it is terribly cold, and some huge fish are spinning around. It was not very nice…

Вы не боитесь наткнуться в океане на кого-нибудь страшного? 

Don’t you afraid of stumbling in the ocean on someone scary?

In Mexico, I swam with fourteen huge white sharks. For this, I flew from another part of the world. But until the last moment I was not sure whether I would enter the water until I saw them. By that time, I had already been a mermaid for several years, but I had never seen sharks and was already afraid of them. But then I decided that I had to face my fear. Great white sharks are close to extinction, and over the past 500 years, only 67 people have become their victims. And people have destroyed over a hundred thousand of white sharks only last year. So it’s not sharks, but man the most terrible predator of the planet. White sharks occupy an important place in the ecosphere of the ocean, so I would like them to be treated with respect.

And the shooting went smoothly?

There was a moment when sharks swam around me (they have such a movement pattern), and one of them began to swim closer and closer. And I am half naked and in a fish suit - just a tasty bite for a shark! And then guys from the boat said that I need to show her who is the boss here. At first I was confused, and then swam right on the shark and... screamed loudly. She turned and swam away. Sharks are very careful and smart, only because of this they managed to survive on the planet for millions of years.

You also swam with whale sharks...

It was also an environmental project. We visited the Philippines and Norway, where for a number of years they were killing whale sharks, destroying their population. And only in one village people organized ecotourism engaged with whale sharks, instead of killing them. This type of tourism has become very popular, so the entire population of whale sharks was protected there. Our team went there to highlight this initiative. We organized the world's first photo shoot of whale sharks under water and aroused great interest in the world press to this type of fish in order to stop their extermination.

And with what else did you swim?

With humpback whales. These are one of the largest animals on the planet, but absolutely harmless, beautiful and amazing creatures.

When you look through the endless blue of the ocean, penetrated by the sun's rays, and you see a whale rising up, at first it seems small, but gradually it gets bigger, bigger, bigger and bigger... It was about 15 meters long! And when it began to float up from under me, I was scared that I could end my life in his mouth or under the blow of a tail: I am like an ant in comparison with him. But the whales are very smart. They swim to see you, look into your eyes and move with an exact awareness of how big you are, how big they are and how close they can come to you. They are gigantic, but quite conscious beings.

Somehow in front of me came a young whale-calf with a mother. The whale-calf approached me, moved the flipper and looked straight into my eyes. And then they started to sing to each other. And the sound was as if standing in front of huge acoustic concert speakers. They sang, and I was right in the middle of it. And when I got out of the water, I just burst into tears. It was some kind of magic.

But I also witnessed how whales were destroyed ...

Who does this?

Mostly Japanese. They have a large whale fishery, and it is still unclear for what purpose they kill them. This is a very tough situation.

Have you participated in the filming of the movie "The Cave"?

Yes. This happened after I met the humpback whales. Together with my friends — artists, musicians, and actors — I went to a cave in Taiji, a city of Japanese whalers. We swam in the bay like surfers, while local fishermen killing dolphins. And all the water in the bay became bloody. It was a heartbreaking sight.

And the most amazing thing is that the animals swam up and looked at us, as if they were calling for help. Then one of the fishermen approached us, yelled and hit me with a thick stick. He threatened to kill us.

We stayed in the bay as much as we could, and filmed it all. Then we collaborated with the Ocean Protection Society (OPS). And although they could not keep anyone from killing these animals, they sent our film-message to the whole world. "The Cave" was nominated for an Oscar in the nomination "Best Documentary Film" and won the 2010 award. This attracted the attention of many people who now also go to Taiji to help. Soon the Japanese removed the dolphins from the state food program, removed their meat from supermarkets in this city. In general, we have achieved some kind of change, although the killing of these amazing animals continues.

Is your goal to stop all this?

Exactly. It seems to me that there is no need to destroy such incredible and very intelligent animals. There are thousands of documented stories and cases in which whales and dolphins have helped people. For example, a dolphin protected my ex-husband from sharks. And many times the dolphins saved the drowning people, dragging them ashore. These are very intelligent and sensitive creatures who want to interact with us, with whom we can coexist in harmony. I urge everyone to think about it.

As a mermaid, how much can you stay under water?

About two minutes. I do not smoke, practice yoga from an early age, and I like the exercises with breath holding.

And what else do you do?

Besides yoga and stretching, I dance all the time. Dance provides the energy and sensuality, and also strengthens the spine and gives flexibility. After all, to move like a real mermaid, you need to wriggle the whole spine. Belly dance lessons help to relax various parts of the body, which is also necessary for a mermaid swimming. But the most important thing is meditation and practicing breath holding with the help of yoga.

What about your diet? You do not eat meat or fish?

Yes, I was raised on a very healthy vegetarian diet. My mother became a vegetarian when I was one year old. She was a yoga and meditation instructor. All this helped me a lot to realize my dream. 

So your mother always supports you.

For sure. And my father too. They are both very interesting people, even if they divorced. My father Andy Fraser was a famous 1970s rock star in the British band Free. I think that the song "All right now", which was written by my father, is included in hundreds of great songs of all time. Parents - are my very creative, supportive and unusual family.

Do you also shoot a music video?

Yes, I have a lot of music videos, documentaries and short films. Music and dance is my another passion. I call myself an underwater dancer, regardless of whether I have a tail or not. Being in the ocean gives me a feeling of absolute freedom and a touch of perfection.

When we invited you to Azerbaijan, you knew nothing about our country. What prompted you to come here?

My passion for new experiences and places. And no hesitation! We arrived at midnight, woke up at 5 am and went to the Old Town. It is beautiful and fabulous, the combination of old and new is just fantastic. Baku is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities I have seen. It is a pity that there was very little time.

And how was the shooting?

I especially liked the work with the team, attention to details and everyone’s desire of to do something unique and original. Here, on the other side of the earth, I felt like in my family.

What would you like to say to people?

That on this planet we can coexist in harmony with all living beings living here. Today, many people have aroused a passion for the ocean, thousands of enthusiasts around the world buy and make tails, performing in them, shooting video clips. Two years ago, the world's first mermaid convention was adopted. And Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series of novels, writes a book about undines.

The ocean is the lifeblood of the planet. And if we do not destroy it, it will support life on Earth. This idea will help reunite people with the blood vessels of the planet. You need to be friends with nature, you have to love nature, but to fight with nature is not only senseless, but also suicidal.

INTERVIEW ULVIYYA MAHMUDOVA

PHOTO ORXAN ASLANOV