Her workplace is a 117,000-gallon tank. Her co-workers? An assortment of 1,500 fish, including sharks and a stingray that once gave her a black eye on the job. Her tail is huge, and she always chooses steak over seafood. After all, you don’t eat your friends.
That’s life as a mermaid for Ariana Liuzzi, swimming around inside the Silverton Casino Hotel. It almost seemed predestined for someone who began her training as a youth in a group called, fittingly, Nevada Desert Mermaids.
Ariana graciously took a break from entertaining adults and children alike to dry off and answer a few questions for us about her unique, and certainly unconventional, profession:
Q: Ariana is very close to Ariel, the mermaid from Disney. With a name like that, do you think you were destined for this?
A: Absolutely. Ever since I was little, I always dreamt of being a mermaid. My mom joked that I would always bring over the neighborhood kids or the kids at the beach. My mom is from Slovakia and she speaks different languages so we would talk in Slovak and I would tell the kids that was mermaid language.
Q: How did you first hear about and/or become interested in being the mermaid here at Silverton Casino Hotel.
A: I was a synchronized swimmer here in Las Vegas. I started synchronized swimming when I was 8 years old for a team called Nevada Desert Mermaids. My coach, Heather Carrasco, was working here at the time for the big show that was here. When I graduated high school and retired from synchronized swimming, she offered me the job.
Q: How much time do you put in to it?
A: I’m a full-time mermaid, so I’m here 40 hours a week. The training before was five-hour practices every day after school. I didn’t have the high school party life – it was always swimming competitions ... a lot of time in the water. We always joked that we’d like to calculate how much time we’ve spent just in the water.
Q: About how much time each week are you actually in the water?
A: Maybe, like almost 20 hours a week? Between 15 and 20?
Q: What is your favorite part of this job and how long have you been here?
A: I’ve been here for six years. My favorite part … there are so many good things about this job. You can never really have a bad day when you are here. I think a big part for me is being able to work with the animals. Being underwater with sharks and stingrays and fish. That’s really unique and something that I adore. The other big part is the kids, who do really think that I’m real, and ...
Q: But you ARE real? Right?
A: Yeah! But the kids who come see me, they travel from all over the world. Seeing their faces light up is awesome.
Q: Any funny stories about life as a mermaid or anything you’ve seen from the tank you’d like to share?
A: We see so much on a daily basis. We’ve been a part of engagements, birthdays, weddings. Each of those are unique in their own way. The underwater weddings are really awesome. We had a couple from Germany and it was a huge experience for them. We do proposals about once a month. I’ve been a part of three weddings, too.
Q: How do friends and family react when you first tell them you’re a real-life mermaid?
A: It’s funny because when I run into old friends, I don’t really bring it up at first. I let them talk to me about what’s going on with them, just because, after that, it’s all about asking me questions. “What’s it like doing this?” and “What’s it like doing that?” But everyone’s been super supportive. I’ve never had anyone that didn’t support the idea.
Q: What is the most common question you get?
A: Probably “How long can you hold your breath underwater?”
Q: And the answer?
A: I can probably hold my breath for a little over a minute. But I’m totally spoiled now. I have scuba (air tanks) at the bottom of the tank so the second I feel like I should probably go take a breath, I take one. But, in synchronized swimming, it’s the complete opposite because they’re training you to stay underwater.
Q: When you aren’t swimming around in the tank, what do you like to do in the Silverton Casino Hotel? As a mermaid, you can’t go too long without water. What happens? We don’t even know.
A: You’ll never know. They carry me around. But it gets cold in the tank, so we really like to hit up Starbucks. Twin Creeks is definitely my favorite restaurant here. I’ve been there a few times and it’s awesome.
Q: What makes the Silverton Casino Hotel special?
A: Just the overall feel. It’s not in that busy-ness of the Strip. You have the same amenities, but it’s off the Strip and more personal. And you don’t have to sit in Las Vegas Boulevard traffic for 45 minutes.
Q: How long do you see yourself continuing as a mermaid at the Silverton Casino Hotel?
A: I love everything about my job. I love being able to be where I feel the most comfortable, which is underwater, and working with animals. Even since I was little, I wanted to be a marine biologist.
Q: Any advice for future mermaid hopefuls?
A: I hope they find as much happiness underwater as I do and that they really enjoy the tank. You don’t realize, even if you are in it every day, you don’t realize how beautiful it really is and it’s important to take a second and appreciate your surroundings. It’s a great environment.
Mermaids perform Thursday−Sunday afternoons, into the early evening.