A woman's journey to finding identity, through the depths of a tank and the confines of a mind.
(6 Minute Read) - Singapore
When Natasha Pang’s first encounter at the River Safari opened her up to the idea of what freedom and grace could look like; few would expect to be underwater in a 10-meter tank, filled with a herd of cuddle-hungry manatees all while wearing a constrictive monofin – an accessory known to increase a swimmers risk of drowning by at least 70%.
Artistic mermaiding has risen in popularity since its sporadic beginnings in 2004 but amidst growing safety concerns, several cities in Australia, The United States, and Canada have all banned mermaids (and mermen) from public pools.
So when Profiles x Marble joined Natasha on her first dive at the River Safari, we wanted to get up close and learn about her journey into the uncertainty of technical mermaid moves such as barrel rolls, living the ethereal dream of hanging out on sexy rocks with other merfolk, and the real risk of drowning in front of bewildered kids and parents on a weekend afternoon.
On How She Got Started Mermaiding...
My sister had a friend that was performing at the River Safari, which I got invited to watch. I was pretty surprised because I had no idea mermaiding could be a thing. It was when I watched them that I started to realize how free they looked on the inside, so confident with their breathing and graceful in their movements.
I was intrigued, and when I told my sister I wanted to give it a try, I felt surprised. Still, deep inside, I wanted that challenge, I wanted to know if I could do what they did.
On Growing Up...
I was often soft-spoken and quiet in school. An easy task, such as making friends, would take me a long time to do.
I had an intense fear of animals because I felt they were so unpredictable, I couldn't even be in the same room as a friend's pet dog. And to add on to that list, I was also a very weak swimmer.
All these factors played a part in why I was so surprised at my decision to give mermaiding a try. I didn't think I would carry on till now.
But school wasn't bad. I had an interest in netball, so I spent half my time immersing myself in training and loving the sport.
On Coping With Self Doubt And Fear...
My family has always been very supportive, and that helps me in a big way. They may not necessarily understand why I do certain things like mermaiding, but they don't stop me from pursuing my interests. Looking back, I'm thankful for the freedom I had growing up.
I got over some of my biggest hurdles working as an air stewardess in Singapore Airlines. During those five and a half years, I learned how to open up to people a great deal. I also found that doing things I enjoy helps me get in the right state of mind.
Natasha bashfully reveals she locks herself in the room in the dead of night drawing for hours on end while sometimes listening to old-school boy band music.
I started coping with my fear of animals when I realized that it wasn't the animal I was afraid of, but not being able to anticipate or read their next move. When you cope with that uncertainty, you manage the fear that disempowers you.
Looking back at my first practice dive into the manatee tank, I was extremely nervous. I remember diving in and learning that Manatees liked giving hugs, so when they started to crowd towards me and I panicked.
By the time I resurfaced, I was extremely pale, and my lips had turned blue from the lack of oxygen. That was my first experience, and it's taught me never to be paralyzed by fear but to cope and keep moving ahead.
I've gotten used to them, and they are very calm creatures, each dive has been an enjoyable experience.
On Planning and Preparation...
Getting in the mental state of mind is vital to staying underwater for longer. For one, you tend to stay much calmer and not expend that air you have because of panic. I tend to get quite self-conscious when performing; I don't want my audience to feel uncomfortable when they watch me. So remaining calm is something I'm always going to be working at improving.
I do light workouts to maintain my core strength and stamina, so that includes glute exercises and cardio, but before each dive, I do some breathing exercises and some meditation.
I want to inspire the people who watch me, to show them that as long as you try and push boundaries, you will achieve what you least expect about yourself.
And when it comes to fear, as long as you learn to trust yourself. You will eventually get over the fear. The process might be slow, but you will surely overcome it.
On Sleep and Bedtime Routines...
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