Jenna Conti loves children, smiling faces and happy neighbors. So, when she was asked to take her custom fitted mermaid tail to her community pool to swim with local children, she did. And, her swim started the unraveling of a tale of mermaid vs. community that has garnered international attention for FishHawk Ranch.
Conti first spotted the beautiful custom fitted mermaid tails at the Tampa Renaissance Festival while attending with her 10-year-old son. And, after losing the ability to walk while recovering from a pediatric Astrocytoma brain tumor removed at Tampa General Hospital 7 years ago, Conti can certainly appreciate the feeling of weightlessness and the aura and mystique surrounding mermaids.
She fell in love with the tails and had a dream….someday, she would like to be a mermaid at the Florida Aquarium. How to achieve that? First, must have tail, second, must get dive certification. The first part of the goal was achieved about two months ago when her custom fitted tail was completed by Tampa based company MerNation.
“I just got the tail two months ago it is custom formed every three inches from the waist down,” describes Conti. “It took about three months to design and finish.”
So, as Conti started to swim in her community pool, that is when the children started noticing and loving her appearances.
But, it wasn’t until she tried to take her new mermaid tail to the Aquatic Center at FishHawk Ranch that trouble started. Due to the Community Development District rules that restrict toys, floaties and fins of any kind, Conti was asked to leave the pool.
After a community FaceBook post and video appeal by community advocate Bob Abruzzese, Conti made local news, national news, and finally, international news after her story got out.
“The day after she was turned away from the Aquatic Center Pool, I took my camera and went to meet her,” he describes. “The next day it was picked up by Bloomingdale Patch and then it was picked up by Channel 13 News. After that the coverage exploded. I was getting requests for interviews from news reporters in Palm Beach, Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune and more.”
Despite requesting an exemption through the CDD district boards that manage and maintain the community pools in FishHawk, the rules remain intact and Conti is welcome at them, but just not as mermaid Eden Sirene, her FishHawk Mermaid persona. But CDD board members were very supportive of the effort and encouraged Conti to work with them during special events or even as a vendor with proper licenses and insurance coverage.
She is still swimming in her own community pool in FishHawk Ridge which has its own HOA that hasn’t restricted toys or fins.
Conti works as a hair dresser at Aquali Salon & Spa in Bloomingdale by day, by night, Conti dons her tail and swims in the community pool.
After the CDD meeting, Conti was the featured story on the evening news for Fox 13 and appeared on a Patch Blog. The story was picked up and eventually made the airwaves throughout talk radio in the U.S. and even all the way to Good Morning America and online throughout the U.K. on the Daily Mail website. She has even been invited to make an appearance on a daily talk show.
After being banned from the FishHawk pools except for special events, Conti is not giving up. Instead she is available for private events and functions as Eden Sirene and will continue towards her ultimate quest, becoming a mermaid at the Florida Aquarium.
Next step, underwater diving certification which she is in the process of achieving through Scuba Quest. In addition, she is working with local FishHawk firm, Medearis & Severe P.A. and attorney Michael Severe to establish her LLC and also her nonprofit organization that will benefit children.
“You go into the hospital walking, and I found out there was almost no hope,” describes Conti. “You come out of surgery, eyes won’t focus, hands won’t work, can’t walk, had to relearn everything again and I am thankful to be able to swim as a mermaid and make children smile.”
Conti charges a fee for appearances at private parties but doesn’t charge families to swim with her in public pools.
To contact the Eden Sirene, find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/eden.sirene.