From The Telegraph:
Nadya Vessey was born with a condition that meant her legs would never develop properly and by the time she was 16 she had both her legs amputated.
Now in her fifties, with false legs, she was approached by a little boy who asked her what had happened to her legs, so she told him she was a mermaid.
Miss Vessey said: “One day a little boy came up, he must have been about four and he saw me taking off my (prosthetic) legs and he started with the ‘why’ questions, you know, ‘why haven’t you got any legs’, etc.
“And I said ‘have you heard of The Little Mermaid and he said ‘yes’ and I said ‘I’m a mermaid’ and he got this look on his face and he said ‘wow that’s cool’ and ran off to tell his dad.
“I’ll have to turn up to that beach again sometime with my tail – just in case he’s there.”
The idea grew on her and so she wrote to Oscar winning Weta Workshop, which was also behind the stunning visuals in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and ‘King Kong’, and asked them to make her a tail.
To her surprise they agreed, creating a prosthetic tail from wetsuit fabric and plastic moulds.
Miss Vessey, from Auckland, New Zealand, said: “I never had a fantasy to be a mermaid. I am still getting used to it because it requires you to swim in a different kind of way.
“Children sort of go ‘oh, a mermaid.’ People who like it more, I think, are adults.”
Miss Vessey approached Wellington based Weta with the ambition of making a tail that was both practical and beautiful and is delighted with the finished article.
She added: “A prosthetic is a prosthetic, and your body has to be comfortable with it and you have to mentally make it part of yourself.”
The unique articulated construction of the tail allows her to propel herself through the water with an undulating movement as if she was a mermaid.
Every aspect of the tail has been custom made to her body and includes a poly carbonate spine and tail fin that has been digitally printed with a stunning ‘scale’ pattern designed by one of Weta’s concept artists.
Costumer Lee Williams said: “It was absolutely amazing. It’s beautiful to watch Nadya swim and to see that dream come true and to be a part of it. I feel quite blessed.
“We wanted Nadya to be beautiful and sexy and it was important the tail looked realistic. What became apparent was that she actually physically wanted to look like a mermaid.”
Weta Workshop director Richard Taylor, more used to winning Oscars for visual effects from movies such as Lord of the Rings, was delighted to make it happen.
He said: “She was very patient. We have not always been able to fulfill some requests. We were engaged in it pretty quickly because it was a challenge.”
Miss Vessey says she is thinking of using the tail to help her complete the swimming section of a triathlon. She said: “I thought rather than just having it as a plaything, I would take it further.”
Miss Vessey began swimming after she had her first leg amputated at seven.
Despite having her other leg amputated at 16, she swam competitively in high school and now swims as often as she can.