We had the good fortune of connecting with Chè Monique and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chè, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind the success of Mermaid Chè Monique and the Society of Fat Mermaids is community. As much as I am a solopreneur, I would not have accomplished anything without a strong community behind me. There is my personal community and support network that bolster me and give me opportunities, and there is also the community that supports both Mermaid Chè Monique and Society of Fat Mermaids.

Since childhood, I have always been a little eccentric. I remember seeing a t-shirt on the National Mall that said, “Normal is Boring,” when I was about nine years old, and it really resonated with me. As such, I’ve never been a particularly popular person. Growing up rather than making lots of friends, I’ve always had a few close friends who’ve been with me for years. I would have no success if I didn’t have the support and encouragement of my friends and family.

My mother was raised to play it safe and do what was expected of her, so she really pushed me to be a strong self-advocate and really live out loud. She also allowed me to live in her basement while I was starting my business. My husband has been a mer wrangler, photographer, model, delivery person, armchair phycologist, design consultant, and more. I have friends who proofread my print products, friends who photograph me on the low, friends who model for me, friends who front me money for big projects, friends who are the first in line to shop from Society of Fat Mermaids, as well as friends who volunteer to vend and street team for me. As I entered the world of merfolk, my mer friends have supported, encouraged, and helped me in numerous ways, such as helping manage my social media presence, sharing equipment with me, and teaching me. I am incredibly grateful to have such a strong personal community. What I have described barely scratches the surface regarding the help, support, and encouragement I receive from my people.

There is another larger community behind my success: the community of people who have been touched by and support Society of Fat Mermaids and Mermaid Chè Monique. There have been days when I’m like, why am I doing this? I should just stop. I can’t though, Society of Fat Mermaids is so much more than me. Folks have started mermaiding because of us; folks have used us as a tool to accept themselves. We gave merfolk a way to talk about racial justice that they and their audiences would understand. Folks see Society of Fat Mermaids and Mermaid Chè Monique, and they are like, YES. We exist to celebrate folks who often aren’t celebrated, and in turn, our audience is very loyal. As a small business owner, I’ve made many mistakes, but our community’s ongoing support and encouragement keeps me going.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Shello!

I am Mermaid Chè Monique a mermaid model, performer and MERtivational speaker. I am the founder of Society of Fat Mermaids.

Society of Fat Mermaids is a size-inclusive clothing line and community that celebrates and centers fat folk. We sell t-shirts sized S-6XL and swimmable leggings XS-5XL as well as other mermaid themed apparel. Our online community, social media platforms, and podcast, “Fat Mermaids Make Waves,” provide resources and information for fat merfolk and mermaids at heart as well as vehicles to highlight and shellebrate other fat merfolk.

My biggest challenge starting SOFM was money. We are still a small business. There are many things I want us to do and products I’d love to offer, but we are not currently able to do the product testing. It’s costly. I am grateful to be running a small business now. The vast majority of our products are made once they are ordered, so I can have diverse product offerings without having to front the cost of inventory. Another ongoing struggle is to find vending partners who offer and maintain the size range SOFM needs. I have discovered partners I like and dream of scaling the business to where we can print and sew our products in-house.

Another challenge we still face is the stigma around the word fat. A lot of people find it offensive. I very intentionally call SOFM Society of Fat Mermaids to challenge that stigma. However, that means that many people, even in our target demographic, won’t patronize us because they have a visceral reaction to the word. Often people unconsciously think of fat people as lazy, ugly, smelly, stupid, unathletic, and generally less than. SOFM is here to upset that way of thinking. Someone’s size does not dictate their worth or capabilities. Even though we’ve lost business by using the word fat, we also have found our success through consistently celebrating and creating a space for fat folk to just be. Society treats fat people like a minority, but there are really quite a few of us. It can be very powerful when you tell people that they are welcome and worthy of celebration in their current body.

As mermaid Chè Monique, I swim, model, and perform as a mermaid, underwater and on land. Every year I pull together the best photos I’ve taken and put them in a calendar I sell. On my social media pages, you will also find “Mertivational” videos I film.

Few people expect to see a 300+ lb Black Mermaid over 30 years old. My existence is disruptive. My objective as Mermaid Chè Monique is to encourage people to live soul-driven, vibrant lives. Our culture gets people stuck in a series of shoulds, and I like to open people to a world of possibilities outside of the checkboxes they were handed for life. Presenting myself as an object of beauty, glamour, and grace as someone who should be admired and desired reminds other fat, Black, femme, queer, mature, and otherwise marginalized folk that they too are worthy of admiration and celebration.

Mermaiding is harder than it looks; swimming is the easy part. Anything I do on land is challenging and involves a lot of logistics as a 300lb fish. I have friends who can be carried by their mer wranglers, but that is not my reality. I think the photographer I work with most frequently gets a kick out of torturing me, but the photographs are always amazing. When you look at any photo of me at the water’s edge, and a wave is doing something really cool, ask yourself how many waves had to crash in my face before we got the shot?

As I take my swimming and underwater performance to the next level, I increasingly have to treat myself as an athlete with training protocols and treat my body well to perform optimally. My current challenge is weaning myself off of caffeine to help increase my breath-hold and underwater endurance. I’ve recently completed my NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) Mermaid Instructor Training. It was an intense process, but I’m excited to start helping people achieve their mermaid fantasies by offering classes and training.

I’m in the process of planning two retreats for 2022, a Big Sexy Beach Retreat for any large bodied human or mer looking for a transformative and celebratory experience and a mermaid training retreat to help merfolk take their skills to the next level. I’m excited to continue expanding what Mermaid Chè Monique and Society of Fat Mermaids offer.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The most exciting person in Atlanta is my elementary school-aged niece, so we would probably have a somewhat kid centered time. We’d go to Cumberland Mall to shop, making sure to hit Claire’s for costume jewelry and accessories. Claire’s her favorite place to go. While hanging with her, we would also go to the Georgia Aquarium. We can really get into the mermaid vibe without getting wet. There are so many amazing things to sea there, but I particularly enjoy the sea lion show and the tropical aquarium.

I’m vegan, so throughout the week, we’d go to several of Atlanta’s excellent vegan restaurants. Everyone loves Slutty Vegan, of course, but we’d also go to Soul Vegetarian, Big Fat Vegan Truck, and Plant Based Pizzeria. Cultivate hosts my go to vegan-friendly brunch, but it is not an exclusively vegan spot.

I love driving around Decatur. It’s so pretty; it’s also home to my favorite yoga studio and one of my favorite coffee shops. Still Hot Yoga is down the street from ChocoLaté Coffee.

For grown-up fun, we would go to at least one of Atlanta’s many burlesque shows. Some of my favorite local performers are Coco Rose, Evangeline Laveau, and Bubble Bordeaux. If we’re lucky, we’ll stumble across a car club meet-up. There’s such an awesome car culture here. There really is no bad way to spend the week in Atlanta. The city has it all.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I love that I can dedicate my Shoutout to a book. I’m dedicating my Shoutout to, 𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝐶𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝐺𝑖𝑟𝑙𝑠 𝑊ℎ𝑜 𝐻𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝑆𝑢𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑑𝑒 / 𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑅𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑏𝑜𝑤 𝑖𝑠 𝐸𝑛𝑢𝑓, by Ntozake Shange. It provided me a great deal of comfort and wisdom in my young adulthood. It let me know I was not alone. Beyond that, the title is its dedication, “𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝐶𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝐺𝑖𝑟𝑙𝑠 𝑊ℎ𝑜 𝐻𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝑆𝑢𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑑𝑒 / 𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑅𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑏𝑜𝑤 𝑖𝑠 𝐸𝑛𝑢𝑓” Ntozake wrote it for an overlooked, marginalized, and often taken for granted population. Much of my work celebrates and encourages fat people, queer people, women of color, and those who exist at multiple intersections. 𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝐶𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝐺𝑖𝑟𝑙𝑠 showed me that is something I can do.

Website: www.mermaidchemonique.com, www.societyoffatmermaids.com

Instagram: @mermaidchemonique @societyoffatmermaids

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mermaidchemonique, www.facebook.com/societyoffatmermaids

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/mermaidchemonique, https://www.youtube.com/societyoffatmermaids

Other: TikTok: @mermaidchemonique, @societyoffatmermaids Podast: Fat Mermaids Make Waves available on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Amazon

Image Credits
Main Image: Your Rouge Photography The rest of the images I’m going in order of the thumbnails left to right, top to bottom Images 1-2: SOFM, 3: Circus Siren Pod, 4: Don Markham, 5: Mermaid Wrangler Photography, 6: N/A, 7: Asterism Photography & CreateWell, 8: Your Rouge Photography

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutAtlanta is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.