OPINION | PAPER TRAILS: Central Arkansas mermaid extols the dangers and rewards of an underwater workplace

AN ARKANSAS MERMAID Little Rock mermaid performer Brittany Sparkles is featured in "MerPeople," a new Netflix docuseries that debuts Tuesday.

The four-part series, directed by Oscar-winner Cynthia Wade, follows the 37-year-old Sparkles and others as they chase their dreams in the world of professional mermaiding.

"I became interested in mermaids at a very young age," says Sparkles, who grew up in Saline County. "I just thought the idea of mermaids was so mystical and magical."

She's always been a performer, from ballet to mime, and in her early 20s she discovered that people were making careers out of being mermaids.

"I just thought it was the coolest avenue of performance art I could take because I absolutely love being in the water."

But performing underwater while wearing a heavy, large, mermaid tail has risks. In the "MerPeople" trailer, someone calls it a "danger art."

"If you don't have the skills or knowledge to survive those elements that humans aren't made to exist in, it can be very dangerous," says Sparkles, who practices at a couple of pools in central Arkansas. It's also not cheap. Those tails can cost up to $7,000.

Not that any of that has deterred Sparkles. Mermaiding, she says, "is rewarding on so many different levels. It makes me feel fulfilled creatively. It keeps me healthy and it's made me a stronger, better person and pushed me to my wildest limits."

Sparkles is regular at the annual MerMagic Con gathering, and it was through connections there that she became involved in "MerPeople." Her portion was filmed over two years around Central Arkansas. She hasn't yet seen the series, and admits that there is some trepidation to watching herself onscreen.

"It's a really wild experience. Part of me wants to hide under a rock, or peek through a curtain and watch it by myself. The other part of me wants to embrace it and experience it with a friend. Ultimately, that's what I think I'm going to do."

CONGRATS TO CHAD Former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Chad Day was part of the Wall Street Journal team that won the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting on May 8. Day and his colleagues reported in the Journal's "Capital Assets" series on how thousands of federal officials owned or traded stocks in companies they or their agency oversaw.

While at the Democrat-Gazette he reported on topics ranging from the Phillips County court system, the use of a restraint device called the Wrap at the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center and the deadly 2014 tornadoes in Vilonia and Mayflower.

After leaving these latitudes, Day worked for The Associated Press in Washington and in February returned to the AP as its new chief elections analyst.

email: sclancy@adgnewsroom.com