Linden Wolbert ‘03 quit her job in 2005, moved back in with her parents, and poured her time and money into a new career. Now, Wolbert makes a living as a mermaid.
Wolbert, a self-proclaimed “ocean edutainer and entrepremermaid,” spent seven months and thousands of dollars to create her functional silicone mermaid tail, which weighs almost fifty pounds and allows her to swim underwater.
Clients hire Wolbert as Mermaid Linden for birthday parties, Hollywood functions, and educational events. Wolbert has been profiled by CNBC and Huffington Post. She has over 29,000 followers on Instagram and almost 80,000 subscribers on YouTube. Wolbert has even sung happy birthday to Justin Timberlake.
But Wolbert said the best part of her unique job is not interacting with celebrities, but inspiring and educating children.
“I love the ocean and I love educating children and I love inspiring people,” Wolbert said. “Gosh, I can’t imagine something more fulfilling than this. There’s so much joy that my work brings me.”
Wolbert created Mermaid Minute, a YouTube series featuring sixty-second videos covering various underwater topics like ocean currents, trumpet fish, and barnacles. She also volunteers for charities like Make-A-Wish.
In 2013, Wolbert collaborated with water-sports brand Body Glove to create a children’s swimwear line, including tails and monofins for kids.
A year later, Wolbert worked with the Los Angeles County Fair to give educational presentations to families. Wolbert said she performed around ten times a day for a month.
“I answered thousands upon thousands of questions from these sweet children who had so many adorable questions—anything from
, ‘How does an octopus eat?’ to ‘What do mermaids eat?’” Wolbert said. “They’re curious and they want to know, and it’s so much fun to learn those things from a mermaid.”
The 12 years since creating her tail have been a non-stop adventure, Wolbert said. She described her career as challenging since it does not provide a consistent, guaranteed income, but she said she could not see herself doing anything else.
“Whenever I thought about getting a ‘real job’ or working for someone else or being employed by another company full time, it just broke my heart,” Wolbert said. “And my heart was like, ‘Hey, hey, hey! You’re supposed to be following me, not breaking me!’ So, I just really stuck with it.”
While at Emerson, Wolbert worked with former technical director for the visual and media arts department Bernie O’Doherty to fix Bolex cameras and other film equipment. O’Doherty said Wolbert was the best student he ever worked with.
“She was good at fixing Bolexes and all the sixteen-millimeter cameras, and she cleaned the hell out of everything and polished it up too,” O’Doherty said. “In other words, she wasn’t happy just doing it. She wanted to bring out the best.”
O’Doherty described Wolbert as warm, upbeat, inquisitive, and honest.
“She would get a little metal scriber and put a little star inside the camera to show that she worked on it. She was very proud of her work,” O’Doherty said. “Sometimes I get cameras and I see a little star now in my own business, and I know ‘Linden was here!’”
Kerri McManus, director of student transitional services and career advising at ELA, met Wolbert during her senior year. After Wolbert graduated, the college hired her as a resident director and the two became colleagues.
“[Wolbert’s] just a bright light,” McManus said. “She’s somebody who is incredibly vivacious, very talented, and a straight shooter—the bright light that you see or hear is who she is.”
McManus said she shares Wolbert’s career trajectory with the students she advises.
“I will often use Linden’s story as an example of what’s possible because sometimes it’s hard to imagine what you can’t see,” McManus said.
Wolbert said her most inspiring moments have been swimming with whales, dolphins, and manta rays in the wild. Wolbert recommends experiencing the ocean in person and learning to scuba dive, since people tend to protect what they appreciate and love.
“Usually when you go to a place like Seaworld it’s near the ocean. So, why not just go out on a boat for the day?” Wolbert said. “You’d spend just as much or probably less money going out and chartering a boat, and you see the animals in the wild, and they’re happy and they’re free.”
Wolbert, who grew up in Pennsylvania as a swimmer, said she explored the faraway ocean through media like The Little Mermaid and the work of explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau. Wolbert said she wants people to understand their impact on the ocean, regardless of if they live on a coast.
“Everytime I hike, everytime I walk on the beach, I come back with handfuls of trash crammed into my pockets, and my socks, and my pants—whatever I need to do,” Wolbert said. “I’ve actually started bringing bags with me to pick up trash. And the top-three things that I find on the beach are straws, plastic bottle caps, and, believe it or not, tons of plastic lighters.”
Wolbert is on the Board of Directors of Reef Check Worldwide, an organization dedicated to the conservation of the tropical coral reefs and the California rocky reefs. She said global warming is causing a coral-bleaching event, during which stressed coral expels algae, turns white, and begins to starve. Wolbert said this phenomenon is endangering our environment.
“The ocean creates every other breath that you take,” Wolbert said. “It’s like the rainforest.”
Buying local produce and reducing our carbon footprint are essential to taking care of our oceans, Wolbert said.
“There are all these things you can do that, indirectly it seems—but really quite directly—impact our oceans,” Wolbert said. “I could go on and on and on. Ride a bike. Take public transportation. Try to level down on your carbon footprint and decrease your meat intake.”