So legendary pin-up artist Olivia De Berardinis has painted a zillion gorgeous bombshells over the years (she’s been doing it since the mid-70’s and has been contributing an original painting every month to Playboy Magazine since 2004), and is not averse to the occasional bombshell mermaid. Her Bettie Page in a black latex tail is one of the most striking mermaids out there, and she has a few pink-tailed Marilyns and a host of other ultra-glam half-fish half-ladies in her oeuvre, too (not to mention a few other be-tailed Betties). I recently emailed Olivia to see if she’d talk mermaids with me, and though she noted at first that this isn’t the work she’s most known for, she did let me send her some penetrating questions and responded with this charming note:
I probably first painted a mermaid in the 80’s. The tail is very expressive—they’re fun to paint! It’s a great fantasy. I always found mermaids to be more pretty than sexual, though. I figured they were seals or manatees that only looked like women to lonely, horny sailors centuries ago. I honestly don’t understand their sexual appeal since they’re not built for human copulation.
After “The Little Mermaid” came out (I loved that movie), quite a few of the girls from Playboy who modeled for me seemed to have a great interest in being painted as a mermaid. I found it curious that the mermaid image was such a big part of their lives. They had mermaid avatars, art, entertainment, and I know all of them had a mermaid costume. By now mermaids have become a strong vein in popular culture. One model, a few years ago, brought her Little Mermaid music to pose by. Mrs. Hefner is one of the latest women who asked me to paint her as a mermaid. Her painting is in my last book (Malibu Cheesecake) and will be in 2014 calendar.
Most of the time I use a lingerie version of a tail. Bettie Page was the fetish queen, so I chose a latex fin for her. It made a perfect bondage implement.
I think the beautiful Ariel changed a generation’s focus toward mermaids. It was a great movie, and a beautiful story. I also loved Splash!
We went back and forth for a little bit as I tried to find the right images to post (I’m only including ones I could find online that contain her signature) and to clarify a few things (the Bettie mermaids were her idea), and at one point she noted, “I guess I did a lot of mermaids.”