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,
Miss Vessey approached Wellington based Weta with the ambition of making a
tail that was both practical and beautiful and is delighted with the
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
He said: "She was very patient. We have not always been able to fulfil
some requests. We were engaged in it pretty quickly because it was a
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.