Oscoda's Mermaid Places in the Top 25 Finalist in Miss Mermaid USA

Miss Michigan Mermaid The title of Miss Mermaid Michigan 2021 has gone to Elyssa Steward, Oceanic_e, who is using her platform to raise awareness of the state’s water crisis – particularly, the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in her community. As a top  25 finalists in the state title portion, she will compete at MerMagic Con in Manassas, VA. MerMagic Con is known as the world’s largest mermaid convention. According to the organization, the top 25 finalists are to compete in mermaid swimming, underwater posing, costume design, pageantry and activism. The grand prize winner will claim the title of Miss Mermaid USA 2021, as well as a free trip to compete for Miss Mermaid International, which will take place this fall in either Tunisia or Saudi Arabia.

Those from Miss Mermaid USA, state that the competitions are a unique series of beauty pageants, bringing mermaiding, modeling and ocean activism together on a worldwide scale. More than 50 state title-holders via to be Miss Mermaid USA and represent the country at the international level. Mermaid Queens from around the world compete in skills such as underwater modeling, free-diving and traditional pageantry, while supporting causes to help save the oceans.

Proceeds are donated to the winner’s chosen nonprofit and, for Steward, this would be the Need Our Water (NOW) group in Oscoda. Along with being a NOW member, Steward’s environmental activism also includes being a clean water ambassador for the state of Michigan; a board of directors member with Oscoda Citizens for Clean Water; an Ocean Artists Society member; a 4ocean sponsor; and a Sand Cloud ambassador.

As outlined by Miss Mermaid USA representatives, Steward has extensive water experience with scuba diving, underwater photography, free-diving and synchronized swimming. She is also a NAUI divemaster and rescue diver, and a Level 1 FII free-diver. In addition to being a triathlete, Steward was a collegiate swimmer for Texas State University 2017, as well. Further, she is the owner/operator of Swim Lessons of Oscoda, coach of the Oscoda Varsity Swim team, head coach of Otters Swim Club and is involved in the Blue Marlins synchronized swim club. The mermaid organization adds that Steward models in her spare time, performs as a mermaid for children’s birthday parties, enjoys teaching water education courses at local schools and has a static in water breath hold personal record of two minutes, forty seconds.

As Miss Mermaid Michigan, representatives say that Steward’s platform would promote the PFAS movement in Oscoda, where the contamination is seeping into the local water system and Lake Huron. “It is her mission to raise awareness and help get this PFAS cleaned out of our water systems,” the information goes on. “As a Great Lakes mermaid, it is Elyssa’s passion to raise awareness of the water crisis in Michigan.” Not only is the state still dealing with the water issues in Flint, but it is also working with the Air Force to remediate the PFAS contamination in Oscoda.

“The largest deposit of freshwater is found surrounding the state of Michigan and it is Elyssa’s intention that it stays that way,” according to those from Miss Mermaid USA.

A former resident of Texas, who graduated from high school while living in Round Rock, Steward is marking her first attempt at the mermaid pageant. “This is the third year this pageant has existed,” she explained, adding that she would have applied last year but, due to COVID-19, organizers just renewed the former queens.

“I think water education is everything and what better way to spread the word,” Steward shared, as to why decided to try out.

“She is a dynamic and intelligent young woman that we are blessed to have in our community,” remarked NOW Members Cathy Wusterbarth and Greg Cole, in a joint statement. “She has assisted us with engaging Oscoda High School students with our PFAS actions including speaking at the MCL hearing last year. She is donating any prize money won in the competitions to NOW Need Our Water.”

“Jenny Haglund/Oscoda Press.”