Confessions of a mascot talent: Keep smiling

She gets rapped on the head by complete strangers and has to endure children tugging wildly at her hair.

Although Miss Pristine Lim's mascot suit takes the brunt of the action, she still feels the thuds. But to remain professional, the 24-year-old cannot show her annoyance or irritation.

"Instead, I turn around, put my hands on my hips and pretend like I am angry but I still have to look cute," she says with a laugh.

It's all in a day's job for Miss Lim, who plays friendly pirate Captain Palawan on Sentosa's Palawan beach.

The 1.58m-tall woman puts on a bulky mascot suit on the weekends to bring cheer to children and their families. The removable head of the Captain Palawan suit alone weighs more than 2kg.

The part-time degree student at a private university has been doing this for the past four years. She works from 1pm to 5pm each time.

On the beach, Captain Palawan is a bit of a celebrity.

Children and teenagers swarm around her, wanting a picture, or simply to throw their arms around her waist.

But babies sometimes burst into tears.

"Those who bawl are usually about a year old or younger. They get scared. When that happens, giving out a sticker can work wonders," says Miss Lim.

Mascots like her get paid between $50 and $200 a day, depending on the kind of assignment they are given.

But this is not a job for just anyone.

"When I put on the suit, I can hardly see anything outside. There is only a small opening that allows you to see the ground, but not be eye-to-eye with the person in front of you," she explains.

Usually, a colleague - also an entertainer - is with her, to make sure she does not trip and fall. She also has to constantly deal with humidity and profuse perspiration.

"I take to work a few sets of T-shirts and shorts because after every session of dancing, playing and taking photographs with the kids, I end up drenched," she confesses.

Some suits come with fans installed within the headpiece, but Miss Lim prefers to sacrifice her own comfort and give those a miss.

"The whirring of the fan makes it difficult to hear the kids when they call me."

It's not a glamourous job, she adds. "There've been times when it has rained, resulting in the large pirate boots collecting water."

Then there is the stench of stale sweat, which is almost unbearable in the first few moments after getting into the suit. "But after a while, you get used to it," she says with a laugh.

She recalls her most memorable moment: "While I was midway through the Captain Palawan dance, the sole of my mascot shoe came off completely, and the kids were all laughing at my bare foot which had become exposed.

"I had to hobble back to the holding room to hunt for super glue to prevent further embarrassment at the next show."

Another unforgettable experience was when she had to remain within the suit, under the hot sun, for another hour after she was supposed to take it off.

Miss Lim recalls: "My colleague and I were on the way back to the holding room when we realised we didn't have the keys. It was sweltering, but I could not remove the mascot suit in public."

In the end, her colleague had to climb through a small window to force open the door.

Despite these sticky situations, the smiles on the children's faces keep her going.

"Seeing them happy makes me happy, especially when they pester their parents to keep bringing them back so that they can see the mascot. That's when I know I've done a good job," she says.

Secrets of the trade

1 Always go the bathroom before getting into your mascot suit. You save yourself a lot of trouble that way.

2 Bring a bunch of safety pins with you. The suit may malfunction and refuse to zip up.

3 Exaggerate all your movements while in the suit. It's the only way you can communicate while in it.

This article was first published on June 15, 2014.
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