Mermaid and merman role-play in Second Life is perennially popular (sometimes combined with pirate role-play). I have had a mermaid avatar in Second Life for as long as I can remember, although I must confess that I do not pull her out that often nowadays.
Here is what my mermaid avatar looked like before her makeover, a system-layers-and-flexiprims look cobbled together from various freebie mermaid outfits I picked up over the years (the lovely mesh tail was a recent free hunt gift from Solas NaGealai of BlueMoon Enterprise):
Well, I decided to give my mermaid one of my patented fifteen-minute avatar makeovers today, to move from a classic, system avatar to 100% mesh!
Here is what she looks like now:
This avatar is wearing:
Mesh Head: the Freya Bento mesh head from Catwa (free group gift; the Catwa group is free to join; more information here). TODAY IS THE LAST DAY YOU CAN PICK UP THIS FABULOUS FREEBIE!
Lipstick: HD Lipstick (part of the Freya package, this comes in a wide variety of colours).
Hair: this absolutely perfect mermaid hair is called Spring Briar Fae Hair, which I picked up for free at a Crazy Hair Hunt many years ago now. I combined it with a hairbase from the Catwa Master HUD, tinting both it and the eyebrows on the Freya head to match.
Choker: This beautiful golden Nefert choker is a free group gift from Poison Rouge at the current round of the Très Chic shopping event (you can join the Très Chic group for free). It hides the slight mismatch between the skin tones on the Freya head and Classic body perfectly!
Mermaid Bra and Tail: This is a freebie, too! Just join the Arata Shouten group for free, and check the group notices for this lovely gift (which was my impetus for making this blogpost). You’ll need to alpha out your legs, of course, using the included Classic Meshbody HUD.
Mermaid Animation Override: I picked up this mermaid AO as part of a free hunt gift at FallnAngel Creations many years ago. (If you hunt around at the various mermaid role-play areas in SL, you might find a freebie mermaid/merman AO.)
TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR LOOK: ONLY L$1! (for the Classic mesh body from Meshbody). Everything else was free!
I have an old, classic system alt in Second Life whom I decked in out in a full-blown Victorian-era parlourmaid outfit!
As a running gag, I created a custom group for her called the Prim and Proper Cleaning Service. My profile states:
I proudly role-play a properly starched Victorian cleaning maid for Prim & Proper Cleaning Services (P&P for short, ma’am/sir). Dusting, vacuuming, etc. etc.
Bring that touch of Upstairs/Downstairs or Downton Abbey to your next social event. Impress your guests! Available for hire at very reasonable rates.
(Did you know a clean sim reduces lag?)
Every so often, when I’m feeling especially mischievous, I turn on her group tag, and unceremoniously plunk her down in spots like retail stores and clubs, where she busily dusts and even vacuums (on a modern-era vacuum cleaner, no less!). Here she is at the new, upstart Frank’s Jazz Club (she used to get routinely kicked out of the old one, where I found that the gate-keepers had no sense of humour whatsover):
So, I decided it was time to give my Victorian parlourmaid a complete makeover, from a classic system avatar to a mesh outfit. Here are the after pictures, taken in the Library at Angel Manor Estate (how very Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey!)
This avatar is wearing:
Mesh Head: the Strong Face Bento mesh head from the Genus Project (a former group gift which, unfortunately, is no longer available)
In fact, the only three things that the before and after looks have in common are:
Hair: Timeless hair in chestnut by *DG* Hair (which seems to be no longer available)
Maid’s Cap: from the Edelweiss Emma Victorian maid’s dress (L$600 on the SL Marketplace for the complete system-layers-and-flexiprims outfit)
Animation Override: Gown AO by Kamilah Hauptmann of Posture Is Everything (a very nice freebie for avatars under 30 days old, which I picked up at the Caledon Oxbridge new resident orientation centre; I added the Bento hands AO from the free Altamura Jenny mesh avatar body package available at the Freebie Megastore in London City)
TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: L$1400 (if you don’t care about the maid’s cap, the price goes down to L$800)
Yes, I am having entirely too much fun in Second Life while I practice proper social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic!
But like many others, I was curious to see if I could use a combination of the freebie Catwa Freya unisex Bento head with the Classic male mesh body from Meshbody, applying a Catwa skin applier from one of the many quality men’s skin stores on the grid (since no male skin was included with the Freya head, just female skins). Let me share what I learned with you.
So I ventured out to Birth, but I found that both of the skins I preferred looked terrible on the Freya head. It would appear most of the Birth skins are meant to work best on specific, more masculine models of Catwa male heads.
I then went over to Stray Dog, and tried on demos of dozens of skins, with mixed results, before settling on the one you see here:
Now, you might think that I needed the collar to hide the neck seam between the Catwa Freya head and the Classic body, but I was actually able to get a close match between the Stray Dog skin applier I used on the Catwa head and the skin tone of the Classic body.
This is Stray Dog skin tone 5, which matches up almost exactly with the Classic body’s skin tone 11, and the included neck fades in the Classic package make it look almost completely seamless! There are even step-by-step instructions on how to apply the appropriate neck fade to the Catwa head. It works well.
No, I needed the collar to hide this rather ugly side view of the neck:
No matter how much I fiddled with the neck sliders, I simply could not avoid a neck that was noticeably thinner at the top than at the bottom. Increasing the neck width or the neck length made the problem even worse.
Another problem was the quite noticeable bulge where the Catwa head meets the Classic body at the front (see the red arrow). It’s a much larger bulge than can be explained away by a man’s Adam’s apple. The best course of action was to cover up the area completely.
So while yes, you can select Male or Female on the included Master HUD for the Freya head to work with both male and female bodies (see the red arrow in the image below), you should be forewarned that the neck area can still look a little weird on male avatars.
So you need to keep in mind that the Freya head, while “unisex” in name, might not work very well with many store-bought male skins that would look okay on a Bento mesh head with more masculine features. So demo, demo, demo before you buy!
I used the eyebrow shaper that came with the Stray Dog skin applier package, and for my starter male shape I used the free, full-perms gift shape from the NoYourOtherLeft sim, one of the three spots where you can pick up the Catwa Freya gift head (just look for a large box opposite the row of kiosks). I made the jaw more angular and square, and the ears a little bigger; the rest I left unchanged. (I noticed in particular that it wasn’t advisable to make too many changes to the nose shape.)
Here is the overall final look for my avatar, which I am quite pleased with:
This avatar is wearing:
Mesh Head: Freya unisex Bento mesh head (free group gift from Catwa; the Catwa group is free to join; more details here)
Mesh Body: Classic male mesh body (L$1 group gift from Meshbody; The Shops! group is free to join; more details here)
Skin Applier for Head: Surman by Stray Dog (L$590 per skin tone)
Hair: the Chris hairstyle in ash blonde is a gift from Alli&Ali Hair (this freebie comes from the free hair wall at The Free Dove; I tinted it a darker brown here)
Collar: Nina unisex choke by RxK (available for free from the main floor of the freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil; comes with a HUD with four colour choices and two metal choices)
All the clothing is specifically designed for Classic mesh bodies (remember to look for The Mesh Project or TMP on the packaging before you buy):
Shirt: Pepe shirt (free gift from KingalStores, available at The Free Dove)
Jeans: Stone jeans (free gift from Dreams, available from the men’s section on the third floor of the excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil)
Sneakers: Jumpov sneakers by VERSOV (free group gift; the VERSOV group is free to join; these sneakers come with a HUD that allows you to change the colour of every single part of the shoe)
Well, Catwa has officially entered the thick of the battle of what in what I used to call the Bento Head Wars, but which I am now officially dubbing The Great Bento War of 2020. Never can I remember a time in Second Life when so many great Bento mesh heads and bodies are being made available for free or next to free!
Catwa has just released a free group gift of a Bento mesh head, called Freya! Please note that despite the name, this Bento mesh head is intended to be unisex, usable for all genders of avatars. Like all Bento mesh heads, you should be able to use the sliders to get as masculine or feminine (or non-binary gendered) a look as you desire.
To pick up this group gift, you must join either the Catwa store group (^;^CaTwA^;^) or the CATWA HEAD Friends group. Both groups are free to join.
To pick up your free group gift, you then must teleport over to the Catwa store, and click on the black circle with the name of the corresponding group:
Once you unpack it, here is what you receive:
The Freya head comes with two recommended starter shapes (“boy” male, or female) an eyebrow shaper, some talking animations, a face light, and three HUDs: a master HUD, an animations HUD, and an eyes HUD (the package comes with rigged mesh eyes).
The “BOM Skin A Makeup Alpha Pack”, when unpacked, contains a complete set of alphas in various combinations (head, eyes, body, full avatar), plus a huge set of Bakes-on-Mesh blush, brows, eyeliner, freckles, hairbases, lipstick, and neck and ear tattoos. The folder includes a complete set of Bakes-on-Mesh skins from TheSkinnery (in a range of eleven skin tones, with and without eyebrows) and a couple of skins from Deetalez (again, with and without brows).
Note that there are no male skins included in this package; if you want a male look, you’ll have to go do a little shopping around! However, if you want a female avatar, you should be able to use these included skins with any Bakes-on-Mesh compatible mesh body (such as the still-available dollarbie Classic body from Meshbody) to get a good look without having to buy anything else!
The “HD Lips Pack Freya” package includes high-definition lips and a lips HUD.
Here is what the Freya head looks like straight out of the box, with the included default female body shape and eyebrow shaper, default skin and eyes:
After applying my favourite Daria skin applier for Catwa heads from TheSkinnery, and adding the HUDs, here’s what we’ve got:
The HUDs on the Freya are the full-blown versions you would expect to find on the full-price Catwa heads. The eyes HUD gives you twelve different colours (here, I picked one of the brown ones). The Catwa HUDs are quite complicated, with many features, and I would strongly urge anybody who is new to them to read through the comprehensive user documentation available on their official Catwa website. There’s even a “crash course” video on Catwa Bento mesh heads by former mesh body über-blogger Strawberry Singh, now better known as Strawberry Linden since she got hired by Linden Lab!
According to the group notice that was sent out, this is a limited-time offer, so I would try to get down to the Catwa store as soon as possible! Here are the SLURLs provided in the original group notice:
As you might expect, the Catwa sims are absolutely jam-packed with avatars picking up the Freya head, so I would advise you to either wait a while for the crowds to die down a bit, or use a tool like the handy free Teleport Hammer to fight your way in. (Also remember that Premium accounts get priority access to sims that are full.) Good luck!
P.S. I forgot to mention that, if you are looking for some free skin appliers to use with the Freya head, there are currently generous group gifts available at both Amara Beauty and at Essences for skin appliers for Catwa Bento mesh heads. Happy freebie shopping!
IMPORTANT UPDATE May 4th, 2020: Due to extremely high demand, the Catwa store has sent out the following announcement:
CATWA GIFT UNISEX HEAD Freya [LIMITED OFFER 3rd to 24th MAY 2020] The gift is is NO LONGER at CATWA mainstore! Activate any of the CATWA groups before going. Detach meshes so you can rez quicker. Please give chance to other by leaving the sim after getting the gift. Gift locations:
Also, I spent some time playing around with the Freya head and the dollarbie Classic mesh body from Meshbody. I found that, once I was able to match the included skin tones between the Catwa Freya head and the Classic mesh body as best I could, I was able to use the included neckfades in the Classic Meshbody package to achieve some pleasing results without any noticeable neck seam (and there are clear, step-by-step instructions on how to apply the Classic neckfades to Catwa heads).
She is looking fabulous at Frank’s Jazz Club tonight! This avatar is wearing:
Mesh Head: Freya Bento mesh head by Catwa (free group gift; group is free to join)
Lipstick: HD Lips Pack Freya (included in the Catwa Freya head package)
Animation Override: Lessie AO by GoldSquare (free group gift; group is free to join). The ankle lock, an essential add-on, is a free gift from Baby Monkey (just grab the blue bag at the reception desk).
TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: Only L$1! (for the Classic Meshbody)
UPDATE May 6th, 2020: I have been tinkering around with the Freya gift head over the past couple of days, and I must say that I am impressed at just how versatile this head is! Here’s a couple of completely different looks I put together.
This princess look consists of the Freya head paired with a Maitreya Lara body, using the starter female eyebrow shaper and female shape that came with the Freya package, and the Madelyn skin applier in olive from Amara Beauty (a free gift!):
And this completely androgynous drag queen look uses the Freya head with the Altamura Romeo mesh body, with the high-definition Freya lips and some makeup from Dotty’s Secret! The male eyebrow shaper and male shape for the Freya head were a free, full-perms gift from the NoYourOtherLeft gift pickup spot listed above (just look for a large box opposite the row of kiosks).
And finally, here is a male avatar I created using the free Freya head with the dollarbie Classic male body from Meshbody. I used the same male eyebrow shaper and male shape for the Freya head from NoYourOtherLeft as my starting point, only making the jaw a little more square, and using one of the Bakes on Mesh male skins from Digital Nude Art (DNA) that I picked up here (a store which, unfortunately, appears to have now closed):