Neela has the appearance of an Indian girl, with glossy, jet black hair down to her tail fin and blue skin which emits a bioluminescent glow when she is around other bioluminescence or under extreme emotions.
When Neela arrives at Miromara, she wears a yellow sari.
For Serafina's Dokimi, she wears a dark pink sari with the wrap made of sea silk and the top and skirt are made of thousands of tiny Anomia shells stitched on tulle. Also, she wears earrings, rings, bracelets, a belt with a jewelled buckle and long prong and a ruby necklace and an underskirt.
Later, to disguise herself, she wears a tattered lace top with the collar torn off, a voluminous sea-silk skirt and a military jacket fastened with rusty fish hooks, all in black. To accessorize, she wears fish hook earrings, a necklace made from a shark tooth threaded on fishing line, a belt studded with black coral, black squid ink lipstick, shimmering blue-black mussel-shell powder eye shadow and carries with her a messenger bag with Anne Bonny Roolz inked on in silver. She bleaches her hair blonde and coils it on top of her head and secures it with a swordfish's bill.
In Rogue Wave, when she goes back to Matali, she restores her hair back to it's natural shade and an ivory robe.
After she escapes, she changes her looks temporarily with an illusio spell: she wears a long, neon-blue, boyfriend-size caballabong jersey with GO GOA! across the front and a number 2 on the back, a pair of enormous round glasses, shiny gold hoop earrings, a flashy designer bag and sparkly silver nail varnish, she also changes her hair blonde again and changes her skin to pink.
In the Iele's chant she is described as one whose heart will hold the light.
- “Swallow it, darling. Just like you swallow all your fears and frustrations . They leave such a bitter taste, don't they?”
- ―Rorrim Drol to Neela
On the outside, she is shown to be bubbly and cheerful and used to be obsessed with zee zees, bing bangs and other mer candy. She is creative, but can be tougher when necessary. She is also fun, outgoing and adventurous and loyal to her friends. However, Neela was frustrated with her restricted life and hated the royal lifestyle, where her parents controlled her life and beauty was everything. She longed to be someone else, but as her life was so controlled, she pushed her fears and frustrations down and turned to eating sweets as a comfort, especially when she was nervous.However, when she is free of her palace life, Neela becomes stronger and learns to cope in the real world, taking her focus off sweets and her appearance to her mission. She become a lot tougher, being able to speak her mind and abandons her old lifestyle. She becomes a confident member of the Black Fins and is always willing to help them.
- “Spongecake! There. You. Are!" Neela said. "I brought you soooooo many presents!"”
- ―Neela to Serafina
Neela regards Sera as a close friend and is wary of others around Sera, and is very loyal to her. Her cousin, Mahdi, is Sera’s betrothed which is shown to be an awkward subject for Neela.
- “You're really something, Mahdi," she said angrily. "We are guests of the Merrovingia-invited here for your betrothal, I might add- and you go shoaling?”
- ―Chapter 8, Deep Blue
Madhi, Neela’s cousin, is a bit of a party boy and Neela dislikes him for disliking Sera. She doesn’t defend him and doesn’t bother to help him.
- “Oh, please. I bet you went to the Lagoon. You did, didn't you?" said Neela, crossing her arms over her chest.”
- ―Neela scolding Yazeed
Yazeed is Neela’s brother and Mahdi’s cousin. The two hang out a lot. Yazeed and Mahdi seem to be idiots in Deep Blue, but in Rogue Wave, they reveal the reason for the ways they have been acting is because they joined the Praedatori. It turns out he was disguised as Grigio. Neela then finds out Yazeed is not the idiot and party boy she think he is, but a completely different Yazeed. She also finds out he is a great actor.
Neela’s skin gives off blue light under extreme happiness, stress or sadness. She is shown to be very powerful at fragor lux, or light, spells. Her powers also increase when she is with the other five merls, this is shown when she manages to get her and Serafina into a mirror, and when she casts a fragor lux at Abbadon. She is known to be the one who holds the light. She is also very talented at fragor lux spells, being a bioluminescent. When she does the bloodbind, she develops Ling's omnivoxa powers, Becca's excellent ability at waterfire and Ava's sixth sense of which allows her to have visions and sense things before they happen.
Neela travels to Miromara for Serafina's Dokimi and during the journey, she is troubled by a strange dream of river witches telling her to find five other mermaids. When she arrives, she and Serafina chat and she reluctantly tells her that Mahdi has changed and become a wild party boy. She is furious when they discover Yazeed and Mahdi passed out after a night of partying. This causes Serafina, who is hurt by Mahdi's change, to swim away. At the Dokimi, Miromara is stormed by assassins Serafina's mother wounded by a poisoned arrow. She is forced to drag Serafina away from her dying mother and they escape from Cerulean, the royal city and set off on a journey to Tsarno, a fortress town.
During the journey, Serafina tells her that Ondalina attacked them. A merman called Zeno Piscor shows them to a cave where they sleep for the night. When she wakes up, Neela sees that Serafina's arm are bound and she is gagged and Baco Goga is in the cave with them. His eels tie Neela's hands behind her back and he gags her, then orders his eels to steal their jewelry. He reveals that Zeno betrayed them and hands them over to Traho, who takes them to his camp.
They are rescued by Praedatori who take them to their leader at his palazzo, but the palazzo is ambushed and she and Serafina are forced to dive into the mirror. The mirror lord, Rrorim Drol, corners Serafina but Neela helps her escape from him and they go through a mirror and end up in Radneva and meet up with Ling. Neela helps them with costumes and they travel to the Iele who summoned her and meet Astrid, Ava and Becca. She learns that she is descendant of Navi and that she has to find her talisman to defeat Abaddon. The Iele's caves are attacked and the whole group dive into a mirror.
Neela returns to Matali, only to find its rulers, her aunt and uncle, have been assassinated and that Matali is preparing for war with Miromara. Additionally, nobody recognizes her as the princess, not even the gatekeeper, but she manages to zoom past him and gain entry to the palace. She finds her parents as the new rulers and nobody believes she is the princess until her mother sees her and recognizes its her. However, her mother is shocked and deeply upset by her daughters change and how she looks like swashbuckler. When they finally get to have time to talk, Neela explains her story but they don't believe and think that the events in Miromara have undone her mind and she has gone insane. They order her to be locked up in her room. After recieving a conch from Serafina telling where her talisman is, she manages to escape with her blowfish Ooda and they travel to Nzuri Bonde, but on the way she sees mer working in a labour camp. When she arrives at Nzuri Bonde, she tells her friend Kora about this and they are revaled to be Kora's people.
They use dragons to scare away the Death Riders and free the prisoners and Neela goes into the Razormouth Dragon's cave, where she steals her talisman from Hargala, the dragon queen. She is wounded, but manages to escape and leaves Nzuri Bonde and meets up with her brother Yazeed. The two go to Miromara and meet up with Serafina and Coco in a kelp forest.
Neela, now a Black Fins, helps out on missions and makes a dress for Serafina to see the goblin king in. She is delighted to see Ling and Astrid at the camp when they arrive and does a second bloodbind with Serafina, Ling, Becca and this time, with Astrid.
Neela is a very important soldier in the Black Fin Resistance. at the end of the book, Neela designs a new army jacket for Sera as her old one was stolen by Lucia.
- "Neela" is a variant of the Indian name "Nila", which means "dark blue" in Sanskrit, a reference to Neela's skin colour.
- Neela dislikes pink even though she wears it.
- Neela, Ava and Ling are the only main female characters to not have a love interest during the series.