It’s funny isn’t it? That the addition or removal of cloth to the skin can directly impact how we are perceived by those around us. The very internal narrative created by people who look on and observe our ink can simply be reversed by training covered. We can alter the assumptions made about us, our income, our backgrounds. Our lifestyles, interests and beliefs, simply by slipping into a long sleeve.
This very simple concept, (a reality that most tattooed women will experience) became apparent to me whilst viewing “INK”. It’s only been in recent years that we have seen the rise of tattooed models in mainstream fashion and couture. Whilst still very much more prevalent in more niche and alternative circles, it is becoming more widely accepted for models to carry tattoos. However, as this short film shows us, we all have a very in-built bias, as a result, most likely from years of operating outside of societal beauty norms and their matching consequences.
I remember the first time that displaying my tattoos directly influenced how those around me interacted with me. (whether with or without disdain.) I was riding the bus to university, it was summertime, and more people were boarding the bus upon it’s already busy route, probably to escape the June heat. My legs and arms were exposed, as was natural for such a hot day.
I was a skinhead for several years, adorned with a large renaissance style tattoo of a cherub, covering the back of my bald head. The cherub, ironically accompanied by the word “LOVE” in a bold gothic font.
People assume things about a tattooed woman.
The journey commenced. I rode until my stop accompanied by the empty seat next to me; unaware that this would become my norm. Over the years that followed and the more tattoos that I adorned my body with, hands, legs, arms, chest; the lower the chance of someone sitting next to me.
Busy Mums’ craving five minutes peace would scold their children in hushed voices for staring, middle-aged women would rather stand in the isles than take a seat next to the unknown creature. I would catch the eye of men, peering over crumpled newspapers or sweaty smartphones, their eyes darting away when caught. I remember thinking, is this what colourful birds in atriums feel like? To be looked at, but never interacted with. I found my behaviour responding to the quizzical looks of those around me. Letting pensioners off of the bus first, helping mums’ navigate transporting three children and a pram onto the street as if I was trying to repair a damaged image that I wasn’t even sure I had.
Any woman, opposing, ‘conventional beauty’ is still shocking to most. To engage with a beautiful form that is deeply personal, and doesn’t soothe the ego’s of the norm, is a dangerous game. People will stare, yell, horns blare on late night walks, or quiet observers flash their dangerous eyes, trying to work out what drove such a pretty young thing to ruin herself.
One thing I have learnt, in the many years and many journeys that followed that one, is that living in your own skin, and to be truly happy there, is worth every stare.
I still ride the bus, now with hair, my cherub piece covered by thick brunette tendrils. And they no longer stare.
by Lucinda Graham
Videographer – Izzy Schreiber https://www.izzyschreiber.com
Stylist and creative director – Karolina Dorau https:// karolinadorau.com
Hair stylist – Deborah Lola https://www.deborahlola.com
Makeup artist – Simona Svantnerova https://www.instagram.com/ simonasvantnerova_/
Movement director – Natalia Bui https://www.instagram.com/ nnataliabui/
Music – Julek Tarasiuk https://www.instagram.com/julektaraz/
Model – Alyssa Be https://www.instagram.com/alyssabeldn/
Model – El Wood via Nevs Models https://www.nevsmodels.co.uk/ models/el-wood
Text – Lucinda Graham https://lucindagraham.co.uk
Special thanks to The Unstated https://theunstated.com
Hat – Ruslan Baginskiy @ruslanbaginskiy_hats
Top – Ingorokva @_ingorokva_
Sunglasses – Miu Miu @miumiu
Top – Alchemy
Shoes – model’s own
Dress – Alessandro Vigilante @alessandrovigilante
Shoes – Kurt Geiger @kurtgeiger
Coat – Mykke Hofmann @mykke_hofmann
Gloves – Yiseven Shoes – Max Mara @maxmara
Look 5 Vest – Vaska @vaska_official__
Gloves – House of Harlot @houseofharlot
Look 6 Cap – vintage
Dress – Norma Kamali @normakamali
Shoes – Piferi @piferiofficial