On Tattoos and Body Image

I’ve been a little Pinterest-happy because I had an idea for a tattoo on my forearm. As majority of my pieces are on my back or front torso, I (obvi) don’t get to look at them often and I wanted a piece I could actually see without a mirror. The other afternoon, I took a timed photo so I could see what my back pieces looked like together and posted it online on impulse. I would never have had the chutzpah to do that when I was younger.

I’m not petite by Asian girl standards and I felt this acutely growing up. Medical physical exams would send me down an anxiety spiral. I was self-conscious of my heavy cheeks, my big ass, my cellulite, my jiggly arms, my pudgy belly, and teenagers have a tendency to be cruel.

In 2010, I got my first tattoo. It was one of scariest decisions I’ve ever made, not because of the commitment, or the pain, but because of my deeply religious extended family. I managed to hide my first few tattoos for over a year, but when I stopped, it was a big deal for a very long time. My mother cried, aunts and uncles would make snide, passive-aggressive comments, but I really couldn’t regret anything less.

My first tattoo took about six hours to do. That was six hours of me in a bandeau bra, my shirt bunched up around my waist– the longest I’d been in any state of undress in front of other people. And that was when I genuinely stopped giving a fuck that my body wasn’t what I’d been conditioned to think it should be. I’d gone from, “Don’t look at me,” to, “LET ME RIP OFF MY SHIRT AND SHOW YOU THE AWESOME WORK MY TATTOO ARTIST DID.”

📸: Katrina Pallon

I now have five tattoos and I am so ridiculously proud of every single one that I forget to be self-conscious. While I’m sure we could list all the practical things the money could have gone to instead, it’s money well spent. I don’t see a body that isn’t perfect, I see a body that is a gallery of amazing art. Not to mention a body that has been able to collectively withstand twenty-something hours sitting in a tattoo artist’s chair, because fuck yeah, that’s why.

Steampunk-y PsykoBelles

Last Saturday, Pallon and I did a shoot to showcase the tattoos by Ram Marual of Psyko Studio Tattoos. I’ve always wanted to do a Steampunk shoot and lord knows I like my tattooed ladies so this was somewhat of a pet project for me. While it’s not completely Steampunk (it’s hard to do the whole Victorian-Industrial thing when most of the models have to be half naked– at least by Victorian standards haha), I’m hoping it’s at least still in the neighbourhood.

Photography and Art Direction: Katrina Pallon
Make-up and Styling: Gab Lopez
Corsets by Pola Castillo (which you might recognize from a previous  shoot :P)
Models: Bea Calantuan, Grace Orillo, Monica Lalisan, and Gabrielle Lopez

Truthfully, I wasn’t really feeling up to being photographed because I was the least tattooed girl there and because lacing up 3 girls in corsets wiped me out. But whatevs, the shoot came out awesome. ♥