• FIVE PEOPLE ON WHY THEY LOVE THEIR FACE TATTOOS

    TEXT by KARAN TELI PHOTOGRAPHY KARAN TELI for Dazedbeauty.comface tattoo tattoos stigma photography
    PHOTOGRAPHY KARAN TELI

    FIVE PEOPLE ON WHY THEY LOVE THEIR FACE TATTOOS


    TEXTKARAN TELIPHOTOGRAPHYKARAN TELI

    FROM SMALL PIECES TO FULL FACE COVERAGE, FIVE CREATIVES EXPLAIN THE MEANING BEHIND THEIR TATTOOS AND DISCUSS THE STIGMA SURROUNDING THEM

    Months can be spent on creating the perfect piece of tattoo art; the design, sizing, placement, colours, and shades all have to be taken into consideration. For the most part, once they are finished and shown to the world, they’re usually met with a positive, beautiful response. 

    And then there’s face tattoos. The stigma around face tattoos still seems to be widely negative and the government almost banned under 21s from getting them. No matter what age, gender, or career path the individual falls into, there are unfortunately still stereotypes and assumptions that come with getting face tattoos. 

    It’s time to address those misconceptions face-first (excuse the pun) and break the negative stigma behind them. They too are usually beautiful works of art with careful consideration and time taken into perfecting them – so why should they, and the people who have them, be dismissed so easily?

    To explore this, I spoke to and documented five people from different walks of life – ranging from musicians to tattoo artists to retail workers – to understand more about their face tattoos and the stereotypes and hardships they’ve faced since getting their ink. From small tattoos to full face coverage, they explain how these pieces of art don’t change who they are. 

    JGRREY

    How old were you when you got your first face tattoo? What made you want to get it on your face? 

    JGrrey: I was 26; I got them about three months ago. My friend Traphouse did it for me. He’s done most of my tattoos and has been in some of my music videos. He’s become a bit infamous in the tattoo scene. It’s funny, never in my life did I want a face tattoo. Then I went through, and am still going through, something during lockdown, and for some reason the tattoos I have on my face – ‘me’ on one side and ‘you’ on the other – are so layered and mean so much to me. They are the tattoos that undoubtedly mean the most to me (equal probably to my ‘mother’ and ‘father’ tattoos on my arm). I felt it had to go on my face, it had to. That was part of it all.

    Can you tell us a bit more about the designs and what they mean to you? 

    JGrrey: It was always going to say ‘me’ and ‘you’ – that’s always what I wanted. I was back and forth with Trap on the placement, font, and whether I wanted a question mark after each. It’s italic which wasn’t my initial plan, but was softer than the font I originally had in mind. There’s a lot of stigma around face tattoos, so any way I could soften it up and make it seem more like art, I took the opportunity.

    Were you scared of reactions from your parents and the general public?

    JGrrey: Interestingly, if you had asked me this at 20 years old, I would have been terrified of the reaction of my parents, but I wouldn’t have given a fuck about the reaction from the general public. But today, the reaction from my parents didn’t come into play, and I was more aware of the general public’s reaction than my parents’ reaction. Sometimes I’m aware of it; when I’ve got my gold grills in and my edges are laid and generally have a lot of gold on, sometimes I come across a certain way to people. It’s a shame because if you know me, you know I’m a nerd and an anxious mess. I don’t like some of the judgements people make about face tattoos.

    “IT CHANGES PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS ON HOW THEY THINK YOU MIGHT VIEW LIFE. I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO MAINTAIN THAT I’M STILL A GOOD PERSON. I’M STILL ME. IT’S NOT CHANGED ANYTHING” – JGRREY

    How do you think it’s changed people’s perceptions of you? 

    JGrrey: It has definitely changed people’s perception of me. You can tell people you don’t give a fuck and repeat it over and over again, but when I got hand tattoos, I could tell people thought, ‘Oh she doesn’t give a fuck’, and then when I got face tattoos people thought, ‘Oh, she really doesn’t give a fuck’. It changes people’s perceptions on how they think you might view life. I’ve had people say, ‘I don’t like face tattoos’, and had older people ask if they’re real. I feel like I have to maintain that I’m still a good person. I’m still me. It’s not changed anything.  

    What are some misconceptions around getting face tattoos? 

    JGrrey: That they hurt. I was very prepared to be in a lot of pain, and I was hoping I’d come off that chair and think I’m never doing that again, but quite the contrary. It didn’t hurt at all, and I promised my brother I’d never get face tattoos and then when I did, I promised I’d never get any more. But it was quite easy to acquire these two...  A lot of people asked me if I was alright after I got them and would ask if everything was OK. People started showing they cared about my wellbeing, I was thinking, ’Haha, finally’. People definitely start changing when you throw caution to the wind and draw on your face. A misconception is that there’s something wrong with you, but there isn’t. I’m fucking fine.  

    Is there anywhere you’d never get a tattoo?

    JGrrey: I’ve always wanted a tattoo from the bottom of my lip, straight down my neck to my belly button. So maybe there isn’t a place I wouldn’t get a tattoo, which is worrying.

    SAMMY FARROW

    How old were you when you got your first face tattoo? What made you want to get it on your face? 

    Sammy Farrow: I was 20. I just like to try things. I’d been getting tattoos on my arms, legs, torso, and neck, and I wanted to start having a new part of my body tattooed. I’ve always thought that tattoos are so beautiful, and an amazing way of expression, and I’d seen them done on the face in such a beautiful way, so I just had to get my face done.

    Can you tell us a bit more about the designs and what they mean to you? 

    Sammy Farrow: Tattoos, especially face tattoos, often have a negative stigma. The main media portrayals of face tattoos are always aggressive, so I made sure for mine to be soft. I have a few plants – a rose, a wreath, ivy, things that are beautiful to me. I have ‘GENTLE’ tattooed on the side of my face, because being tall and covered in tattoos, people’s first perception of me is something bad, that I’m not going to be a nice person, so I got ‘GENTLE’ as a statement, which says: despite the tattoos, I am a gentle, normal person. Same thing with having ‘ANGELIC STILL’ above my eyebrow, and ‘LOVER’ under my eye. Some art on your face does not make you a bad person.

    “PEOPLE JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER BUT THEN ACTUALLY LOOK MORE IN DEPTH AND REALISE THAT IT’S JUST BEAUTIFUL ART ON THE FACE” – SAMMY FARROW

    How do you think it’s changed people’s perceptions of you? 

    Sammy Farrow: There’s still a large number of people who associate face tattoos with negativity, and I get a lot of people staring at me. But I’ve also had a lot of people apologise to me for staring, and saying they were just looking at my face tattoos and then they compliment them. People judge a book by its cover but then actually look more in depth and realise that it’s just beautiful art on the face. 

    What are some misconceptions around getting face tattoos?

    Sammy Farrow: That you can’t get a job; you’re up to no good; you’re scary; you’re lower than them; all stuff like that, which I’ve always found so silly. If you were a friendly person before getting a tattoo, you will be a friendly person after getting tattooed – getting a tattoo doesn’t change your personality. I can see people look at me, and I can tell by their facial expression that they’re thinking these misconceptions, when in reality I’m just enjoying a nice walk or something.

    Have you ever been turned down for a job because of it? If not, is it something you worry about happening? 

    Sammy Farrow: Never. Since I started getting my face tattoos, I’ve worked two jobs in central London and have recently started a new job outside of the city, all in fashion retail. I can imagine the sort of jobs that would turn someone with face tattoos down, but if you’re getting tattooed on your face, I assume you wouldn’t aspire to work one of those jobs in the first place. But I don’t agree with being turned down for a job just for having a tattoo on your face.

    Is there anywhere you’d never get a tattoo?

    Sammy Farrow: Not at all. I have a tattoo on every part of the body that 99 per cent of the time, people would say ‘no way’ to. I don’t have any abnormal places left to get a tattoo.

    TAMARA SKERRITT

    How old were you when you got your first face tattoo? What made you want to get it on your face? 

    Tamara Skerritt: I was 17 when I got my first face tattoo. I got it simply because it’s always been a look I’ve liked and wanted for myself. 

    Can you tell us a bit more about the designs and what they mean to you? 

    Tamara Skerritt: Some of my tattoos have meaning; like the ‘ReJoyce’ above my eyebrow. We all know the meaning of Rejoice is to feel or show great joy towards something or someone, however, my grandmother’s name is Joyce and she is the light of my life, so I mixed the two and now she’s always with me. Some of my other tattoos range from spontaneity to just liking the design itself. 

    Were you scared of reactions from your parents and the general public?

    Tamara Skerritt: Growing up and having tattoos at a young age, my mother wasn’t my biggest fan. I would perform them secretly, but I knew my goal was to become a tattooist. Now being an adult, she understands as to why I was so rebellious towards it. As for the public, I couldn’t care less! There’s pros and cons with having face tattoos – from people staring at me, to people stopping me in the street and asking me to feature in shoots, to cool compliments. But it all comes with the look you create for yourself. 

    How do you think it’s changed people’s perceptions of you? 

    Tamara Skerritt: Small-minded people who attempt to challenge me are always fun – they always seem to think it’s a cry for help or that it relates to something dark, which is obviously incorrect. People who know me understand my journey and are aware that, for me, it’s a way of life, so they accept it. 

    “I WOULD TATTOO EVERYWHERE IF I COULD. THERE’S NO LIMIT ON EXPRESSING YOURSELF, SO DO IT WHILE YOU’RE HERE TO LEAVE YOUR STAMP ON THE WORLD” – TAMARA SKERRITT

    What are some misconceptions around getting face tattoos?

    Tamara Skerritt: That you come from a neglected or criminal background; that you’re crying out for help; that you can’t work in the corporate field; that you’ll ‘regret it when you’re older’; that you have bad/poor intentions. The list can go on…

    Have you ever been turned down for a job because of it? If not, is it something you worry about happening? 

    Tamara Skerritt: Never. If a job wants you, they’ll accept you for whatever you look like and who you are. Why would I stress myself out, or put myself in a situation where I know a field may potentially not accept me anyway? What’s the difference between myself and someone without facial tattoos if we both carry out the same task efficiently? The stigma surrounding facial tattoos in a working environment, and in general, is poor. 

    Is there anywhere you’d never get a tattoo?

    Tamara Skerritt: I would tattoo everywhere if I could. I tattooed my palm and I loved it. My eyelids are one of my top three favourites, along with my nipples and palm. There’s no limit on expressing yourself, so do it while you’re here to leave your stamp on the world!

    ONENINENINE

    How old were you when you got your first face tattoo? What made you want to get it on your face? 

    oneninenine: I want to say 22 or 23 years old, but I honestly can’t remember. I can’t lie, I just wanted more tattoos on show. I’ve got loads on my body, I just wanted some on my face. It was always the next step for me. 

    Can you tell us a bit more about the designs and what they mean to you? 

    oneninenine: ‘HIRO’ is the first EP I ever released. ‘13’ is when I was born – of course everyone says that’s the unlucky number, so I wanted to reverse that stigma. ‘REAL FACES’ is House of Pharaohs’ first mixtape and I was a part of that. ‘Alpha and Omega’ is all about keeping your eyes on the beginning and the end. 

    How do you think it’s changed people’s perceptions of you? 

    oneninenine: I wouldn’t even know. People who may not know me, when they walk past me, probably do have a negative perception of me. When I first got them, I used to always ask myself, ‘Why are people just staring at me?’ Then I remembered it’s probably because I’ve got tattoos on my face. I don’t think it changed my friends’ perception at all though.

    “(THERE’S A MISCONCEPTION) THAT THEY HURT. THEY’RE PROBABLY SOME OF THE EASIEST TATTOOS THAT I’VE GOTTEN” – ONENINENINE

    What are some misconceptions around getting face tattoos?

    oneninenine: That they hurt. They’re probably some of the easiest tattoos that I’ve gotten. 

    Have you ever been turned down for a job because of it? If not, is it something you worry about happening? 

    oneninenine: Not at the moment. I’m currently working in music, where tattoos are probably more celebrated than they are condemned. But in my life, I do feel like I’ve been rejected because of tattoos. Not even just face tattoos, the ones on my neck and my hands probably caused that. 

    Is there anywhere you’d never get a tattoo?

    oneninenine: The sole of my foot. Apparently it’s the worst feeling because of the tickling – I can’t even imagine. Or the palm of my hands. 

    FIONA SONOLA

    Can you tell us a bit more about the tattoo designs and what they mean to you?

    Fiona Sonola: On the right side of my face, I have a Sailor Moon stick-and-poke tattoo. It was the first anime I watched as a kid, and I’m somewhat sentimental about it. I love anime so much, it’s my getaway from the real world. On the opposite side, it says ‘sweet’ in Old English. I just thought it was cute, it didn’t need too much thought.

    How do you think it’s changed people’s perceptions of you? 

    Fiona Sonola: I don’t think it has. I think it’s a bit naive to make assumptions off looks alone – people can surprise you. My friends’ siblings do think I’m quite cool though, which is sweet. 

    “MY FRIENDS’ SIBLINGS DO THINK I’M QUITE COOL THOUGH, WHICH IS SWEET” – FIONA SONOLA

    What are some misconceptions around getting face tattoos? 

    Fiona Sonola: That you’re jobless, up to no good, or that your decision-making skills are a bit off. I was in Seoul last year, and I stayed in Hongdae which has cool nightlife. I saw loads of Koreans who had their faces covered with tattoos. I commend them, since tattoos in general aren’t seen in a positive light in Korea. You need to have a medical license to do one, so being a tattoo artist is illegal; studios often get raided by police. In Japan, they recently ruled that it’s not illegal to tattoo without a medical license, so hopefully things will change slowly. 

    Is there anywhere you’d never get a tattoo?

    Fiona Sonola: Maybe my armpits. The thought of the discomfort and the fact that I’m ticklish is a ridiculous mix. Oh, and the eyeballs. It’s not really tattooing since they have to inject the eye, but if you Google it you’ll see enough horror stories.


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