Inked Identity: Where Self-Expression and Creativity Intersect

The art of storytelling meets beauty

Body Tattoos as Beauty | Reflect Beauty
Photo Credit: Shina Nova on Instagram

In our latest series, Inked Identity, we highlight the stories, journeys, and artistry behind the world of body modification via tattooing—a beauty ritual that transcends cultures and aesthetics. Join us as we discover the transformative power of this growing movement.

Today’s beauty standards, largely perpetuated by mainstream media, have distorted what it means to be beautiful. As a result, young women and men seek ways to establish personal identity and differentiate themselves from this trademarked concept of beauty; we are constantly searching for something to give us a sense of personal identity, something that sets us apart. Our solution? Body modification. In 2023, we’re seeing POC tattoo artists taking the world by storm, redefining beauty on their terms, and leaving their (literal) mark in ink. 

There was a time when people said you couldn’t get a job if you had tattoos, when sporting tattoos on America’s Next Top Model made you the underdog. Today we’re telling a different story. Tatted models walk high-fashion shows and when one enters a room dipped in ink, they’re perceived as creative or artsy—alternative at worst. In fact, a 2019 survey found that 65% of fashion designers prefer that their employees have tattoos. The beauty industry ranked second, with 43% preferring employees to have tattoos.

@mayonnaisehong Tattoo as Beauty Expression
Photo Credit: @mayonnaisehong on Instagram

It’s no coincidence that creative fields have embraced tattoos. Like face piercings, striking makeup, or candy-colored hair, tattoos signify an aesthetic choice. Without saying anything you can walk into a room and let your body speak for itself. In a world where we fight to be seen and heard, tattoos emerge as a medium for self expression and an amplifier of who you are. 

Slickwoods Tattoo as Beauty Expression | Reflect Beauty
Photo Credit: Slickwoods on Instagram

“Body Modification” sounds cold, like a surgical procedure, but it’s far from that. In truth, body modification is an artform. We paint our bodies with stories, with pieces of content that show the world our individuality. And it’s a practice as old as storytelling itself. 

Tattoos have been a part of human culture for thousands of years, dating back to ancient civilizations such as the Polynesians, Native Americans, and Berbers of North Africa. In these cultures, tattoos were often used for religious or spiritual purposes, and were seen as a symbol of status and power. 

Indigenous cultures, like that of the Buscalon, suggest that tattooing is a far more ceremonial and sacred ritual than a medica or aestheticl procedure. Vogue Philippines’ April cover story featured 106-year-old Apo Whang-O, a Filipino tattoo artist who’s made her mark on everyone from Kalinga Warriors to lost travelers in the mountains of the Cordilleras since she was 15. 

Outside of western perception, which stigmatized tattooed individuals as criminals and prisoners, there are countless cultures who have long-since recognized tattoos as markings worthy of respect. Tattoos are beautiful, each one unique to the skin it inhabits. These markings separate us as individuals but tattoos have also been used to foster community, denote status, and signify shared values, culture, and taste. The tattooed elder women of Kalinga often say that when they die, they can’t take their beads and gold with them to the afterlife. They only have the markings on their body. 

Social media has enabled the present-day tattoo community to grow as new artists emerge on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter to make their mark on the modern tattoo industry.

Just as Filipino warriors were respected for their markings and fashion designers prefer to employ people with tattoos, the internet has its own view of tattoos as well. It categorizes and perceives individuals with tattoos as alternative. Some of today’s most popular POC tattoo influencers fall under the umbrella of the “alt Black girl aesthetic,” a coveted title for Gen Z content creators looking to define their taste and style. 

Tiaret Tattoo as a Beauty Expression
Photo Credit: Tiaret on Instagram

Today, creatives wear tattoos as a badge of honor––an inked identifier of artistry, edge, and creativity. No matter what your narrative or motivations may be, tattoos offer a remarkable and lasting feeling of individuality. They are unique, enigmatic, and illuminating, with significance that evolves over time, and their beauty grows alongside your own.

Mei Pang Tattoo as Beauty Expression
Photo Credit: Mei Pang on Instagram

A wave of WOC Tattoo Artists are revolutionizing the industry, redefining beauty on their own terms, and leaving an indelible mark in ink, but who are they? Stay tuned as we uncover the extraordinary talent, inspiring narratives, and cultural significance of these remarkable artists.

Their stories, journeys, and artistry will be explored in the Inked Identity series. Get ready to delve into a world where self-expression and creativity intersect, celebrating the vibrant and diverse voices within the tattoo community. Together, let’s embrace the transformative power of body modification and celebrate the beauty that lies within our own unique stories.