The first tattoo I got when I was 18 years old says “Never Grow Up.” It’s still one of my favorite tattoos because it means that no matter how old I get, I’ll never lose the kid inside—the happy, imaginative, hopeful, sweet person that a child is. But honestly, I don’t have a single favorite tattoo, I love them all—the good, the bad and the ugly— because sometimes the most important thing about a tattoo isn’t what it is, but who you were or how you felt at the time you got it. I have some really horrible tattoos—just awful—but I love the memories of the times in my life when I got them. It’s like when you hear a song from a long time ago and an exact memory pops into your head.
While I was in hair school I was also a tattoo apprentice, and learned a lesson that has stuck with me to this day. My mentor would always say, “Pay your dues.” I would recall his words while I was a salon apprentice and wanted to be a senior stylist or a platform artist, before I really knew anything about hair. I would catch myself, step back and echo his words: “Pay your dues.”
Getting any large tattoo requires the ability to control your mind because it’s a test of endurance. (I think numbing cream is cheating!) I spent more than 30 hours having my back tattooed over a few marathon sessions. I couldn’t quit or come back later because the tattoo artist wouldn’t be able to line up the stencil again, so I had to learn how to focus on my breathing in order to keep myself still. But when I finished, I realized I grew as a person. It’s the same in life: If you gave up on everything that was hard, you wouldn’t make it anywhere. Going through the pain of achieving your goals makes you appreciate them more.
—as told to Alyson Osterman-Kerr
[Images: Courtesy of Fabiola Ramirez; Colton Bravid]
This story first appeared in the October issue of Beauty Launchpad. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.