Case study #1: Aliyah

Who are you and what do you do?

My names Aliyah, I’m 5”2, a Scorpio and spend my time making music and studying fine art at university. 

How many tattoos do you have?

I have 15 tattoos.

How many piercings do you have?

I’ve had 21 but currently only wear 13.

What made you decide to get your first tattoo?

It was after I faced a traumatic experience. I began looking into Buddhism for guidance and peace of mind, I became inspired by the symbolism behind the lotus flower and the way this beautiful plant grows its roots in thick dirt and mud. It was my way of reclaiming back my body by making a choice to do something to it that would remind me of what that symbol stands for. 

Are there any tattoos that have special meaning to you? 

Probably my lotus flower tattoo that I just described but I also have the words “I love you” which I tattooed on myself whilst I was going through an abusive relationship, again another reminder to myself that if nobody loves me I’m cool because I love myself enough.

Being Muslim… has that ever made you think twice about getting a tattoo or piercing? 

Yes, I haven’t got any new tattoos since converting to Islam so in that sense I haven’t gone against what the faith teaches. However I still get pierced, because it’s temporary and part of my culture. 

The majority of your tattoos and piercings are covered up - some people might say what’s the point if no one can see them? What would you say to that?

There’s a lot of judgement in the tattoo community about getting only very visible tattoos done first, e.g hands and face. My dad is heavily tattooed and always told me he felt that way which perhaps influenced me. The main reason though was because I was enrolling for drama school, which I did attend, and as an actor your jobs can become more limited if employers know you have tattoos that might not be in favour of the character you’re playing. They teach you at drama school to be a blank canvas, I wasn’t allowed to wear make up, had to take my piercings out, dye my green hair black and dress in all black. I hated it. But regardless I’ll usually choose a place more hidden so I know I’m making that decision just for myself as it is a big decision to make. You should never alter your body for others validation. 

How do your tattoos and piercings make you feel?

Confident! I love being able to change my appearance with piercings or highlight parts of myself I like. And all my tattoos tell a story which is very fun now and I imagine I’ll enjoy them even more when I’m old and can look back. 

You’re an artist right? Has your art or music ever influenced your tattoos? 

Yeah absolutely. I’ve worked with a musician called toshiro steel whose produced and featured on a couple of my tracks that I’ll be performing at an event called Girls Space at Hyde park Book Club on the 16th October. He has a song called dumb and useless which has the lyrics “shoot the gun it’s loaded” it’s one of my favourite songs ever so I tatted a gun on myself! 

What message do you want to share with the world?

Always seek validation within yourself. Outer sources of validation will only leave you feeling empty and have a weak sense of self. Because I choose to cover the majority of my body everything I do is now for me, from my piercings to my shaving routine. I love myself first anyone else who gets to love me is a bonus and lucky them they get to see what others don’t know about me!