More than skin deep

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More than skin deep

Anushka Tyagi

“You can’t be an artist without a tattoo.” Junior Nikki Phan is already an artist. You can tell by a few of her paintings hung up around the art room. But now, she aspires to be a tattoo artist. Though she has received mixed support from the people in her life, Phan continues to follow her dream and is always practicing to improve her skills as an artist. Watch Phan demonstrate those skills and get a glimpse at the portfolio she’s been developing for the past few years.

While 53 percent of students at MVHS would rather be doctors, lawyers, or engineers, junior Nikki Phan hopes to be a tattoo artist.

When she was around 14, Phan suddenly realized that she had subconsciously started following tattoo artists on Instagram. For the first time, she considered tattooing a profession, and started looking into the industry. After realizing that a tattoo artist was a possible career choice, Phan realized that she wanted to become one.


Junior Nikki Phan

Phan, however, admits that she has not always felt passionate about the profession. When she was younger, she believed the stereotypes surrounding tattoos, but now she feels that she has overcome her belief in these stereotypes.

“When I was younger, I always assumed people with tattoos were in jail, or did drugs,” Phan said. “But I think people just need to accept that there’s nothing wrong with it, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s just like, don’t tell people what to do with their bodies.”

Phan feels that the stigma surrounding tattoos is still prevalent in society, and that many people judge others with tattoos.

“A lot of people say ‘You can’t get a job if you have a tattoo,’ but that’s ridiculous, because having ink on your skin doesn’t affect your ability to do the job,” said Phan.

Though Phan feels strongly about the negative connotations tattoos have, she believes that if she was ever in a professional setting, like a job interview, she would keep her tattoo, when she got one, out of sight. “Ultimately, you need money to survive, and the stigma around tattoos is really negative,” said Phan. “But I would hope that some day you would not have to hide a tattoo.”

Though Phan feels passionate about her decision to be an artist, her parents think otherwise, and  believe that itís just a part of growing up.

“My family thinks it’s a phase, but I’m trying to educate myself on the whole industry so I know what I’m getting into,” Phan said.

Certain family members, however, have been very supportive and have even talked to Phan about tattoo designs, because they know it’s what Phan plans to have a career in. Phan is  grateful for all the support she has received, and feels that this support motivates her even more.

Though Phan has faced obstacles in her chosen path of becoming a tattoo artist, she continues to pursue her profession of desire, while questioning the stereotypes around tattoos. She also urges others with negative attitudes and ideas towards tattoos to change their mindset.

“If you think about it, why does having something that’s meaningful to you on your body, a tattoo, make you unprofessional?”

Think about the ink

Students talk about the meaning behind their tattoos


“My mom has three plumaria flowers, which represent me, my brother, and my dad, and I think this tattoo kind of represents my mom.”



“It’s roman numerals on my wrist of my grandmother’s death date. My grandmother was really important to me, she raised me my entire life, and I felt it was symbolic to get.”

Co-authored by Nanda Nayak