A commonly asked question by those outside of the body-mod culture is why do you have to get so many? Most people don’t mind a dainty little jewel in a woman’s nose, or a tasteful tattoo on an easily hidden body part, but can’t understand having several facial piercings or tattoo sleeves, for example. To those folks, I present the world’s most pierced and tattooed people. I assure you, your sister’s industrial won’t look quite so extreme by the end of this post.
Guinness World Record holder for 12 years and counting, Elaine is the most pierced person in the world. Guinness has her at almost 7000 piercings, but her most recent count brought her to just over nine thousand. Of those, over 200 are on her face, and over 500 are “below the belt”. A former nurse, Elaine developed a passion for extremes at a young age – aside from her piercings, she is also known for sleeping on a bed of nails, fire-walking and glass-walking, and is an avid skydiver. And, just to defy every stereotype out there, she does not drink, do drugs, or smoke cigarettes, and is married to a man with absolutely no tattoos or piercings. Elaine now runs an aromatherapy and body-mod shop in Edinburgh.
Lucky Diamond Rich (born Gregory McLaren)
Lucky has held the record for most tattooed person since 2006, with nearly 100% of his body, including his foreskin, the inside of his mouth, and his eyelids, covered. The New Zealander became fascinated with tattoos at a young age, and his interests soon turned to the most tattooed people of the world. As a child, he would collect large piles of temporary, bubble-gum tattoos and apply them all over his body, trying to duplicate the look of a heavily tattooed neighbour. By his teens, he was a well-known circus performer, which led to a career in street theatre. He eventually became the highest paid street performer in London, and among the most popular in the world. His act includes comedy routines, extreme juggling, sword-swallowing, and more, all atop a giant unicycle. When he’s not on the road, he is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a tattoo artist. Not content with being the most tattooed person in the world, Lucky is now having his ink gone back over to add brighter colours.
At 453 piercings, Rolf probably won’t surpass Elaine’s record anytime soon, but he has just made his own as the most pierced man in the world. In 2012, he entered the Guinness books, beating the previous holder by nearly 200 piercings. A German computer expert, Rolf keeps fairly quiet about the reasons behind his obsession, saying only that he decided at 40 to enter a world he had previously enjoyed from afar. The majority of his piercings are around his mouth and below the belt, though 50 or so are spread across his body. He got his first piercing and first tattoo on the same day, and soon after became a suspension enthusiast, having now done over 100 suspensions. Aside from his many piercings, Rolf also boasts a full body tattoo.
Known as “The Illustrated Lady”, Julia has over 95% of her body tattooed, and holds the record for most tattooed woman in the world. Julia’s story is a bit different, as well – while many other record holders naturally enjoy extremes, she began getting tattooed for another reason entirely. In her mid-30s, Julia developed porphyria, a condition which causes skin to badly blister if exposed to sunlight. Rather than live with the ugly scars porphyria patients suffered, she sought the advice of a cosmetic surgeon friend, who recommended she try getting skin-coloured tattoos. When that didn’t work, she began having them tattooed over in the traditional way, resulting in an almost complete covering of her body. While it started as a cosmetic treatment, Julia admits to now being “addicted”, and is always looking for ways to add to her ink. She’s also made someone a very wealthy artist – every single one of her pieces was done by the same person.
Several years ago, a new trend in TV, and tattooing, emerged. Various television shows began to spring up, focusing on local tattoo shops, letting the general public in to what had previously been a slightly cliquey and stigmatized environment. People that would otherwise never step into a shop found themselves engrossed in these shows – they, for many, became a more risqué, more true to life soap opera. Viewers were tuning in just to see whether that ditzy front desk girl would ever get fired, or which tattoo artist would win whatever the shop argument du jour was. And those of us that worked in a shop were inundated with the same question over and over: is that what it’s really like?
The answer, of course, is yes…and no…and sometimes. There isn’t a single industry on earth that is entirely free of drama, and many of the things portrayed in those shows do go on in every shop on earth. But it must be kept in mind that this is TV, and the producers want drama. The cameras get turned off during the normal, day-to-day goings on, and only the more interesting conflicts and customers ever make it on screen. If you are looking for only the most exciting, dramatic, and outrageous moments of our lives, those shows will offer the occasional accurate portrayal. If, however, you are looking for information on what the industry as a whole is like, there are many better places to turn. Tuck in and check out these in-depth and informative documentaries on the art:
ANCIENT INK : http://www.watchdocumentary.tv/ancient-ink-blood-and-tattoos-documentary/
HORI SMOKU SAILOR JERRY : http://horismokumovie.com/
TATTOOS: A SCARRED HISTORY : http://www.tattoosascarredhistory.com/home.html
THE GYPSY GENTLEMAN : http://gypsygentleman.com/
THE VANISHING TATTOO : http://www.juxtapoz.com/tattoo/the-vanishing-tattoo-documentary
Ötzi the Iceman has been mentioned a few times on the I-Kandy blog, and for good reason. The approximately 5300 year old natural mummy radically altered the known history of body modification; he had tattoos and piercings that had, until then, only been found on much younger mummies and in more recent cultures. Of particular interest to many were his seemingly stretched earlobes. Before his discovery, stretched lobes had been pretty well exclusively associated with African and Asian cultures, going as far back as Egypt’s famed pharaoh, King Tutankhamun, one of the first known people to have them. Ötzi is two thousand years older, and thousands of miles removed from Tut, however, which tells us the practice of stretching is both much older and more global than we had thought.
There are several famous examples of ear stretching, which offer us a bit of insight into the hows and whys of the practice. Both Tutankhamun and Gautama Buddha likely had stretched ears to symbolize their status: large jewels, unavailable to the common folk, would be worn in the ears, and the weight and size of them would cause the ears to stretch tremendously. It is said that when the Buddha renounced his earthly riches, he removed the jewels, but his ears remained elongated. This became a symbol of his sacrifice, and he was henceforth depicted with long, bare ears. The Moai statues of Easter Island sport very long ears, which may serve to elevate the status of their ancestors, whom the statues are thought to represent. One Moai myth even separates the tribes of the time into the “Long Ears” and “Short Ears”. Several Hindu and pre-Hindu deities are depicted with jewel-filled stretched lobes as well, which indicate a wisdom and wealth well beyond the average person. While all of these cultures and eras differed greatly, it seems that for all of them, stretched lobes were indicative of a higher status.
Status is not the only reason to stretch, however. Tribal cultures worldwide have long engaged in the same practice, but for very different reasons. From Kenya to Thailand, stretched lobes and lips symbolise religious beliefs, coming of age rituals, and exercises in patience and devotion. Several ancient cultures believed that spirits could enter a body through its orifices, and that metal could ward them off. The more metal one could place in their ears, the safer they would be, so stretched lobes were more practical than anything. Others saw stretching as a way to mark moments of enlightenment and understanding – the larger the hole, the wiser the wearer.
Today, stretching has become a common practice worldwide, largely for aesthetic purposes, and to some extent, as a way to reconnect with ancient cultures. Jewelry designed for stretched lobes has become a multi-million dollar industry, and techniques are constantly being refined. In this sense, professional piercers are also historians of sorts, many having researched and experimented with the various types and methods of stretching. Slow and steady is still, however, the oldest, safest, and most satisfying way to approach the practice. When it comes to stretching, “patience is a virtue” is both literally and figuratively true for us “long ears”.
It’s that time of year again – the sun has come out to play, the waters are warming, and we’re all spending a little more time outside. For most of us, summer is a favourite time of year, and a chance to show off our tattoos and piercings. It’s also, however, a time when we should be giving them a little extra love. Aftercare doesn’t end when the tattoos and piercings have healed, and summer is when it’s particularly important to keep that in mind.
While inks and techniques have improved vastly over the years, tattoos are still susceptible to the sun to some extent. Too much direct exposure will eventually lead to fading. Ideally, they should be covered by clothing, but we’re all going to break that rule in the summer. It is highly recommended that, if you are going to be spending a lot of time in the sun, you put extra sunscreen on your tattoos, and reapply it regularly. If your tattoo is newer and not quite healed, take extra care to keep it out of the sun completely, and out of the water (this is why getting tattooed in the dead of summer is not ideal!).
Piercings also need a bit of love in the summer – sweat, bacteria in water, and simply being a bit more physically active can all anger an otherwise happy piercing. Take a little extra time to clean them well with saline, particularly after going for a swim. It’s also a good idea to switch to smoother (more metal, less jewels) jewelry if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in lakes, rivers, or the ocean, as jewels tend to trap bacteria, making them harder to keep clean. If you are going to wear your shiniest pieces to the beach this year, be sure to take them out regularly and give them a thorough cleaning. And, just as with tattoos, if the piercing is still fairly new, you’ll want to avoid water completely.
We all love to show off our body art, and most of us love the summer heat. Taking just a little extra time and care can go a long way in ensuring we have something worth showing off for many years to come.