‘They will judge you anyway. It doesn’t matter how you look. It doesn’t matter if you look funny, if you have big boobs they’re also gonna stare at you’. Dana Karanélan, a 29- year old piercer working at Body Cult, a piercing and tattoo shop, talks about how people judge people with tattoos. Dana herself has a lot of tattoos, and one day she wants to cover her whole body with it.
Dana was raised in a small village only ten minutes outside of Amsterdam. Her parents always told her to be herself and do the things she want to do. ‘I’ve always been myself. As a 12 year old I was a gothic, wearing long black coats and dark eye shadow, so I’m used to people judging me’, Dana says. She also got her first piercing as a 12 year old, in the nose. The obsession for tattoos came a little bit later. Dana got her first tattoo when she was 23. ‘After that I went to the tattoo shop every second week to get more tattoos. I got addicted.’
But Dana hasn’t always dreamed about working with piercings and tattoos. She studied at a graphic design school and worked as a graphic designer until 2010. In 2010 she lost her job, and that’s when her piercer asked if she wanted to work in the Body Cult shop. She learned how to take piercings. ‘I have my colleagues, friends and boyfriends to tattoo me’, she says. Dana has already worked at Body Cult for five years, and she loves it. She already had three tattoos when she started working in the tattoo shop. ‘My first one is the one on my shoulder which is a tattoo off praying zombie hands with roses and a banner saying, “never say die”’, she explains.
‘I got my dog’s name, and he passed away a couple of years ago. His name was Bika, a Surinam name that means big Negro, but he was actually a really tiny Jack Russell Terrier.’ Dana is showing all of her different tattoos all over her body. She also has the name of her cats Ryan and Zombie on her front legs. ‘I love zombie stuff, and I also have a tattoo of Marilyn Monroe as a zombie’, Dana says with enthusiasm. When asked about why she thinks people cover their bodies with tattoos, she answers because it’s an art form. ‘Some people say your body is a temple, and that you shouldn’t mess with it because God created you like this, but I don’t believe in God, I believe in myself.’
Dana likes to decorate her body with something that lasts forever, and she also like to look different from other people. ‘I don’t want to be a little sheep.’ She doesn’t have any tattoos on her neck and face yet, but she’ll probably get it some day. ‘I want to fill up my arms, fill up my legs, my back, my ribs and I want to get more on my hands. I also want my neck tattooed, and maybe also something small on my face’, Dana says. But her love for tattoos also has a downside. Dana says that she has a lot of experience with people judging her. ‘Once I got beaten up close to Central Station.’ Her experience is that people in Amsterdam are more judgemental than people in the village she grew up in. ‘I’ve had a lot of problems in the city, but in the village everybody is respecting me for who I am’, she says. Dana ends by saying something interesting that shows that your judgment of someone often is wrong: ‘I’m the person who stands up for old people and pregnant people on the bus. I’m the person that open doors for other people.’