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UnScarred will highlight the ways in which tattoos bring joy, comfort, and, most of all, a sense of empowerment and how this defiant act can come at the cost of inner moral conflict stemming from religious or 

cultural disapproval.


Shalik (She/Her)

At sixteen, Shalik awoke from a hospital trip to discover her right breast had been removed due to a flesh-eating bacteria that threatened her life. She was left with scars, trauma, and low self-esteem. Over the years, Shalik became increasingly self-conscious of her scars, finding ways to cover them to avoid the internal pain, questions, and stares. One day, eighteen years later, she decided that enough was enough. Tired of feeling unattractive and inadequate in her own skin, she reached out to a tattoo artist on a whim. For the first time, Shalik felt as though she were in control of her own body.


Loo (they/them)

Loo was born with a rare genetic condition known as Poland Syndrome, which leaves them missing their left pectoral muscles, and prevents their ribs from protecting their heart. After spending the first two and a half years of their life in an orphanage, partially due to this condition, they were adopted by two loving parents who embraced them — disorder and all. As they began to develop breasts, the left side was disproportionately smaller than the right (about 4 cup sizes.) After undergoing reconstructive surgery to balance out the large difference in cup sizes, Loo received a tattooed nipple from Friday Jones, which helped them find a new sense of confidence. The reconstructive surgery left Loo’s original nipple on the side of their breast, which they are planning to ink into a UFO to pay homage to the surgery.


Loo was raised Jewish, following the notion that tattoos were taboo. However, after watching tattoos provide a source of power and healing for her child, Loo’s mother found an appreciation for tattoos recently, even getting a matching one with her child.

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Quemuel (he/him)

For fifteen years, Quemuel has carried a constant reminder of a downhill mountain biking accident that changed his life forever. A spinal cord injury from the accident in his teens left him with a scar along his spine, a testament to the lack of control he had over the events in his life. Despite this, Quemuel has found ways to rise above his injury. However, the long scar on his back served as a constant reminder of the traumatic accident. He currently serves as the Chief Accessibility Officer for the NYC MTA. 


SHAKO (She/Her)

Shako, originally from China, is a video journalist living in New York City. At the age of seventeen, she had an open appendix surgery, which left her with a one-inch long zipper scar in the middle of her stomach. Shako always wanted to cover the scar with a tattoo but never knew what image she wanted on her body — that is, until she met Friday Jones, the feature of a story assignment. 


Friday, a sought-after tattoo artist specializing in mastectomy tattoos, mentioned a phoenix, and it hit Shako immediately — this was the image she wanted. At the time, she had just turned 30 and had overcome depression for the first time. A phoenix, a symbol of redemption, was a perfect metaphor for that stage of her life. Shako was tattooed in Friday’s friend's home, who, ironically, was a huge Sailor Moon fan, just like Shako. Sailor Moon played in the background as she was being tattooed, aligning all the stars perfectly for her transformative experience.



Shako updated her tattoo several years laterrealizing that her life had progressed and changed so her tattoo should change with her.

Melvric (he/him)

Melvric was a trans-masculine man with an incredible medical past. At seventeen, he suddenly fell ill with an unknown lung disease. The illness destroyed his lungs, and he was put in a coma for two months before undergoing a double-lung transplant.


As Melvric recovered, he continued struggling with his gender identity. After being told by doctors that the transplant would interfere with any kind of gender transition, he felt hopeless. Eventually, he found a team of doctors who could help him.


In May 2016, Melvric underwent a double mastectomy, leaving scars on top of his transplant scars. He covered these scars with a large chest piece of a Virgo in a three-part session with artist Shane Wallin.


Sadly, Melvric passed away in January 2023 after battling lung failure for a year.

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Stephanie (She/Her)

After being sexually assaulted twice at a young age, Stephanie bottled up her emotions and turned to self-harm. Initially, her cuts were minor, but over the years, they became significantly worse. The sight of her self-inflicted scars made her feel embarrassed, ashamed, and full of regret.


Yearning for a cover-up of these painful reminders, Stephanie traveled to Chicago to receive her tattoos. Her beautiful tattoos now cover the areas where she self-harmed, allowing her to wear clothes she previously couldn’t. 


Though she still struggles, her tattoos are a constant reminder of her ability to survive 

despite it all.

Brenda (She/Her)

“It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” For Brenda, a 35-year-old Mexican American woman, this saying was misconstrued in her childhood to mean she needed to lose half her weight to be loved. Her struggle with obesity led to bullying, failed diets, and ultimately weight-loss and reconstructive surgeries.


After these surgeries, she faced near-death complications and a rare autoimmune skin disorder that left her with painful chest and abdominal scars. The rose tattoos adorning her scarred body serve as healing catalysts, validating her defiance of Mexican cultural and religious stigmas on the path to recovering her lost self-love.

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