Tattoo'd On the Soul

An opportunity to tell the stories hidden behind one’s tattoos can be a dream for some. As the once-taboo art form becomes ever-more popular, we asked Emerson students to reflect on their ink. For many people, tattoos can be a window into their soul. The art students we spoke to revealed that their tattoos hold deep significance in their lives—they are symbols of strength, proof of having overcome adversity, and reminders of their roots.

Tattoos are becoming more and more common as our generation grows and matures. By the end of our lifetimes, it is likely that the negative stigmas currently surrounding tattoos will have diminished. The judgement clouding past generations on the idea of body art will hopefully be lifted and replaced with positivity.

Below are the stories behind six tattoos: physical manifestations of small revolutions that have happened inside us; they serve as tangible reminders of who we really are.

 Gabby Mancuso, WLP

Gabby Mancuso, WLP

“I had saved up all my money working forty hours a week to go to Coachella with my best friend. We made a Coachella bucket list. When it was time to leave, we were sitting in the airport and she said, ‘The only part of the bucket list we didn't complete was getting a tattoo for you.’ So we walked out of LAX, got a taxi to the nearest tattoo parlor, and got fries from In & Out. I got this tattoo while eating fries. It says 'YAWP,' which is a quote from a Walt Whitman poem used in my favorite movie, Dead Poets Society. Poetry is the only consistent thing I've loved my entire life.”

 Gabby Mancuso, WLP

Gabby Mancuso, WLP

“Om Namah Shivaya is a yoga mantra that means ‘I bow to my inner self.’ Yoga is a huge part of my life, but more importantly, my tattoo reminds me of a song my mother used to play in the car—one she learned on a yoga retreat that incorporated this mantra. My sister, mother, father and I used to sing all 6 minutes of that song, and still do. I find myself repeating it to myself when I have to make big decisions in life.”

 Julianna Sy, Marketing Communications

Julianna Sy, Marketing Communications

“Sylvia Plath's bee poems reflected how I was feeling at a time in my life, and learning how to accept myself with serious anxiety was a really big deal for me.”

 Stanson Afoa, Communication Studies

Stanson Afoa, Communication Studies

“This [ribcage] tattoo is artwork from the poem 'Masks' by Shel Silverstein. It was a gift to myself for coming out to my family, which is by far the most difficult thing I've had to do in life. It's a reminder to always push to be authentic and genuine and—as the poem points out—to be proud of my ‘blue skin.’ The tattoo on my chest is a family tattoo that my siblings and I all have. Everyone in my family has the initials SA and there are six of us. Family has always been the most important thing in my life and I wear that tattoo with pride.”

 Sara Mae Henke, WLP

Sara Mae Henke, WLP

“I got the black-eyed susans because they are the Maryland state flower. It was during a time in my life when I felt really unstable, and having a reminder of my roots was really comforting to me. I got it done in a super spur the moment decision on my favorite street in Baltimore and my best friend held my hand through the whole thing.”

Text by Margeaux Sippell

Photos by Sara Nagie