Grace Neutral is the lilac-eyed, forked-tongued, alien princess who has been redefining what we think of as beauty, one body modification at a time. The tattoo artist was 21 when she first got into piercing, and it wasn't long before body art, scarification, and removing her bellybutton followed suit. But although she's worked hard to change what's on the outside, for Grace it's what's on the inside that really counts, and it's only now that the two are finally in sync. Worshiped by millions for her otherworldly beauty, people flock from all over this world just to get inked by her. She's also caught the beady eye of cool girl clothing brand Motel Rocks, with whom she's just launched a capsule collection.
Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
My name is Grace, I live and work in East London and I'm a tattoo artist. I was originally born in Dubai and lived there until I was around seven or eight. Then my parents travelled the world with my older sister and I, going everywhere from Hong Kong to Bali. They ended up settling in a tiny village near the ocean in the south west of England, where I spent the rest of my childhood. I moved to London when I was 20, where I've been working since.
When did you first get into tattooing?
Nearly four years ago. I started piercing when I was 21, which slowly progressed into tattooing because I had an art background, coming from a family of artists.
What is it about tattoos that interests you the most?
Tattoos have just sparked my interest since I was young. I thought they were a really great way to express yourself and I love decorating myself so it was only natural to fall in love with tattoos.
What about the rest of your body modifications?
Body modification was just the next step up from tattooing for me. There was more risk involved compared to tattooing, but that never entered my mind. I just wanted to start this exciting journey of altering my body. I was too elated by the outcome to even think about how much pain would be involved.
What drives you?
I've always been very independent. My family are extremely loving and supportive, but I've always been determined to do things for myself. I never really wanted a provider. I just wanted to provide for myself and prove to everyone -- myself included -- that I could do this on my own. When I fell in love with tattooing, that was the big boost I needed in my life. I finally found my dream job -- it's such a dream that it doesn't even feel like a job. That's the biggest drive I could have hoped for, and it still pushes me every day to evolve and become better at what I do.
What does it mean to be beautiful?
To feel completely comfortable in your own skin, and love yourself from the inside out. Most importantly to not give a shit what anyone else thinks because when it comes to you -- you're the most important and only your opinion matters.
People think of you as a social media phenomenon. Is it weird having so many fans who you've never met?
To be honest, I don't really think about it. I just get on with my day-to-day life. Having fun with my friends, tattooing and meeting new people. This whole idea of me being a "social media phenomenon" whether it's true or not, I don't like to think about it, because that's not something that I want to get wrapped up in. I just like to keep things simple.
Do you think of yourself as a style icon?
Haha! No, not at all! I'm just lucky all my friends have great style and they help me out and put me in good clothes! As far as my body modifications, I don't look at that as a style or fashion, it's just who I am.
How did the Motel collaboration come about?
I've known the team for years, from back when I lived in Bristol, and recently tattooed Jenna, Motel Rocks' Wholesale Manager. We started chatting while I was tattooing her and the idea came from there.
What was the inspiration behind it?
We wanted to create something beautiful that reflected my style of artwork and I wanted to design a pattern that could crossover as modern or classic -- hopefully, something that's timeless.
What's your favorite piece in the collection?
I love the Kimono. You can create so many different looks with it. You can dress it up, or dress it down and it looks good on any body type.
What kind of woman would you like to see your designs on?
Whatever women like it, really!
Do you follow trends?
No, I just wear what I want. I suppose I follow my mother's trend of always wearing black. "Black is timeless Gracious, it never goes out of style," is what my mom would always say, so that's always been my motto when it comes to fashion.
Are you deliberately trying to be different in terms of how you present yourself?
I am not trying to be different -- I guess it just happened. I can't help the way that I wanted to look, and I didn't do it to shock anyone. I did it for myself, it's my journey and it's been very personal to me. It just seems to be the way I turned out.
What are you working on at the moment?
Mainly concentrating on tattooing at the moment. I'm taking on larger scale pieces, like more full sleeves, back pieces and torsos.