i-D's alternative christmas speech by grace neutral
If you haven't already, then 2015 should be the year you break down stereotypes, be more open-minded and stop judging. In her Alternative Christmas Speech, our favourite elfin princess and tattoo artist, Grace Neutral, encourages you to be your own...
My name is Grace Neutral. I live in London, I'm 25 and I'm a tattoo artist specialising in hand poke (machine free) tattooing.
I guess I'm not your average looking girl because I have taken the journey down the road of body modification. Just to brief you, this is what I've done to my body so that I feel feel more comfortable in my own skin… I have scarification on my chin, cheeks and forehead; my earlobes were removed and my ears pointed like a pixie; my bellybutton was removed; my tongue split and my eyes tattooed purple. I also have pretty much my whole body tattooed.
It's been clear since I was young that I was never going to be a "sheep." I never really dressed like the other girls in school or try to copy any pop stars or famous people. Don't get me wrong, I was a diehard Spice Girls fan when I was a wee nipper and did have a few Spice Girl outfits but that was about as far as it went. My mother is an artist who has always taken her main inspiration from different tribal cultures across the world, so from a really young age I was exposed to all kinds of books, photographs and paintings of tribes and their body art. I remember even doing my GCSE art project on body modification in tribal culture. I don't know if this is the sole reason I started to want to change myself, but it definitely had a part in my education in the types of radical and beautiful things people were already doing to their bodies.
I have always tried to stay 100% true to myself and have never felt like I fitted into the box the mainstream beauty expects me to be in. I haven't done this purposely - just to be a rebel or anything. I guess society's idea of beauty has never appealed to me because I feel like if I conformed to the mainstream ideals I would be putting myself in a shell that didn't fit. I have always been one of those people who thinks you should do whatever the fuck you wanna do, so long as you're not hurting anyone. At the end of the day, it's your body so it should be your rules. Nobody should dictate how you should look or dress. You own your body. It's 100% yours and you have the right to do whatever you want with it.
Having changed my body to this extreme, I obviously get some funny looks and comments sometimes, but just remember that the negative reactions from people are only projections of their own insecurities. But it's not actually a negative for me because the ways that different people have reacted to the way I look - both good and bad - have taught me a lot about mindfulness. It has made me learn a lot about myself and the universe, and that the only real way we are going heal the world and break down beauty, racial and gender stereotypes is by living everyday with an open mind and never judging. At the end of the day, the world in general is a very judgmental place, and we don't know other people's stories. When we break down these judgmental barriers there won't be such things as mainstream and alternative beauty; we won't be categorised because everyone will just be themselves. We were all born completely original - why wouldn't you want to stay that beautiful?
Text Grace Neutral
Photography Douglas Irvine