10 things we learned about beauty at last night's talk with grace neutral

Tattoo artist and activist Grace Neutral sat down to talk about her experience in South Korea filming i-D’s latest video series.

by Lula Ososki
27 April 2016, 4:54pm

To celebrate the launch of our latest video series Beyond Beauty, we held a screening and talk with tattoo artist and activist Grace Neutral to find out more about her experience filming inside Korea's billion dollar beauty industry. Grace -- who has a forked tongue, purple eyes, no belly button, pointed elf ears, and is covered head to toe in tattoos -- aims to promote individuality and break down judgemental attitudes. Over four episodes, the alien princess travels to South Korea, a country where the pressure on young people to conform to mainstream beauty ideals is bigger than ever and although plastic surgery is socially accepted, it's illegal to be a tattoo artist. Here are ten things we learned from Grace. 

Through Grace's purple-tinted eyes, everyone is beautiful: "We're all beautiful, we all have differences, and we all should want to be open to discovering that and being open minded. It's so easy to judge people and we all do it. Fuck all that, let's get down to the real person inside and what inspires these things. People ask me all the time why my face looks like this...because certain things from my life have inspired me and this is what feels comfortable for me and I would like to find out other people's stories that are similar."

Tattooing is not only illegal, but is also still a massive taboo in South Korea: "Tattooing is something that they'd been brought up to think is a taboo and if you have tattoos you're a certain type of person and you're a lower member of society and they have all had those ideas piled on their plate for the past 30, 40, 50 years."

But Grace thinks that's all going to change: "I think because of the open mindedness from the older generation and the pure passion that comes from the younger generation, I think it's gonna change very quickly."

She wanted to unravel why the majority of people have that outlook: "When someone turned around to me and said tattooing is illegal is South Korea and it's really taboo and if you have a tattoo you're a gangsta, I knew that would be the outlook and the opinion of the majority of people but I wanted to understand why that was and if we can understand why maybe we can unravel some things which people have thought for such a long time."

Appearance is important for both boys and girls in South Korea: "It's definitely strong with guys too, I wouldn't say as strong but still very strong, like when we went into Moonshot -- which is the make-up store owned by the K-pop music companies -- there were two men in there who did our make-up, and they were so clean, so proper, so concerned with how they were coming across and how they looked. They were like dolls, manufactured to paint make-up on and spout the propaganda that that company wanted to say."

Keeping up with K-pop is a huge pressure: "It was very bizarre that the media are pumping in this kind of western ideal of beauty which is over-crossing this Korean idea of beauty and that is what K-pop has become, which is a huge pressure for young people, boys and girls."

And the cosmetics market is booming: "It's just a condensed market. You go to Oxford Street, and it's booming and it's overwhelming with the amount of people that are walking the streets -- it's exactly the same in south Korea. People are going to Oxford Street to shop for anything, but this was just one place which people go to where every shop is beauty and skincare."

Body modification should come from the right place: "If you want to change your face, do it because you're uncomfortable with what reflects you inside. Don't do it because you feel like 'I have to look like her because if I don't my mom and dad are telling me that I won't grow up and get a good job, and I won't find a good a husband, and therefore my family won't accept me, and then where am I going to be -- I'm going to be alone.' I don't have a problem with people going out and doing extreme procedures, I mean look at me. It's the fact that it's just an influence, you have to come up with these ideas on your own, it's not about being pressured."

It's all about individuality and human emotion: "It comes down to how you're born. You're born with your own spirit, you're born with your own personality, you're born with your own sexuality. I feel that humans have forgotten about that and that's why I wanted to make these films. I think body image is just the catalyst for penetrating human emotion and that's all I want to do."

And most of all, be yourself: "Be yourself. We've lost this whole thing about loving each other for each other."

Watch the first episode inside Korea's billion dollar beauty industry here.


Text Lula Ososki

South Korea
Grace Neutral
body modification
Alternative Beauty
alternative beauty week