Her dad may have cofounded Patrón and Paul Mitchell, and her husband may be Jesse James, but this drag racer is making a name for herself in the NHRA.
First the right boot, then the left. When she’s putting on her gloves, the order is reversed. “I thought Italians were the most superstitious people—but no, it’s drag racers,” quips the raven-haired Alexis DeJoria. Sitting between qualifying runs at Heartland Park of Topeka, KS, the sophomore year National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racer is doing her best to stay focused for her next attempt down the strip. “It’s just as much mental as it is physical,” she says. “We all have our devices, but this is a sport that’s all about being perfect. It’s the focus that keeps you going.”
So then what does the driver—or pilot—of a sub-five-second, 300-plus-mph Nitro Funny Car think about at the Christmas tree (the starting lights on a drag strip)? Not much. “There’s so much to think about that sometimes it’s just best not to think at all and let yourself react.” That may be easier said than done for fan favorite DeJoria, who garners nonstop attention and conversation—not only for the fact that she’s a woman, but for her visible ink as well. “You could definitely say it makes me stand out even more,” she says. “Aside from the pit crews, you don’t run into too many other NHRA drivers with tattoos. Well, visible ones, at least!”
A self-proclaimed “black sheep of the family” (in which the cofounder of John Paul Mitchell Systems and Patrón, John Paul DeJoria, is the patriarch), Alexis didn’t need her tattoos to stand out; consider them the cherry on top of an extra helping of life on the edge, drizzled in adrenaline. At 16—when other girls pondered fashion and boys—she was already plotting how to live her life a quarter mile at a time. “I had done a little time at the family business, but that’s the age where I went to the races and truly fell in love with the sport.” Already the young owner of a rather quick Chevelle, she picked herself up a used nine-second Corvette and started competing at the amateur level. It didn’t take long for the legendary Kalitta Motorsports team to take notice and sign her to the roster as their second Funny Car driver. Now behind the wheel of perhaps the most bat-shit crazy Toyota Camry of all time, the Patrón-sponsored DeJoria is herself a brand, in part for her body art—which, incidentally, started at the age of 16 as well. But the devilishly grinning crescent moon rising up the small of her back was a baby step in the collection of “somewhere around 19” that she proudly wears today. Her most prized piece is her daughter’s name, by Bob Vessells of Funny Farm Tattoo in Los Angeles. Vessells can take credit for a handful of her work, as can Mark Mahoney and the late Swag.
As for regrets, they’re a somewhat foreign concept to DeJoria, though she is in the process of lasering off and covering up the “Wicked” scribe on her inner arm. “That’s not my life anymore,” says the newly married (to renowned customizer Jesse James) woman with a bit of chagrin. “I’m wicked in other ways.”