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Generation 'My Way' & The Fall of Tattoo Barriers

According to a survey conducted by Lightspeed Research, women are outnumbering men these days when it comes to ink. 59% of women polled had at least one tattoo. For men, that number was 41%. As the traditional societal stigmas related to having and flaunting ink continue to crumble there appears to be no shortage of falling barriers—including the appearance of tattoos in the workplace.

Carrie Campbell got her first tattoo at the age of 35. It was on her neck. Her second and third pieces - which came only months after her first - a full arm sleeve and knuckle tat respectively. That's fairly audacious by itself, even more so when you consider that Campbell was a Licensed Counselor who worked with special needs children and their parents in a historically conservative industry. Not to mention the fact that she has two young children of her own and within just a few weeks, went from the archetype of a suburban housewife to looking like a tattooed renegade.

One of the most unique and interesting parts of the definition-crashing revolution of tattooing in contemporary life is that visible ink is no longer just for those individuals whose lifestyles and careers match the freedom persona. It has actually become a catalyst to finding that freedom.

Photo by Steve Carty

Photo by Steve Carty

Within 12 months of sitting for her first tattoo, Campbell left her 14-year career as a counselor in order to pursue a new gig as a professional model. Later that same year, she was hired as the creative director for a high-end fashion magazine.

"For me, tattoos helped me find the courage and freedom to go after the dreams I had for my life,” Campbell explains.

I can relate to that.

Available at INKEDSHOP.COM: "Sugar Skull" Stainless Steel Tea Spoon

Available at INKEDSHOP.COM: "Sugar Skull" Stainless Steel Tea Spoon

I don’t relate necessarily from the perspective of someone with a skin-canvas full of ink but more so as the former CEO of a large, international organization who oftentimes hired key personnel, support staff and consultants based on either their ink or their reaction to mine. The generalization isn’t meant to be a crushing censure of our less edgy brothers and sisters. Nor is it a universal decree intended to minimize or belittle those who don’t share our sense of fascination and passion for inscribed body art. I just learned from experience that those who either donned their ink proudly or were perfectly comfortable with mine had a more dynamically oriented mindset.

I found these people to be courageous, creative, free and willing to get off the paved road in order to find epic solutions for our customers, our brand and our service offerings. It’s not so much that they thought outside the box as they refuted the very existence of a box.

My kind of people.

Photo by Thierry Quenette

Photo by Thierry Quenette

Truth be told, Campbell’s very first tattoo came at the age of 19—a black and grey butterfly on her right shoulder blade measuring about the same size as a quarter. But she disregards this piece as her true “first.”

“I got it because it was cool to get a tattoo,” Campbell explains. “The design meant nothing to me and both the size and placing were done so that I could say I had a tattoo without ever having to show it to anyone”.

Her real sense of freedom in life came after the neckpiece—a large, bold “X” for Xanadu, the pseudonym she uses while modeling.

So vivacious and palpable has her new found liberation become, Campbell was recently approached by the world-renowned supermodel and fashion icon - Yasmin Warsame - to work as a spokesmodel for Warsame’s charitable efforts with the African Future Organization. Campbell and Warsame teamed up for a photo shoot displaying scarves from the Somalia Hido collection.

Available at INKEDSHOP.COM: Women's "Frozen" Scoop Neck Tee by Black Market Art

Available at INKEDSHOP.COM: Women's "Frozen" Scoop Neck Tee by Black Market Art

“I would never have dreamed that one day I’d be posing next to a supermodel or being featured in the marketing campaign for a charity intended on helping save lives,” Campbell says.

In the end, it’s not really about whether you’re inked up or you’re not. It’s about whether you’re living true to yourself.

Generation “My Way” isn’t a proclamation to live selfishly, immorally or unethically, but it is a cultural manifesto that says your individualism matters and that cosmetic barriers have no place in a truly free society.

Our greatest obligation is not to strive for the comfort of conformity, but aspire to the authenticity of self. Do that and watch as the floodgates of opportunity open up around you.

Brian Grasso is a true Renaissance man. Grasso is a published poet, a former CEO of a large organization within the fitness industry, a motivational speaker, and a former performance coach. He also sports quite the collection of amazing ink. Over the next couple of months Grasso will be writing articles for sharing his knowledge and insight. Check out his first post here.