My first tattoo symbolizes the touch of Africa. It is a memory from my exchange period in Namibia in 2010.

During the exchange I learned a great deal about myself and life in general. I didn’t even know much about Namibia when I applied for the exchange period, but still, something in the opportunity of going there fascinated me. As it turned out, my boyfriend at the time was against the whole idea, so because of him I canceled the pre-interview that I had already agreed going to. Then, on the morning of the interview day, I just asked myself what am I doing – if you want it, why don’t you just go? I called the school there and then and told them that I would come to the interview after all.

Going to exchange made me fully realize that I’m a valuable person, and I can decide what to do with my own life. Although other people might have seen me as brave, back then I was still very insecure about myself. It was wonderful to notice that I don’t have to live my life by other people’s opinions, but instead, I can be responsible for myself and my own actions. It all happened quite fast, really – somehow it felt the same as ripping off the bandaid.

After the exchange period, I ended my relationship and moved to Helsinki. Next year I got a tattoo that reminds me of the time in Africa. That short period of time still affects my life even today. In a way, this tattoo will always keep pushing me forward.

I started my Youtube channel called Vatsamielenosoitus (in English: The Belly protest) a little over a year ago. As I watch my first videos now, I can clearly see how nervous I was back then. I guess I also was afraid of the reception I’d get. I’ve also noticed afterwards that I often cry in my early videos. Nowadays I don’t cry anymore, I just shout.

I get all kinds of comments on my videos, and lots of negative ones, too. In a way, going through comments has started to feel easier since I wrote my school thesis about commenting on Youtube-videos last autumn. In my thesis, I gathered the comments from my three most watched videos and analyzed what kind of themes they represented. Nowadays, as I read the hate comments I get, I think about the discourses they represent, which makes them a little easier to handle. Still, I can’t say that reading mean comments wouldn’t affect me at all. It always does.

I’ve sometimes heard other people saying that you should just close your computer to get rid of hateful comments, but I don’t find it as very good advice, to be honest.  The responsibility should not be thrust upon those who suffer from hate speech but upon those who write the comments in the first place. I’ve also filed police reports in cases where commentators have threatened my life or something like that. I always tell openly in the comment section if I’m going to report. Often those comments are quickly deleted after that, so naturally, I always get screenshots beforehand.

My next tattoo is our family coat of arms, which I wanted to get on my skin to honor my roots from my mother’s side. It’s tattooed by Sini Ariell in 2013.

I used to be an active member of our family society, and I even was a member of our family society board. Once we had an email thread about something and we were sending each other Easter greetings or something like that, and I decided to attach a picture of my tattoo to my message. To my surprise, the picture started a complete shitstorm. Distant relatives whom I had never met in person started to lecture me how my tattoo was inappropriate and inquire who had given me permission to this tattoo. The criticizers seemed to be especially worried about what other people might think if they saw my tattooed thigh when I’m at a beach or someplace like that.

It was really the first time when I personally encountered other people’s prejudices against tattoos. Until then I had been living in my own bubble of tolerance, but the whole storm made fully clear how out-of-date opinions some people still have. Because I’m a woman and the tattoo is placed on my thigh, it was considered utterly inappropriate. For me, tattooing my family’s coat of arms meant a huge tribute to my own roots, but for others, it represented a great sin.

The whole issue was even brought up in a meeting of our family society, which I found very humiliating. Just think about it – they seriously had a discussion whether my thigh fulfills the standards of a suitable place for the family coat of arms. Of course I was asked to join the meeting as well, but instead of participating, I resigned from the board and the whole family society as well. Afterwards I heard that they had decided that my tattoo is allowed to be where it is. I still think it would be nice to know what would’ve happened if they would’ve decided otherwise!

In 2016 I participated in Miss Retro Pin Up contest and won a gift card to a tattoo shop from my own semifinal series. The diamond is tattooed at Pinky Inky. It’s my only tattoo that has no particular meaning behind it – I just wanted to get a diamond tattoo because I’ve always loved all things shiny. And since the tattoo is on my ankle, it also helps to keep my feet on the ground.

All my tattoos are from female tattooists. It wasn’t even a conscious decision at first, and I only started to think about it by the time I got my third tattoo. I’d prefer to get tattooed by female or non-binary tattoo artists in the future as well.

I got my latest tattoo during the Helsinki Burlesque Festival 2017. I heard that tattoo artist Sunny Buick was going to come there and tattoo at the workspace of Finnish burlesque artist Bettie Blackheart. I thought her tattooing style looked great so I mailed her my tattoo idea and asked for an appointment. She made couple of designs based on my thoughts, and from the moment I saw this one, I was in love.

The card tattoo is a symbol of being lucky in many ways. For some reason I often win something in lotteries or other contests, which I find quite odd, to be honest. I also feel that I’ve had good luck in my life in general, and this tattoo reminds me of it. In addition, this theme is close to my heart because when I was in my twenties, I worked as a blackjack dealer and spent many weekend nights by the blackjack table. And besides, now I will always have ace up my sleeve!

It was strange to notice that I felt some kind of uncertainty during the tattooing. This was my first visible tattoo, and even though I instantly fell in love with this, in the middle of the process I caught myself thinking whether a visible tattoo would affect my life somehow. I guess it was just a ghost from my past that wanted to remind me that piercings or visible tattoos are not appreciated at work. Luckily, in reality, that line of thinking doesn’t resonate at all with my current field of work.

I wanted to get the heart on top because I believe in love, as sentimental as it may sound. The whole tattooing experience itself is also one of the reasons why this tattoo is so important for me. It was wonderful to get tattooed there, at the studio of Bettie Blackheart – the very same woman who has brought modern burlesque to Finland, and who has been my burlesque teacher in the past as well.

I want to get more tattoos at some point, but I haven’t decided yet what or where. It’s important for me that all my tattoos would have that special reason why I’ve wanted to tattoo them in the first place. The card tattoo was my first visible tattoo, and I’d love to have more visible tattoos, too. Because: if you get a cool tattoo from a cool artist, why hide it?