A Port Coquitlam woman is hoping her gift for storytelling will land her on the cover of a major magazine.
But Athena Leilani isn’t an author or muckraking journalist looking to crack the pages of The New Yorker.
Leilani, 32, tells her stories on her skin and she’s vying to become a cover model for Inked magazine, the international bible of the tattoo lifestyle. She’s one of three finalists in the first round of an online competition to identify a model to be photographed for the magazine’s front page by New York City-based fashion and celebrity photographer Christopher Kolk. The prize also includes $25,000.
Leilani, who has done some modelling, said she got her first tattoo when she was 15 years old — without her parents’ permission — while she was on a family holiday in Hawaii. A cousin inked a tropical flower on her back as a tribute to her Hawaiian heritage.
“I thought it was going to hurt,” Leilani said, “but it didn’t.”
In fact, the thousands of tiny pricks from the tattoo gun that infused the ink into her skin flooded her brain with endorphins and, Leilani said, putting her into “the zone.”
She was addicted.
Since then Leilani has adorned her skin with dozens more tattoos — so many, she has lost count. Each can take up to nine hours to create and each tells a story of the passions that drive her, like her love for Marilyn Monroe that is captured in one tattoo, or the braid of Hawaiian blossoms
that run down one arm. She also favours motivational quotes such as “The day you settle is the day you lose respect for yourself” that she says guide her life’s path.
“I just appreciate art and who I am and the things I like,” Leilani said, adding her next tattoo will be on her thigh.
She said finding an artist she can trust is a process.
“I pick up well on vibes.”
Leilani said she likes someone who has a “light touch” with the tattoo gun and who checks in with her often through the sometimes long and arduous process that she endures without the comfort of numbing cream to deaden the sensations of the needles.
“I feel like you should earn your tattoo,” she said.
• The current round of Inked magazine’s cover model competition ends Thursday night. To cast a ballot for Leilani, go to cover.inkedmag.com/2020/Athena-Leilani.