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The Only Way This Tattoo Artist Got Her Mom To Buy Her Toolkit Was By Telling Her She’d Go To College If She Paid For It

Most of the needles humming in today’s tattoo shops are wielded by men. Still, as the scale between the number of men and women sporting tattoos tips towards female,  artists like Michelle Santana are turning the male-dominated industry on its head. The New York City-based artist is the latest Latina, the likes of Kat Von D and Tata Baby, is shaking up the tattoo industry and giving the boys a run for their money.

Santana was 19 when she started slinging ink in her Colombian hometown.

✨??Colombian Yellow??✨ #santanatattoo

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Like plenty of Latinas, Santana was raised by a strict mother whose approval of tattoos didn’t go far. After getting her first ink job on her leg at the age of 16, Santana wore pants for two years to keep it hidden from her mother. “My mom asked me a few times why I never wore shorts but I have always dressed baggy with hip hop vibes so it was normal,” the artist told FIERCE. “When I turned 18 I told her I was going to get a tattoo… I showed [her] my leg and she was like ‘What is that, you got a diablo on your leg?!’ And stopped talking to me for two weeks. Even now she gets angry and makes sarcastic comments like ‘why don’t you get a tattoo on your ass?'”

Despite her mother’s reaction, Santana became hooked, and at 19 she got her hands on her own tattoo kit. Actually, it was her mother who fronted her with the cash. “I went to my mom and told her I wanted to buy it and she told me ‘no.’ I told her if she buys it, I’ll go to college and study whatever she wants me to. So, she bought me the kit and bought me a car haha. My mom would do anything to get me into college.”

Santana’s first tattoos were done for friends and locals in her own bedroom, until eventually she decided to travel the world and master her ink skills.

She’s since learned to balance the dichotomy of two clashing cultural tattoo styles. The urbane looks desired by her clientele in New York, and the bold ones of her home ground of Colombia.

Pic from @sirjacksonlewislee view, had a blast tattooing this legend last night, thanks for everything!!! ?✨

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“Because I started in Colombia and I traveled to other countries, I can see a difference in style,” Santana says of her ability to adapt to client demands. “In NYC, I always found it to be a good place to do tattoos. Since I started working here, its easier to get a person in the chair. They’ll get basically anything and have the craziest ideas. We’ll talk about it, and that’s it. New Yorkers/Americans in general are more flexible and don’t overthink it. It’s a good opportunity for me to develop other styles of tattooing and that’s how my style has changed. In Colombia people don’t ask for what’s out here, so I have to adapt. In Colombia, people want bigger designs and for them, the bigger, the better. To them color looks prettier too, and they like to add onto designs even if it isn’t needed.”

Santana’s desire to develop her talent has taken her across European countries like Spain and Amsterdam.

? #santanatattoo

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It’s also what ultimately brought her to New York, where she divides her time between a shop in Manhattan and the one she owns in Colombia. Despite the facilities she’s collected from her travels, Santana is no stranger to having her ability to brandish a needle questioned by the men she works with. Her skill of marking out the signature fine-macro lines of her pieces, which most artists struggle to master, has gained her quite a bit of attention in the past few years. Still, she finds that new male clients frequently hesitate to work with her.

“They want a masculine tattoo, and want a man to do it cause he can ‘relate.'”

#santanatattoo

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For Santana, one of her biggest challenges comes when male clients take a seat in her chair for a consultation. “You can see the client not responding to what you’re saying. They’ll see another tattooer walk by and ask ‘is he a tattooer?’, then ignore me after that.” Santana says. “They just think I’m not able to do the design. They want a masculine tattoo, and want a man to do it cause he can “relate.'”

Still, Santana’s succes as a self-taught Latina tattoo artist makes the male skepticism easy to brush off.

Thank you all that got tattooed by me! I'm grateful for all of you ✨

A post shared by Michelle Santana (@mnsantanatattoo) on

“Having all those people that live near me and trust in me to practice on them means a lot to me. I’m proud of every tattoo I have done — tribal, butterflies, and every infinity symbol is what makes me.” Santana says. “If I focused only on small tattoos when I first started, I wouldn’t be where I am. I wouldn’t be able to do the small ones if I didn’t do other styles. I learned so much about placement, skin types, and dealing with people while in small shops, different cities and different cultures. I’m proud to be able to get an genuine thank you from a client. Its important to have a good connection with them – its an experience they won’t forget and I want to make it the best that I can.”

With more and more artists like Santana emerging from tattoo shops, there’s no doubt the future of the industry is coming up female.


Read: This Brazilian Tattoo Artist Transforms Scars Into Works Of Art

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This Houston Artist is Bringing a Touch of Whimsy to Her Hometown

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This Houston Artist is Bringing a Touch of Whimsy to Her Hometown

Art is often the manifestation of our emotions. It manifests the artist’s intentions and projects them onto the audience. Though we don’t all experience art in the same way, the visceral reaction we have to an especially moving work of art is universal. Through the lens of its artist, art makes us hope, feel as well as heal. For Texas-based Mexican-American artist Shelbi Nicole, the desire to share these feelings with her audience is what drives her to create.

Named one of Houston’s Top Ten artists back in 2014, Nicole is a Texas transplant originally from Oklahoma City. Using bold color and shapes, it’s her goal to put feel-good vibes out into her community. Working in a mix of media but a painter at heart, Nicole’s work can be seen all over her adopted home. Whether it’s through murals, in private and public art collections or through her newest interactive art installation, this artist is committed to drama and whimsy.

Recently, FIERCE caught up with Nicole to talk about the intention behind her lively art and see her latest installation.

For Shelbi Nicole, art was an instinctive passion to pursue even from an early age.

Instagram / @fiftyshadesofelishagray

In fact, the medium of painting became a therapeutic tool that helped the artist evolve into the woman she is.

“I have enjoyed creating since I was very young, which was when I discovered my love for painting,” Nicole told FIERCE. “I suffered from depression and found the benefits of painting to be extremely therapeutic. Painting has tremendously helped me combat depression and in a lot of ways been essential to my well being. Once I discovered the impact painting had on my life, I wanted to identify first and foremost as an artist.”

Drawn to abstract forms, Nicole traveled to France at 18 to study her craft. Exploring the numerous art museums Europe has to offer, she grew into herself as an artist. Her search to find her own voice as an artist took her to Miami. There, the vibrant colors of the South Florida Latinidad inspired her and made their way into her permanent color palette. Having found her signature style utilizing abstract shapes and vibrant colors, Nicole made her way to the University of Houston for her formal education.

“I think my constant exposure to so many different cultures has influenced my work,” Nicole explained. “Especially being back in Houston, the most diverse city in the U.S.”

Since then, Nicole has been a cornerstone of the local Houston art scene, literally leaving her mark all over the city.

Instagram / @shelbinicoledesigns

Putting her skills as a mural artist to the test, Nicole beautifies the Houston Metro through her work with Mini Murals. Mini Murals is a multi-city project aimed at bringing color to unsuspected places utilizing electrical boxes as mural space. The pop of unexpected art that these pieces bring to local neighborhoods is completely on message for this dynamic artist. With her mix of abstract and geometric shapes and bold use of color, Nicole has contributed a dozen mini murals to Houston.

Aside from her many projects with her own design firm, Nicole has collaborated with everyone from local artists to big name corporations.

Instagram / @shelbinicole
Houston Press / Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

“The last two years of my life have been some of my most successful, thus far, with my art endeavors,” Nicole proudly shared. Last December, the artist teamed up with jewelry designer Kendra Scott to create the “Korridor.” Next to the Kendra Scott jewelry store in the posh community of Rice Village, the bright mural space is a combination of Nicole’s colorful sensibilities and Scott’s elegant forms.

Another such collaboration matched Nicole with the largest rodeo in the world. The tremendous Texas event — once headlined by Selena herself — is also an opprotunity to take in arts and culture. This year, the artist won the opprotunity to paint in her own style a 6-foot tall ceramic boot for the Rodeo’s Boot Row. Nicole is only one of six artists chosen to execute a design for this piece that lines the Rodeo’s entrance.

Still, perhaps one of Nicole’s biggest collabs have been with coffee giant Café Bustelo.

Instagram / @shelbinicole

The Cuban coffee company established these pop-ups around the country for some time now. Not only do they bring their bold flavors, the pop-ups also invites emerging Latinx musicians and artists. For Nicole’s project, the people behind the iconic yellow can connected her with fellow Houston artist Gonzo247. At a Café Bustelo pop-up event in Houston’s art district, the two artists worked together to create a unique art piece to embody Latin flavor and culture.

While these accomplishments are impressive in their own right, the project that Nicole is most proud of has been five years in the making.

Instagram / @shelbinicole
Instagram / @thewhimsyworld_

A larger-than-life visual funhouse, Nicole’s newest exhibit — Whimsy World — is a colorful, interactive fantasy world. The exhibit debuted in Houston during February of 2019. It opened to rave reviews as Houstonians explored Shelbi’s brilliant dreamscape.

“What inspired me to create Whimsy World was an intense desire to showcase my work in a solo show that was unconventional and much more interactive,” Nicole explained. “I’d lost interest in traditional art shows and the lack of color in most gallery settings. I wanted people to be able to feel like they’re inside of one of my paintings rather than just standing back and looking at a canvas.”

The multi-experience installation spans several rooms, each with its own touches of magic. From a hand-welded claw foot tub and in-door rain cloud dripping with hundreds of crystals to the abstract paintings spilling over the canvas and onto the studio walls, every inch is art. Even the bathrooms — with their fierce boss lady Beyoncé motif — are a spot worthy of Instagram.

For Nicole, Whimsy World is a culmination of her artistic voice and the joy she hopes her art creates in others.

Instagram / @thewhimsyworld_
Instagram / @whimsyworld_

“I want to encourage everyone to understand the endless possibilities there are, when it comes to how we experience art,” the artist confessed. “It can be a feeling, a moment, a world that you enter that brings joy and elicits feel-good vibes. That is the intention of The Whimsy World and I hope everyone can experience its magic.”

For Nicole, the future is as bright as the art she creates. An extended version of Whimsy World will be debuting in Sugarland, Texas March 15th-April 27th. The installation will include 8+ brand new fixtures. The Sugarland show will also feature a new main attraction — a mirrored art room hand-crafted by the artist. Nicole is also planning to take Whimsy World to audiences beyond Texas.

Shelbi Nicole’s dedication to sharing her positivity and light with the world is evident whenever you see her art. It’s a reminder that through artistic creation, we can share who we are and what we want the world to be.


Read: It’s The Beginning Of The Year And Cardi B and Selena Gomez Have Already Topped Spotify’s Most-Streamed Female Artists

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25 Things You Ought To Know About The Legendary Pink Taco

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25 Things You Ought To Know About The Legendary Pink Taco

When it comes to your lady parts, you’ve probably heard every nickname in the vocabulary. From lady taco to pink clam, there’s lots of ways that we avoid saying the actual words for what we’re dealing with down there. But unlike our shyness about saying words that just call our bits what they are we must not be shy about the knowledge that is important to have about our lower anatomy.

There’s probably not a whole lot that you learned about your female genitalia from your mami, and that’s okay. Now that you’re an adult, you can certainly take your women’s health into your own hands and read through our handy list of 25 crucial things that you should know about your lady parts. But don’t just take it from us: Within these tidbits, you’ll find quotes and pieces of advice from medical professionals. And, of course, if you have your own questions or concerns, head to your OB-GYN for a check as soon as possible. It’s always best to seek your medical advice from a professional, after all.

1. You kind of are what you eat.

PHOTO: gardenanswer/Instagram

Or at least, when it comes to your smell it’s true.

Okay, so most of the evidence for this is anecdotal because the truth of the matter is that not much research has been done on the topic. But according to Alyssa Dweck, M.D. and co-author of V is For Vagina, who spoke with Women’s Health, your smell down there can be stronger during ovulation and when you eat pungent things like garlic. 

2. Down there can be different colors, regardless of what your skin color is.

PHOTO: xinef_20/Instagram

Your labia doesn’t necessarily correlate to the tone of your skin. In fact, you can be light skinned and have brown or purplish labia or darker-skinned and have lighter labia. And, even weirder still, you can actually have different colors for different areas of your lady parts. 

3. You’re slightly acidic down there (but don’t worry).

PHOTO: tomato_monterosa/Instagram

According to Prevention, the pH of your vagina is about 4. That’s about the same as a glass of wine or a tomato, with normal ranges being from 3.8 to 4.5. However, this isn’t anything to worry about. What you SHOULD worry about, however, is using certain feminine hygiene products (like douching), which can disrupt the pH level of your lady parts and create a problem such as irritation.

4. Your pleasure center extends further back than we ever thought.

PHOTO: breakthrufamilyfit/Instagram

New research shows that our clitoris (that’s right, the little nub thought to be about the size of a button) is actually more like a wishbone that branches out and extends down underneath the skin alongside either side of the vulva. And, according to Debby Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana University and author of The Coregasm Workout, who spoke with Buzzfeed Life, they “can potentially be stimulated from the outside.”

5. You can’t actually lose a tampon up there.

PHOTO: olgamikhfedorova/Instagram

Having a stuck tampon can be scary and seriously dangerous, and you should certainly go to your doctor ASAP if this happens so that a medical professional can take it out. However, you don’t have to worry about a tampon getting lost in your vagina and traveling to another part of your body. That’s just not possible, thank goodness.

6. There are actually a LOT of “parts” down there.

PHOTO: a._agnieszka/Instagram

Most of us probably call that general area the vagina, but that’s just the name of the muscular, elastic canal that extends from your cervix to your human. However, according to Anna Druet and Anne Högemann, research scientists at Clue, the period-tracking app, who spoke with Glamour, female genitalia is a lot more complicated than that. The “vulva” is what we should use to refer to external sex organs, such as the clitoris, urethra, labia minora and major, and then the pubis (which is all the stuff you can’t see, such as the cervix, vagina, and uterus). 

7. You don’t need any special stuff to clean it.

PHOTO: kty977/Instagram

Remember when I mentioned douching earlier? You actually shouldn’t do it, nor should you scrub inside or use any scented products inserted into your vagina. Why? Because it cleans itself, according to Dr. Dweck. “You should not need to put anything in the vagina to clean the actual inside,” she said to Health. “Our culture is obsessed with the gazillion products out there for the vaginal area, but you really don’t need anything other than soap and water.”

8. Your lady parts actually expand (yes, really!).

PHOTO: lecobotaniste/Instagram

Your vagina will never fail to impress, as with what happens when you are aroused. It’s called “vaginal tenting,” according to Dr. Dweck. The inside of your vagina (about two-thirds of it) increases in length and width when you returned on, which is why you can accommodate even a well-endowed guy. Perhaps this is something you should experiment with? (wink wink)

9. There is no “typical” look to a woman’s lady parts.

PHOTO: jasminenicholeart/Instagram

Sure, the vagina (which is on the inside) generally looks the same, but there is great variation in the vulva (the outer parts, remember?). “Clitoral width is generally anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 millimeters. I’ve examined women with a clitoral length of 0.5 inches all the way to over 2 inches, and studies confirm this variability. There is not just one size that’s normal,” said Dr. Karen E. Boyle of Chesapeake Urology Associates to Cosmopolitan. The same goes for inner and outer labia, which aren’t always symmetrical and can vary in length and shape. 

10. Stimulation happens in many different areas.

PHOTO: johanna_rht/instagram

That AH-mazing sensation you feel during sex (aka orgasm) actually happens because of four different nerves — the pelvic, hypogastric, sensory vagus, and pudendal nerves — that supply pleasure to the genital area. In fact, some recent brain studies have found that nerves in the spinal cord can also produce arousal. “This is the reason why some women with complete spinal cord injuries can still experience orgasms in response to sexual stimulation,” Beverly Whipple, PhD, sex researcher and educator and co-author of The G Spot: And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality said to Prevention. “The research also validates that women all experience pleasure and orgasm differently.”

11. Hymens are not for everyone.

PHOTO: kenso_architects/Instagram

The common myth about losing your virginity is all about breaking of the hymen (aka popping the cherry), but the truth is that not all women are born with a hymen. In fact, hymens also range in thickness and the amount of coverage, which is why a “hymen check” is outdated and silly, according to Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva.

12. Exercise is good for the vagina.

PHOTO: zolaluxe/Instagram

You’ve probably heard of kegels, also known as pelvic floor exercises, and they’re actually a great way to strengthen your pelvic muscles. This can help you avoid urinary incontinence in the future as well as improve sexual satisfaction. Here’s how to do them: Simply squeeze the muscles you use to stop yourself from peeing. That’s it! Do this for 2-3 sets of 10 squeezes once or twice a day.

13. Your lady parts have quite a bit in common with a man’s parts.

PHOTO: man__magazine/Instagram

“It has the prepuce, the glans, and the frenulum, just like the penis,” Sharon Gerber, M.D., ob-gyn, and fellow in family planning at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said to Glamour. Add to that the fact that the clitoris, although smaller than the penis, has twice the nerve endings. The latest research estimates that the clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings while a penis has only 4,000.

14. Cotton panties are best for a reason.

PHOTO: elisescarlott/Instagram

You need breathable underwear and clothing that provides a little airflow to your vulva, since a moist, warm environment can breed yeast and bacteria. Thongs are still fine if they aren’t causing chafing or irritation, and underwear should at least have a cotton crotch even if the rest of the material is something else. “Don’t wear panty liners or pads 24/7 if you don’t need them — they don’t allow breathable conditions, ” Dr. Dweck told Health. “I often recommend sleeping without anything on your bottom, to give you plenty of aeration.”

15. It’s easy to tell when you’re ovulating.

PHOTO: miraclemax3/Instagram

If you’re trying to get pregnant, then you need to know all about ovulation — and cervical mucus. “It’s incredibly cool that your vagina will let you know when it’s the optimal time to get pregnant,” Dr. Dweck said to Women’s Health. “The cervical mucus during ovulation is clear, rubbery, and stretchy.”

16. No, your vajayjay can’t “revirginize” itself.

PHOTO: raphael.bebetse/Instagram

According to Cosmopolitan, if you’ve gone through a long dry spell, sex-wise, there’s no actual risk of your vagina becoming so tight that you’ll be in pain next time you might have sex. You can’t just be a virgin again, though anxiety about this might make your vaginal muscles tense at first. Otherwise, though, penetration shouldn’t be painful even if it’s been quite a while.

17. Some parts are a lot bigger than we thought.

bentleycomponents / Instagram

As I already explained, only a small part of the clitoris is on the outside. And in fact, according to Prevention, the clitoris is actually about 80% the size of a penis. So when you think about how women are smaller than men in general, this means that the clit is actually about the same size as a penis when we’re talking about proportions. Wowza!

18. Your lady parts won’t dramatically change after you have kids.

PHOTO: tinytonkintales/Instagram

Despite what urban legend tells us, a woman’s vagina size doesn’t actually change dramatically between having babies and not. Groundbreaking research published in 1996 told us that, thank goodness. 

19. Most women can’t orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone.

PHOTO: kahurangikai/Instagram

This is something that often makes women feel bad and men frustrated, but studies suggest that about 25 to 25 percent of heterosexual women always climax from vaginal intercourse alone, according to Glamour. Instead, there are other ways of achieving orgasm that women (and their partners) can experiment with, including clitoral stimulation. Don’t forget about those 8,000 nerve endings!

20. If you’re itching down there, it might not be what you think.

PHOTO: joannaskullena/Instagram

“There are a lot of things that can cause an itch that aren’t a yeast infection,” Hilda Hutcherson, MD, professor of ob/gyn at Columbia University Medical Center, said to Health. Itching in your vulva area can also be caused by chafing from your clothing, irritation from shaving, or laundry detergent or soap that your sensitive skin is reacting negatively to. Discharge and discomfort can be caused by yeast infection, sure, but also by other types of vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections. You should always check with your doctor before using over-the-counter medication. 

21. Your lady parts are a LOT stronger than you think, especially when it comes to childbirth.

PHOTO: cherbebebirthstories/Instagram

“It’s an unbelievable fact that the vagina can allow a 10-plus-pound baby to come through it and still come back to a normal size,” Dr. Dweck said to Women’s Health. Your vagina is seriously incredible to go through all of this, but it does take about six months to heal post-baby. Still, that’s really impressive considering what it goes through during this process! 

22. If there’s pain, go to your doctor ASAP.

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According to Cosmopolitan, there are several different things that can cause you to have pain in your lady parts. One is vaginismus, which is when the vaginal muscles contract involuntarily, and this can make it near impossible to use a tampon, have sex, or even get a gyro exam. The other culprit could be vulvodynia, which is when you have vulva pain, stinging, or sensitivity so intense that direct touch is very painful. See your doctor for what’s going on, because they can help determine your condition and its best treatment.

23. Lubrication down there is more complicated than we think.

PHOTO: sheworkswellness/Instagram

Eric Marlowe Garrison, clinical sexologist and author of Mastering Multiple Position Sex who recently spoke with Prevention, revealed that there is some research that indicates both the Bartholin and Skene (female prostate) glands around the vagina provide lubrication. However, most of it comes from transudation, which is when mucous moves through the vaginal wall. Fascinating!

24. There is a reason why you have hair down there.

PHOTO: fur_you/Instagram

You might love shaving (or waxing or you’re even considering laser hair removal), but you have to know that pubic hair actually has a job to do. In particular, Dr. Gerber says that it “serves as a protective barrier to genital tissues, particularly the sensitive vaginal opening. As well as providing a protective barrier, it also acts as a buffer against friction. Shaving can leave tiny — and easily microscopic — wounds on the skin, temporarily rising one’s risk of infection.” 

25. Sex is really good for your lady parts.

PHOTO: etniefaith/Instagram

“Sex keeps the vagina alive and lubricated, especially as women get older and estrogen goes down,” Dr. Hutcherson said to Health. “Sexual activity keeps blood flowing down there and decreases some of the changes that you get with menopause.” So other than the fact that you already know that sex is really good because it burns calories, reduces stress, boosts immunity, AND brings you closer to your partner, now you can have the excuse of it also being good for your overall vagina’s health.

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