Valeri Baldozier

Published: 01 October, 2007 - Featured in Skin Deep 152, November, 2007

Some people were simply born to be tattooed. It’s like they came out of the womb itching to be inked, and nothing can stop them, age restrictions, family disapproval, nothing: they’re going to get it done whether you or anybody else likes it or not. Such is the case with California girl Valeri Baldozier who got her first tattoo at the tender age of 14 and has spent the rest of her life thus far adding to a fine collection of work. But 14 years old? How the hell do you manage that without taking some very fake ID to a blind tattooist?

 

Basically my now ex-brother in law was dating my sister at the time and he’d just opened up a tattoo shop”, explains Val. “She’s three years older than me and was already starting to get tattooed. She didn’t live at home because, God knows, mom and dad didn’t agree with it by any means. But I’d always loved it, I always looked at girls with sleeves and thought ‘I’m gonna look like that some day’. So finally I decided to get a little butterfly on my hip...of course, what else are you going to get when you’re 14? My dad didn’t find out about it until I was 18, after I already had three or four tattoos, but my mom found out within two weeks of course, because moms know everything! But basically, that’s how it started. I got my second one about year later and after that pretty much started going for it!”    

“I got kicked out of the house when I started my arm. My dad was like ‘no tattoos while you’re living under the roof’ so I hid it from him for about a month, then he saw it one day and I was out”.


Which was your first proper tattoo?

“My first proper one was my sacred heart that I have on my right arm. I just wanted to get into the whole style of traditional work, so that was my first proper piece. There’s no real story behind it unfortunately, but that was the beginning of the arms. My angel on my left arm... I love the pin-up style in general, but when I see an angel I don’t see an angel that’s all clothed, but I didn’t want boobs all over the place so I covered that area with my niece and nephews name. I consider them my little angels. And because I had the angel, obviously there’s a good and a bad side to your life, and my niece and nephew are definitely the good side; so I got the devil because I think all women have a sweet angel side but we also have the devil in us. Daniel Alberigo out of Six Feet Under, did my angel and my devil and then the rest of my work was done by Alex Kokin who worked out of  Skorzenys tattoo in California. He doesn’t work on me anymore because he disappeared on me so Daniel does all my work now and I have plans with him to do my armpits, the left side of my ribs, the tops of my feet and then some random stuff on my back...and then I think Ill finally be done!”

“I still need to be a woman to an extent so I don’t wanna do all of my legs; I’ve got to stop somewhere! If I was a guy I’d start with the neck down, but I don’t think girls should do their neck. You still have to be dainty!”

It seems like full sleeves and stuff are more accepted on girls here in the US though?

“Well it’s turning that way. You still get a lot of negativity. I get compliments when I’m out but I get dirty looks. You can tell the difference when you’ve been tattooed for so long, whether someone’s looking at you because they’re curious or they’re like why would she do that to herself?”

“I’ve had complete strangers come up to me and say things like that. They think they have the right to say that and I’m thinking well, you need to go to the gym and lose a few pounds, but of course, I don’t say that. Actually
I use to work in Trader Joes and I had this lady ask where the restroom was. I point her in the right direction, being very nice, and she looks at me and says ‘You have way too much decoration on you honey’! My mouth almost dropped open because it was out of nowhere. And it’s so rude! I didn’t ask for her opinion. But it’s definitely a lot more socially acceptable in the States”.

“In the work place they’re coming round and not caring so much. I have an office job and I tend to keep my tattoos covered up by choice, but there are times when I’ve worn shirts where you can see my chest piece and my entire arm and they don’t care. But they’re a young company: I don’t think there’s anyone there who’s over 40 years old, so they look at it as art and not like you’ve put something bad on your body. I still get dirty looks and remarks from older people, but they grew up in an era where people just didn’t do that, and if they did it was mostly guys and they’d been to jail or something! I also get a handful of women who’ll walk up and ask what it means and they’ve very nice about it. I don’t mind that at all, but some people stare so hard its like ‘You wanna take a picture’? Or they look at you in disgust. Well, if you don’t like it don’t look! The one on the back of my neck was almost impossible to cover up when I had short hair”.

Not that Val is about to start covering her work to appease anyone’s likes or dislikes. Like she said; if you don’t like it, don’t look. Aside from the pain, she has gone through long, long waits to get what she wants and then had to deal with her parents reaction so there’s no stopping her now!

“My chest piece is definitely my pride and joy”, she smiles. “Alex, who was my best friend for five or six years, had drawn up a rough sketch for me because I wanted something with a heart and a lock, pretty much guarding my heart. I was 20 at the time he first drew it up and he was like ‘I’ll draw it up for you, but I’m not gonna let you get it yet’. Every appointment I had with him I’d always ask ‘Can we do my chest today’? And he always said no. It took three years for him to say yes, then finally I came in and he was supposed to work on my arm and he said Id waited long enough so he knew I wanted it 100 per cent. Being my best friend that definitely had a big impact, like I didn’t get mad at him for not wanting to do it. I understood that its your chest and once its there it there. My mom cried when she found out and my dad just laughed, like I knew you were going to get it! My mom literally yelled at me for about five minutes and then started crying. I went to her house to show her and she didn’t even want to see it at first. It was only the outline at the time and she looked at it and said ‘You disappoint me!’

Be mad at me, be upset, but don’t say disappointed! She was like ‘Promise me you wont finish it’ and I just looked at her like ‘Are you joking?’ I’m not gonna walk around with a half-assed chest piece! Now they’ve grown to accept it because both me and my sister are tattooed. My mom still makes her comments every now and again but my dad just laughs. He’s like ‘When you were little girls running around and playing in the dirt I never would have thought you would grow up with all these tattoos on you’. But I work very hard, I support myself, so they look at it as, well, it’s just a part of her. And if I had to do it all over again I definitely wouldn’t have it any other way!” Morat

Credits

Interview and Photography: Morat

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Skin Deep 152 1 November 2007 152
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