Tattooed International Pin up Model - Sabina

Published: 11 January, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 138, October, 2006

“I was always into entertaining and dancing – I would put together dance shows all the time, and my family would have to sit down and watch.  I’d make my brother perform with me – we’d put on a whole show, singing and dancing, the whole bit. I had no shame”


Hi Sabina… let’s start with an easy question. Where did you grow up?
Well, I was born in Ventura, California, but grew up in San Luis Obispo, California.  I graduated from San Luis Obispo High School.

What were you like as a child, and what experiences that you can remember influenced who and how you are today?
I was really, really outgoing.  Even more than I am now, I think. I wasn’t shy of anybody or anything – I just loved to go up and talk to people. I was always into entertaining and dancing – I would put together dance shows all the time, and my family would have to sit down and watch.  I’d make my brother perform with me – we’d put on a whole show, singing and dancing, the whole bit. I had no shame. I think all of that encouraged me to become who I am today, and to really pursue my dreams.

What were your dreams when you were a wee one?
To be a dancer and a model - and be famous. Haven’t quite gotten the famous thing yet. She laughs. My parents always told me that I had to be a doctor or a lawyer, and that I could never dance or be a model as a way to make living, so that just encouraged me more and made me try even harder.

Tell us a bit about how you got into modeling and your background as a pin up model and tattoo model, etc.
I got into modeling probably from dancing in Jubilee – I got a lot of photo shoots just from being a showgirl in Jubilee in Vegas. I moved out to Vegas when I was about 19, and I danced out there for about two and a half years, I did a lot of photo shoots and commercials for them, and was on their billboards. I didn’t have any tattoos then – we were not allowed to have boobs or tattoos – she says with a laugh – or have tan lines, or bruises, or anything like that.

Also, I was always in the rockabilly scene, always going out to hear the bands play, and I got asked to do a cover shoot for CK Deluxe magazine, and I shot that, and that was the first real pin-up shoot I ever did.No wait!  My first shoot was actually with you, Brittany! About four years ago… Ha!  CK Deluxe saw those images, and then hired me for their shoot. Pretty cool… 

I laugh, as I had no idea that Sabina and I actually went back that far - this was news to me – the launching of the pin-up modeling career! 
Once I got published, it really took off. Pin up wasn’t as popular then, but it’s gotten really big recently, and it has really taken off since then.I got a website, put a lot of time and effort into that, and then shot with Bunny Yeager – probably the top pin up photographer around. I think I got a lot of jobs because pin-up wasn’t such a popular thing, and it brought back the old classic sexy yet tasteful pictures that have been missing from print for so long.

Who and what are your influences?
I would have to say Dita Von Teese, Bunny Yeager, and Bettie Page are my main influences.  And definitely Sally Rand for the dancing and burlesque.
What are the best and worst aspects of working in the tattooed model industry?
If I would have started modeling with all the tattoos that I have now, there’s no way I’d be where I’m at. I got tattoos because I wanted tattoos, and I got shit from everybody - from photographers I’d worked with to everybody - telling me “your never going make it as a model if you get tattooed”, and I just kept getting more and more cause that’s me, and that’s what I liked, and it just became even more a part of me. It almost made me more of a rarity. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been an exception for a lot of people who would normally never work with a tattooed girl, but for some reason, they’d give me a chance, and were like, hey look at that, this is great.  So, it took a while, I lost a lot of jobs because of it, but I’m doing what I really want to be doing, so I don’t really care. I think it’s very special that I’ve got my own look.

What, where and when was your first tattoo?
My very first tattoo was on the back of my neck, I was twenty years old, and it’s a horseshoe with a swallow and flames and the number 13. I had just finished dancing in Vegas. The artist was Eli Falconett.

Outside of work, how do your tattoos influence your life as a mom, and a Showgirl/Burlesque dancer?
I get a lot of looks from people, but it doesn’t really affect anything. Some people love them, and some people hate them, but other than that I don’t get anyone saying rude comments to me or anything like that. My parents aren’t thrilled about it, not at all. They hate em! My dad is convinced that if he doesn’t see them, they’re not there. She laughs. Yeah, they hate my tattoos.  They’ve seen some of my modeling work, and I think they’re proud of it, kind of, but at the same time, they’re like, “well, you’re a mom… you need to focus on your kids.”  

Who has done most of your work?
My husband, Kent Kelley

And what drew you to this particular artist?  
We both laugh…  I was getting tattooed by him, and that’s actually how we met. I had a good friend getting tattooed by him like crazy, and he worked in a similar style to the tattoo on my neck, so I went and got tattooed. He did my daughter’s name on me first, and then he did a black widow on the inside of my arm, and then after that, we got married!  She giggles. He was working in Vegas at the time. Everything happened really fast - I think everything happened within six months - instantly - we knew we were meant to be together. 

Now I draft everything up with him. All my tattoos are planned and personally designed…some take up to a year and a half to draw up.

Tell me about your tattoo shop in Las Vegas…
It’s called Staytrue Tattoo, and it’s located pretty close to the strip. It’s on the corner of Reno and Arville. We just opened it about a year ago.  There’s three guys working at our shop - my husband Kent Kelley, Ryan Downey, and a guy named Bundy - Shannon Bundy. We only offer tattooing, no piercing - and it’s by appointment only. Kent is usually booked up about three months in advance. You can check out our website at

Tell me about the inspiration behind your tattoos, or any particularly good or bad experiences you’ve had while getting them.
They all have a lot of meaning and significance to me - but there are way too many to explain. I have my husband’s name and my son and daughter’s name on me.  I got a bombshell for my daughter cause she’s going be a little bombshell, she smiles, and an anchor and a pirate ship for my son because he’s convinced he’s a pirate. 

The one frightening experience I can remember was that I did get my husband’s name tattooed on me before we were married, which was a little scary… more giggles.

You have no piercings?
Not any more - I just have my ears pierced now. I used to have small eyelit plugs in my ears. My husband hated them so much that one day he finally said, “I’ll buy you diamonds if you take your plugs out”. She laughs - that was a good trade.

I’ve had my tongue pierced, my nipples pierced, my belly button. I’m just not into it any more. I used to be a piercer, I just kinda grew out of it. One day, I was just over it.

You have two beautiful children... tell me a bit about your family dynamics.
My son is two; his name is Kaiden. And my daughter is four; her name is Savannah. My daughter thinks she’s a tattoo artist already - she has her own art table, and she sits and draws with my husband all the time. The two kids wear fake tattoos all over their arms or they draw all over themselves and go to school. I’m guessing, by the time they both grow up, they’ll probably want nothing to do with tattoos…cause you know how you never want to do the same things your parents did?

Do you attend conventions with your little ones? 
Yeah. They love it. They come in the shop and hang out too - they know right where the candy drawer is.

Any more tattoos planned for the future?
I’m going finish my arm - both my arms, actually, so they’re full sleeves. And I’m sure I’ll get more, but I don’t really have anything planned as far as details go. I want to do my neck, and I’ll probably end up doing my whole back eventually. Kent pretty much does all my tattoos - except for a recent trip to Japan - we both got tattooed by the masters over there - Horiyoshi III and his apprentice Horitomo. That was a great experience.

I swear, though, it seems the older I get, the more it hurts…I don’t remember tattoos hurting this bad when I was younger.

What can we plan to see from Sabina in the next five years?
Five years! She laughs. I don’t know what I’ll be doing that far ahead, but in the next year or so, I plan on shooting with Playboy - a heavily tattooed edition of Playboy - which will be the first time they’ve ever done that.  We’re working on scouting all the girls right now, and we’ll be shooting it within the next six months or so. I also have my own calendar coming out next year, which is pretty exciting. Everything’s going exactly as I had hoped.

Wait! I know what I want - I want to work with David LaChapelle! I could quit modeling after I work with him…

My website address is  


Also, check out for some cool playing cards starring me and my friend Heidi VanHorne.

Any final thoughts?
I want to be sure to say a big thank you to Morgana Femme Couture for the beautiful corset for our shoot, Jessica Louise for the cute tops and skirts, Nicole Boughton for the wonderful hair and make-up, and Matthew Peterson for his unparalleled reflector-holding skills. She giggles. And thank you, Brittany, and Skin Deep…what a wonderful opportunity we’ve all been given in this life - I am so happy to be a part of it all!  


Photos and Interview: Brittany App,