Supermodels 'R' us - Lepa

Published: 16 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 189, August, 2010

I first met Lepa at the 2009 London Tattoo Convention, where she caused something of a stir. At the time we didn’t get much of a chance to talk as she was constantly surrounded by a posse of photographers, all of whom seemed keen to persuade her to pose for as long as possible.

We did arrange to schedule a shoot for the future, but unfortunately that never transpired. Therefore I was delighted and surprised when a mutual friend recently hooked up Lepa and myself out of the blue and a shoot was finally arranged. Lepa is very experienced and professional as a model and this, combined with her natural beauty, friendliness and fantastic ink made it an afternoon to remember.

My heritage is quite mixed as my dad is Nepalese and my mum is Bengali.


I have always loved tattoos, especially the traditional Japanese styles. Initially, my dad introduced me to tattoos.  He used to love watching the old school Samurai movies and we would often end up watching them together. I can remember that when I first saw those tattoos, I just could not believe how incredibly beautiful they were. I have been drawing and painting since before I could even write my own name and I was very much in awe of how we could actually adorn our bodies with tattoos in a way that is such a unique medium for expressing art. In terms of my own artwork, I love drawing things that inspire me and I get a lot of that inspiration from the work of H.R. Giger who designed the Aliens in the movie of that name starring, Sigourney Weaver. Giger has influenced my artwork no end, what more can I say, except that he is pure genius. 


When deciding to get tattooed, I always knew that I was going to get a full bodysuit; there was no question about it. I didn’t want random tattoos here and there; I had made up my mind from an early age that a full-scale bodysuit was what I wanted. It was much harder to convince George Bone, the tattooist, that I was serious about this. In fact, when I first went into his studio and explained my plan to him, I don’t think he actually believed me. In order that he could see just how committed I was, I just kept going back to the studio, but even so, George still made me wait about eight months before allowing me to undertake my first sitting. George told me that he just wanted to make doubly sure that I was really serious and understood the implications of what I was doing. 


I have had some work done by Horiyoshi Souryou, (kazuyoshi), Horiyoshi III’s son, he tattooed some Sakura’s, (blossoms), on my lower left leg at the London Tattoo Convention in 2009. That was a very special experience for me as I adore his father's work and I have also modelled Horiyoshi III clothing for them at the convention too. The rest of my tattoo work was and is, being done exclusively by George Bone. George is not only an incredible artist, he is a legend in his own right, and as the years have gone by, I now consider him to be a close friend. He is the most patient and humble person you could ever meet, he listens to your ideas, then offers his own input so that everything he produces is unique, I just love his style.  I do try to pop into the studio whenever I get the chance and it seems that old friends always surround him. George has a charisma that causes people to gravitate towards him and it seems to me as an observer that all of the people that he has tattooed over many years are still very close to him. I can honestly say that I love the man; I just cannot say enough good things about him.


This may sound masochistic, but I do actually love the process of getting tattooed as much as I love the end result! There are a few spots that always seem to catch me unguarded, like the ribs, but I think I’m addicted or immune to the pain of the needles. I generally sit for six hour sessions and the after effects are often worse than the actual tattooing as I get really bruised after such long sittings, but no pain, no gain, right? 


Regarding my tattoos, I get mixed reactions from my family, but I have to say that we are not the most ‘traditional’ family in the world. We all have our own likes and dislikes, we are all very different and tend to accept each other for who we are as unique individuals and on top of that my family knows how art is a very big part of who I am. I imagine that they see it as an external extension of my inner self, maybe not everybody’s cup of tea, but it is what it is.


I also get mixed reactions from the general public; they either look at me and tut or shake their heads, silently disapproving, or on the other hand look at me with interest and enthusiasm and ask me lots of questions about my tattoos. Either way it's cool, I know what I have done is not for everyone.


As far as the modelling goes, it isn’t something I actively sought out; it just kind of found me! It really took off after the London Convention 2009, as that was where I got the most exposure. Since then I have had a lot of offers from talented and established photographers and I am trying to get around to working with some of these. I have already modelled for some amazing photographers, real artists in their own right. People like Ashley from Savageskin photography, who did this shoot, also Doralba Picerno and Craig Burton, to name but a few. Working with these individuals has given me a good basic introduction, as well as direction and experience, in terms of modelling. In some ways it’s been like a whirlwind, which I have to admit I wasn’t expecting. Apart from that I haven’t done anything ‘serious’ just yet; I’m just trying to keep my feet on the ground for the time being. Modelling has been an altogether pleasant surprise, albeit unexpected, so I’m just waiting to see where it carries me. 


I love the way the camera seems to capture my essence and what I find fascinating is that’s something that other people often notice and point out to me too. The strange thing is that I’m actually more confident in front of the camera without any clothes, much more so than when I am wearing them.


As for the future, I want to get into tattooing, there’s really nothing more that I would rather do with the rest of my life. I have fallen in love with everything about it, what more can I say?


Interview and Photography: Ashley


Skin Deep 189 24 August 2010 189