Celebrity Skin: Leah Jung

Published: 25 June, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 213, June, 2012

I’ve known Leah for a couple of years now and she’s probably one of the most stable people I know, which is perhaps rather curious because most of the time, she gives the impression she could go off like an accident in a firework factory…

Despite what you see before your eyes here, Leah’s music is beautiful in a totally different way than you would possibly think. Sultry is a good descriptor for it. It has a slow burn and while seeming to be apparently effortless, I have no doubt that one hell of a lot of work goes in to it.

The truth of the matter is, I know that a lot of work goes into it, because that’s what Leah does. So for the want of a better place to start, let’s dive into the music end of the pool. It’s pretty normal for musicians to be loaded to the eyeballs with ink these days – more than half of my collection is easily propelled by tattooed artists, but then, the vast majority of it is testosterone-fuelled rock. Leah isn’t in that end of the pool at all, so I’m curious as to whether being tattooed affects the perceptions of her songwriting for better or worse.

“My observations have been that a lot of musicians are tattooed, probably even the majority. Mine are probably more extensive than most, but a unique image is usually an asset to a performer. I suppose the people who simply hate tattoos will find me hard to swallow as the whole package, but if they dislike my music simply because of tattoos, I’d rather they didn’t bother with me at all.

“A bigger hindrance is probably that at first, my recognition came from modelling instead of singing. It might be assumed that a pretty mannequin-of-sorts surely can’t be a soulful and talented musician! I hope to pleasantly surprise people. I have longed to be a singer since I was a child. The modeling was somewhat accidental.

“The only reason I haven’t focused on my music as much as I want to, is the time and financial investment involved. Offers for other projects have flooded in since my Inked Magazine cover, and it consumes the free time I have outside of my day job. I believe that circulating my name and photos throughout magazines has been beneficial for the future of my music though.

“I also save the money I make from modelling, so that if a producer, label, or investor doesn’t offer me an opportunity, I’ll be able to afford to produce an album myself. When I put out something I intend to sell, I will settle for nothing less than the best. Recognition in magazines is my current project, not my destination. I would like nothing more than to lock myself in a studio for a month to write and record, design an album, tour with a talented band, and completely refocus.”

These are strange times we live in – and nobody is exempt. All across the world, the money has run out. Whatever you want to do with your life these days, you had better not be coming to the table empty handed. To get where you’re going takes a superhuman amount of effort with no stone left unturned, because you never know where your break is likely to come from. Maybe it’s always been that way, but as we all sit here wired up to the nines, it’s certainly more prevalent and obvious than it ever has been. That includes raising your profile wherever and whenever you can.

 “Yeah, I have a column that ran for almost a year in Fast Lane Biker Magazine until I was recently in touch with Tattoo’d Lifestyle Magazine, and now, ‘Leah Jung, Tattooed Jung-kie’ is featured there instead, which is a much better fit. I also write a separate column for a Norwegian Magazine, Ink Style, called ‘Life of Leah’. Life of Leah, which is translated into Dutch, focuses more on my personal life and the meanings behind my tattoos, while Tattoo Jung-kie is quirky stories and advice related to tattoos. Both magazines give me full creative freedom and the feedback has been fantastic. I love writing and I have a lot of stories to tell – if I could syndicate either column, or be recognized by a magazine with greater distribution, that would be ideal!”

At which point, we stop for a moment… a pregnant pause if you will. She looks at me grinning. I look at her, thinking. File under ‘pending’ for the time being. Leah has been working hard for a long time now to move up her personal ladder of achievement, we talk about her ink and I wonder of she ever gets as sick as I do of people asking the same questions over and over despite the amount of education we’ve all collectively thrown at the world.

 “I think there is a proper time to be asked about my tattoos. When I am chatting with fans or other collectors at tattoo conventions, that is what I’m there for. I love to educate like-minded people who might otherwise be misinformed. If I get a repetitive inquiry, such as ‘does it hurt?’ I will try to redirect the question. ‘Yes’ is such an obvious answer; I’ll instead mention which of my tattoos hurt the most, an answer that has changed throughout the years.

“When I get questions in emails, I often forward them a pdf of an article I’ve written addressing the topic – how to keep colours bright, how to get published in tattoo magazines, etc. If I am out with my friends, grocery shopping or at work, this is when I feel hassled and jaded. Most of the time, it’s just someone who wants an excuse to talk to the interesting lady, and thanks, but I’m not interested.”

Something that comes with the territory of being talented in no small amount is also a devilish sense of self-deprecation. There’s a great quote on Leah’s website from a friend which sums up… well, it sums up quite a lot of things…

‘Whenever I think of my friend Leah Jung, two integral and trademark expressions come to mind: “jerk-off hot” and “big fat dork”.’

In the most gentlemanly way possible, I decide to ignore the first part – though God knows its on the tip of my tongue – and press on with the second in the midst of both of us knowing it.

“My website bio was written by an old friend of mine from high school, and he legitimately thinks I am a dork! I was not popular in school – I was just a quiet, scrawny kid in glasses who loved books and listened to rock and metal music. I don’t wear name brand clothes, I stutter when I’m nervous, I can’t parallel park, and I think internet memes are hilarious.

“Back then, I was awkward, poor, and teased on a regular basis starting in the 4th grade. I took it kind of hard and became a bit of a bad kid after the age of 15 or so, drinking and sneaking out at night. But I have experienced so much, and grown up a lot since then. I feel like I can overcome anything now. I’m a pretty neat dork.”


Text: Sion Smith; Photography: Various