What would you do to pursue your dream? Would you pack your bags and move to a foreign country at the age of 18 with no prospects or opportunities other than those you create for yourself through sheer willpower and a dogged determination? Would you still believe in yourself and your dream despite the disapproval and disdain of your nearest and dearest?
Renowned tattoo artist Alisha Gory did, and she did it in the name of breaking boundaries and being true to her authentic self. “Although here in the States, tattoos have been embraced with open arms by the mainstream culture, in my home country of Korea there is still a huge taboo about getting any ink done on your body,” explained Alisha. “Tattoos are still synonymous with criminals, the underworld and the underclass. It is also strictly frowned upon for women to have tattoos, so you can just imagine my parent’s reaction when I told them I wanted to move to America and become a tattoo artist.”
Born Yoo Jung Ha in Seoul, Alisha has always been fascinated with transformation and how an individual can continually reinvent themselves.
She explained, “When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, in my eyes, it is not changing but merely evolving into its authentic self. When I changed my name to Alisha Gory, I was just becoming more me. Likewise, when people choose to adorn their skin with intricate and meaningful designs, they are simply expressing to the world their inner-being. Tattoos have always captivated me because they are capable of being so personal, so unique and so creative. Body art is an extension of who we are.” When she first arrived in New York, Alisha Gory didn’t have a penny to her name, nowhere to stay and no friendly shoulder to fall upon. What she did have however was a natural-born artist’s hunger and ambition to make her mark. Starting at the bottom, Alisha took a job washing dishes. After saving enough money she took an unpaid position as a tattooist’s apprentice and learned everything she possibly could about her chosen art. “Doing all the mule work and dirty jobs without getting paid a penny isn’t the best experience in the world,” revealed Alisha, who added, “But what I learned about tattooing during that time proved invaluable when it came to setting up on my own.”
Tattooing has been good to Alisha. It has provided her with both financial and personal freedom. It’s also provided her with the means to express herself and connect with and empower others.
Alisha Gory said, “Skin is the most dynamic canvas any artist can have. Body art will stay with people for the rest of their lives. It’s not a process to be taken lightly. Having a tattoo is a huge commitment. As a tattooist, I take complete pride in my work and would not give less than 110 per cent. Tattoos are living and beautiful things and I like to think I have done my bit to change the way Asian women as a collective feel about body modification and body art.”
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