Text by Mike Landers I Photos: Andy Hartmark
After a few stolen moments in conversation with Phoenix-based tattoo model Deisy De La Muerte, it’s easy to see why this sweet-voiced maven is as grounded and tough as they come. Raised in the rough-and-tumble backdrop of Phoenix, Arizona’s gritty west side, this daisy in the desert was forced at an early age to see the world for what it is, and in the process she had to learn how to express herself and how to survive. Behind her tattooed exterior and outward confidence lies a quiet tone of introspection, which serves up a subtle vulnerability that is much more suited to someone sitting in a church pew than someone sitting at a ghetto bus stop. It is the sum of these dueling parts that equals Deisy as a whole. What Deisy’s family may have lacked in financial opportunity, they more than made up for in spirituality, as the roof that Deisy was raised under was a decidedly religious one. This environment, a setting Deisy rebelled against to a certain degree, has also helped to connect her with the value of life’s lessons, ultimately shaping the beautiful person she has become. It would be this same beauty that pushed her toward her current career path, albeit somewhat unexpectedly. “The modeling thing kind of just fell in my lap,” she says reflectively.
A long-time tattoo enthusiast, Deisy’s teenage daydreaming and doodling on her own skin would finally come to real-life fruition at the age of 18. After getting her first piece, Deisy’s path then took her to Immaculate Tattoo in Mesa, Arizona, where she stumbled onto the work of Aaron Coleman. After getting a few pieces by him, Deisy’s admiration for his work and his passion and brand, Black Eyed Saint, grew. Aaron ultimately asked her to participate in some photo shoots for the brand, and Deisy happily obliged, thrusting herself into the artistic realm in which she rightfully belongs. Boasting the deadly combination of exquisitely sculpted brunette hair playing the curtain to her burlesque smile, this bombshell is much more like the proverbial rose in the desert than she is a daisy. Even that is no coincidence. Whereas the rose is typically seen as romantic, powerful, sexy, and dramatic, a daisy is thought to be sweet and dainty, representing the rejuvenation of the springtime and the hearth of childhood innocence. This Deisy is all of those things all at once, and this multidimensional, layered personality brings forth versatility in her modeling.
It would seem all of the things in her life that she embraced and all of the things in her life she rejected have made a similar impact on her and made her reality come full circle. Despite her family’s misgivings and beliefs regarding tattoos, they can rest assured knowing that their little girl is still there and she is forming her own destiny-one they can be proud of. Deisy has her sights set on a fashion degree and is currently working in finance. And while she enjoys a side of life that may differ from her upbringing, she is still very deeply rooted in her love for her family. “I remember being at a family event one time,” Deisy says softly. “I usually cover up my tattoos for my family out of respect, but it was over 100 degrees and too hot for a cardigan. My grandmother had recently bruised her arm, and after looking at me and my mom, she quipped, ‘Well Deisy, it looks as though I might be giving you some competition.”
The humor of the moment was almost lost in the touching nature of acceptance Deisy felt from the source where she least expected it to come from. “She was the main one my mom and I were afraid to offend with my tattoos, so for her to make a joke like that and let us laugh together, that was huge.”
Not as huge as Deisy’s heart though, and that is something the world can see in everything she does.
When did you get into tattoos? When did you get your first ink?
In my early teens, I started doodling all over my arms and hands and started to read magazines. I got my first piece when I was 18. I wanted to be responsible and make the right choice before I committed. I got that piece from Evan over at Crawling Squid Tattoo, and it was a front piece with the sparrows. From there, it was my linking up with Immaculate Tattoo in Arizona, where I totally fell in love with Aaron Coleman’s work. He’s my primary artist now; his stuff is great.
How did you get into modeling?
As far as that goes, it’s really just me helping friends, like my work with Black Eyed Saint and the stuff I’ve done for Andy Hartmark. The artist that I go to, Aaron Coleman, was doing the flash and designs for the company, so it just came naturally through those relationships.
When you started getting tattoos, did you fully grasp the commitment?
In the beginning it was more of the rebellious statement. I was brought up in a very religious household, and tattoos were absolutely out of the question. I started developing my own style and way of thinking and I wanted to express who I was becoming. I started with the stomach and went toward the back, I went for the belt and then the ribs, and recently I decided to go with the sleeve because I figured, why wait? I was ready for it.
How did getting tattoos affect your family?
It was very hard in the beginning; I pretty much broke my parents’ heart. It did a lot of damage, honestly, with the relationship I have with my parents. The tattoos, the punk rock-all of that stuff is the opposite of what I think they hoped my interests would be. I think it was hard for them to see their little girl gravitate toward tattoos. I think recently they have accepted it in their own way. They realize it’s a part of me but it’s not something that defines me as a person in a negative way. In the Mexican culture, I think tattoos have the connotation of prison and they’re generally looked down upon.
Obviously, your tattoos have come in stages. How does this tie into your personal growth? How important is growth toward your own life?
It’s everything to me. My tattoos aren’t accessories to me; they are more like landmarks. Some experiences are so important, you have to document them and never forget. Whether they are positive or negative, these experiences make you a better, stronger person, and you grow from them. I started on different places of my body, and my experiences have pushed me to putting artwork on other places of my skin.
What about the other aspects of your life? Did your tattoos affect you professionally?
Out of respect for my family I cover up, and I work in the finance industry, so there is an emphasis on professionalism there. They do allow me to have my sleeve out, which is really great. I didn’t want to have to hide them. Of course, I understand that it is a professional setting, but I believe that if you’re doing your job correctly then it shouldn’t matter.
What’s your favorite piece?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the two-headed tiger on the back of my forearm gets a lot of attention and it has a lot of meaning for me. For one, I come from a religious family, and while I’m not active in it, I do have my faith and my beliefs. It’s actually from the Book of Revelation, but to me it exemplifies the Apocalypse and the downfall of humanity. It’s a symbol that signifies the importance of change and symbolizes the religious aspect but also the rebellion against it.
Any other favorites?
I have a Frankenstein-meets-geisha piece. To me, it reflects my belief that we are all made for somebody and that we will find them eventually.
Where does the future take you?
I’m getting older, and I would like to go into college. I want to go into fashion design and merchandising; I’m a fashion whore [laughs]. I’m a total girly-girl when it comes to shopping and makeup and shoes. I’m looking forward to growing with Black Eyed Saint and seeing where the modeling takes me.
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