I want to do a shoot just like this
Beyoncé - Yoncé ft Joan Smalls
Have been meaning to post an update on my facial scars for the last few weeks, apologies to those of you that have sent lovely messages and not yet received a reply. I just wanted to be able to answer all questions simultaneously rather than the odd reply here and there that would inevitably be removed from my page.
I’m not sure how clear the photograph is, I kind of broke the screen off of my laptop so I’m currently using outdated technology with a poor graphics card, but my scars are healing well and I’m over the moon with how they’re coming along. I keep tracing my fingers over the different textures, they just feel so amazing, I love it!
So I’m going to try to outline and answer all of the questions I’ve been receiving from the anons I haven’t been able to privately message back here now. Feel free to get in touch if there’s anything I’ve missed.
Who did your scarification?
My (beautiful) scars were made by Iestyn Flye at Divine Canvas in London and I would recommend him to anyone seeking high quality body modification. Iestyn has done all of my scarification work as well as my tongue bifurcation and I hope to see him for some transdermal implants and labret scalpeling later on this year, as well as a lot more scarification in the future n_n
What was the process behind your scarification?
The procedure was much like getting a tattoo, but rather something was subtracted instead of added to the skin. A transfer is placed on the skin and then the design is cut or ‘peeled’ out using surgical-grade instruments by a trained professional (and I really can’t stress PROFESSIONAL enough!).
How long did it take?
It took around four hours for each side. I took an hour out in between to eat something that later gave me food poisoning, so it was around nine hours before both sides were complete.
Did it hurt?
I never really know how to respond to this kind of question. Pain is entirely subjective and though we all share a similar pain threshold, we can have wildly different tolerances for it. So I suppose the answer is always both yes and no.
First of all, a topical anaesthetic is always applied once the skin is broken. So whilst the initial cutting is felt, there’s not really much pain once this is applied. The anaesthetic used on my scarification is known as blue gel anaesthetic, which contains pain numbing agents lidocaine and tetracaine, but mostly it serves as a vasoconstrictor which stems the bleeding, as the scarification process bleeds quite a lot! But from my personal perspective, it’s really not as painful as I imagined it would be.
Can you describe the experience?
I always assume this means the subjective experience rather than a description of the process (correct me if I’m wrong). For me personally, I prefer the sensation of being cut to the sensation of getting inked, it feels a lot less aggressive, like a ‘cleaner’ sensation. After the initial scratch, there’s a great warmth when the blood flows out, like a rush of warm water over the skin. It’s nice in an abstract way. But it’s simultaneously very stressful to the body physically, even though you’re not aware of any pain most of the time, unconsciously your body still knows it’s happening. So there’s a lot of adrenaline and endorphines flowing - I threw up after both of my scar sessions. It was awesome.
Did you worry about getting and infection?
No, absolutely not. Obviously it’s something that you have to be aware of but with proper aftercare there is no reason why you should get an infection if you’ve gone to a professional (there’s that word again, kids). Aftercare is simple, the wounds are kept clean and moisturised with a sugar-peroxide solution and vaseline to keep them hydrated. Hot compresses are used to soften any regrowth so it can be carefully cleaned away and most scarification is covered throughout the day with clingfilm or the appropriate dressings. I kept my cheeks entirely covered for the first few days, and then only at night for a couple of weeks though it was cleaned several times each day and not interfered with at all with unwashed hands.
How did you choose the design?
The design was decided upon by my artist and I, and is a warped version of a geometric pattern. I wanted something based on geometry but not something too hackneyed or obvious and Iestyn did an amazing job with the pattern. I really loved that parts of it had quite a floral appearance and that the parts around my ears look like hearts. I also wanted something that wasn’t inherently ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, but a mixture of both straight and curved lines.
Why your face?
I think that this question as well as ‘did it hurt’ were the most commonly asked questions I received. Why my face? I don’t know. Why anywhere? Why at all? I think the ‘shocking’ thing about it probably stems from the fact that scarification isn’t a common practice among many cultures and it’s often seen as some kind of self-mutilation or rebellion. And baring that in mind alongside its permanency it’s especially taboo so see it on someones face. But I don’t really concern myself with how others might perceive it at first glance and without knowing me. I chose to have it on my face because I thought it was beautiful and I don’t expect everyone to like or appreciate it in any way but when it comes to what I do with my body other people aren’t really my concern at all. Yes, I have a job. I work hard and I earn real money for doing something that I love. And they let me into one of the best universities in the country, fully aware of my very visible modifications. No one who is truly worth anything to you should give a flying fuck about what you look like and having mods does not prevent you from being successful, so long as you prove yourself as an individual.
What was your justification considering the pain? Was it worth it?
There are many things you will do within your lifetime that cause you pain, not purely on a physical level but on an emotional one as well. Should we not allow ourselves to run barefoot just in case we cut our feet? Or to fall in love even though others can so easily break your heart? If you love something then pain is inconsequential. A temporary sensation pales in comparison to the elation I feel each day I see my scars in the mirror. I feel happier with them each day, I can’t even remember any pain anymore. I can’t remember when I last felt that a decision I made was so worthwhile. I’m just so happy with them I can’t even describe it. The happiness I feel now is justification enough for me to “scar myself for life”.
What did it mean for you personally? Is there a cultural significance or a personal reason that made you want to scar your face?
I just think it’s beautiful. The location was of no concern other than it’s aesthetic value, the same as you would choose certain images based on how well they fit the structure of your body. It marked a new transition in my life that allowed me to fully transcend the idea that I had to be ‘beautiful’ to be someone. I can let go of some of my vanities by doing what I love instead of what’s expected and acceptable of me. There is obviously a cultural appreciation for those who practice scarification, but at the same time my appreciation for it is separate from them in the sense that it’s more about my relationship to my body than about a right of passage. You can learn so much about your body during times of pain, whether it’s physical or psychological. I can push myself just to see how far I can go and it’s an amazing experience for me to be able to think abstractly about the sensation and see myself from the outside, as if I am simultaneously connected and separate from my body. I feel I know myself more deeply for having these kinds of experiences, whether it’s from a body modification or from a personal ailment. I know more about what I am capable of. I am awake and unafraid.
How are they healing?
Very well! I now have a lovely array of both atrophic and hypertrophic scarring, being more raise across my jawline and more indented near my cheeks. I think this is partly to do with the movement in my jawline and also my afro-Caribbean ancestry. It’s just so amazing for me to have such polarising textures within the structure of my skin. They’re still quite itchy and slightly tender in some parts but I don’t have any negative feelings at all and I am so elated each day to have had it done. I think that a lot of people assume that there’s some kind of psychological issue or deficiency with those who choose to modify themselves, as if we don’t actually think or care about what we do or that it’s an act of rebellion. But had I chosen to have breast augmentation or rhinoplasty, or even something as humiliating as labiaplasty or anal bleaching I don’t think that it would have met such criticism, because it’s only acceptable to some people that you alter yourself in accordance to the social paradigm. But what I have done isn’t any different fundamentally, it’s just that my personal opinion on beauty isn’t the same as theirs. Just because you wouldn’t do it, it doesn’t make those that would ‘wrong’ in some way, and I think that it’s important that people learn to accept these subtle differences rather than insulting each other for things that don’t actually matter.
~ I think that covers most of the questions I’ve received, but as I said, I’m willing to answer any others you may have, The only thing I would ask is that you ask me privately and not anonymously, as it alleviates the stress I have to put on my journal. I promise you, I’m not going to castigate you for simply being curious, I just like to know who I’m talking to!
I hope this helps satisfy any curiosities or questions in some way. Peace out bitches.
Star // Melissa Gray
This is me still.