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September 2005
Yes it Hurts! But Not the Animals
The Satya Interview with Danielle DiStefano

 

Photo by Matt Miller
From the west coast to her east coast home in New York, Danielle DiStefano has been professionally tattooing for nearly four years. Although her ink-covered body may not resemble all of Satya’s readers, this talented artist has something in common with many of our readers—she’s vegan. In fact, after nine years of living cruelty-free, this 24 year-old added a new tattoo on the left side of her neck, in shades of black and gray the word “Vegan” says it all.

Danielle is also the co-founder of Upstarts, a New York tattoo art show dedicated to highlighting the work of tattooers who have been working for five years or less. At Dare Devil Tattoo in New York’s lower east side, over the buzzing of the tattoo gun, Maureen Wyse was able to chat it up with Danielle DiStefano.

What sets you apart from other tattooers?
I don’t know if I am different than other tattooers. I still feel weird saying I stand apart. I’ve always liked the idea of being in a male dominated industry and trying to prove myself as an artist, not just as a woman. It seems to be tougher for girls to start up. There are some people that have stereotypes of women not being capable of doing a good bold tattoo. So I’ve worked really hard to get respect from other tattooers.

How receptive is the rest of the tattooing community to veganism?
Okay, I guess it is fair to say that I stand out—being a female vegan tattooer is not prevalent in this community. It definitely is more male, meat-eating centered. I guess I just never really thought about it because the majority of people at the shop I work at are vegetarian. But definitely going on the road, being at tattoo conventions—where there is nothing to eat except french fries or cotton candy, which I don’t mind eating, but not for breakfast lunch and dinner—it hits me that I stick out from the others.

What kind of reactions do you get from other tattoo artists?
Most tattooers that actually want to spend time talking about it just want to make fun of me. Not in a mean-spirited way, it’s just something that they are not used to, something they don’t understand or are not exposed to. It is just a different lifestyle for them.

Is there, by chance, a community of vegan tattoo artists?
[Laughs.] There is no organized revolution yet, but there definitely is a group of us. I think there’s a younger generation, hardcore-based kids who are definitely more vegan and vegetarian than with the older tattooers.

What about ink? Is it vegan?
I actually make all of my own inks, so mine are vegan. The pigments I use are plant-based, but they are hard to find. Most inks contain glycerin—a liquid commonly extracted from animal fats—but I make mine with vegetable glycerin.

Why did you choose to get the word “vegan” tattooed on your neck, and what kinds of reactions do you get?
I have been waiting to get a vegan tattoo for a long time and I could never think of an important place to get it, until I decided on my neck. It just represents who I am and what I live for day by day. It is kind of an awareness, a statement for other people.

[Laughs.] Most people think it says “Vegas” [laughs], and they ask me if I like Vegas a lot. Or they ask me if that’s my boyfriend’s name [laughs]. Some people look at me and see I am heavily tattooed, and think I am this extreme person they can never understand. They can’t comprehend not eating dairy or meat.

There are other people who are really curious and feel comfortable asking me about it. Young people are interested, and I guess they find the answers I give them helpful.

Has tattooing helped you to spread your message?
I definitely have connected to a lot of people being a vegan tattooer. I definitely have done a lot of tattoos, because I am vegan. Without really even looking at my work, people have such strong moral issues, they feel like we already have that connection, and that’s more important than the quality of the tattoo or anything else. It’s really amazing that they have all this trust in me because I make good lifestyle choices. I have done quite a few vegan themed tattoos. Mostly the word “vegan” but in different designs, like a dagger going through a tomato, saying, “vegan.” I think that was the best one.

Related to the theme of this issue, how do you feel about the “New Taste of Vegan?” Where do you think it is going?
Veganism is such an important lifestyle and a healthier way of living. I hope people become more informed and try to incorporate it more into their everyday life. There were not nearly as many options out there when I first went vegan. So, any way you make it easier for people to obtain products at grocery stores, or at restaurants is going to make it that much easier for people to switch over—it’s great.

How about the other vegan Danielle (Konya) and her Vegan Treats?
Oooh, I don’t know her, but I love her. [Giggles.] She’s definitely the best baker… ever.

Do you have any advice for future vegans—you have been vegan for nine years?
Some simple advice: definitely research what you are getting into. And don’t be ignorant about your health. You still have to take care of yourself. You can’t just stop eating everything without supplementing and not watching your health. Take your vitamins.

Advice for future tattooers?
Pay your dues, work hard, and draw your ass off!

What tattoo would you love to design?
Any tattoo that has meaning to someone. I know that is an easy answer, but making the person happy and giving them what they want is what I want to do… And I get really excited about doing vegan tattoos.

For more information about Danielle DiStefano and her work, visit www.yesithurts.net.


 


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