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girlnewyork mira Mariah tattoo artist New York
@girlnewyork

Mira Mariah is the queer artist celebrating her disability through tattoos


TextAmelia Abraham

The Brooklyn-based creative has captured people – including the likes of Ariana Grande – with her femme designs

Mira Mariah’s beautiful line drawn tattoos are immediately recognisable. They are what she would describe as femme – from the delicate designs, sometimes pink shading, and swirly cursive fonts (in a good way), through to the subject matter; hearts, astrological symbols, pretty little sprigs of leaves and flowers, cats, clouds, lockets, birds, and butterflies (the list goes on). They almost look more like fashion illustrations – which makes sense given that Mariah’s professional background and first love is fashion. 

Growing up in Long Island but living in Brooklyn, where she has been tattooing for five years, Mariah says that while she always had a curiosity about tattoos, she thought that her girly personal aesthetic coupled with the style of her drawings might not make tattooing a very inviting environment for her. But it turns out she was wrong. Her tattoos are in high demand, earning her over a thousand requests a month, as well as clients like Arianna Grande. This – coupled with the way that she owns her identity as queer, a young mother and an amputee – has won her a loyal following, seen her become something of an Instagram tattoo inspiration go-to (under her pseudonym @girlnewyork), and led to several big collaborations with brands. 

Below, we talked to Mariah about her designs, tattooing as a femme and disabled person, and who her favourite upcoming tattoo artists are.  

How and why did you get into tattooing?

Mira Mariah: I honestly had just never seen tattoos drawn in a way that looks like tattoos I would want to wear. Thinking back five or ten years ago, the aesthetic of tattoos was very different. Being femme and even at times bordering on preppy and very interested in luxury didn’t feel like it had a space in the tattoo business. But I was very curious about what they could look like, if they were just done a bit more gently, more charming and feminine, rather than dark and brooding. Trying to figure out exactly what that was going to look like took a long time. I emailed every single tattoo artist that I found in the world and asked them for an apprenticeship. Eventually, someone took me on as an apprentice in Brooklyn for a year and from there, I started tattooing on my own. 

You’re well known for tattooing Ariana Grande, but what other kinds of interesting people have you tattooed?  

Mira Mariah: So much of me wanting to become a tattoo artist was – and I often say this jokingly – based on my love of gossip! What’s cool about my work is that it seems to have resonated with such a wide group of people; I tattoo women who are prison activists, surgeons, women who are 65-year-olds who just decided to make a career change and now they want to become midwives; I get to spend a few hours with them and get to know them. That is one of my favorite parts of my job. I’m like, ‘Hello, how are you? What are you doing? Are you on Tinder? What’s your astrological sign? Give me the nitty gritty!’

How did tattooing Ariana Grande change your career? I imagine that kind of celebrity endorsement makes your bookings absolutely pop off… 

Mira Mariah: Yeah. The thing about it is that the same week I got my first major profile. So everything kind of all happened at once. Where I went from a tattoo artist that was, ‘Oh, I think I’ve heard of her’ to someone that I think people had a better idea of who I was. A few weeks later, I had my first fashion collaboration (with Hobo bags) come out. So it was all in this same six weeks, where I went from feeling very indie to feeling a lot more polished.

I read that you get 700 or 800 applications a month? How do you deal with that?

Mira Mariah: I think we’re up to about 1500 a month! The whole thing happens with a team of people. I have a girl who does booking, I have my sister who helps me with babysitting, and I have just recently brought on a manager to try to kind of turn this into a real brand.

Out of those 1500 a month applications, how do you choose which you actually do?

Mira Mariah: I only tattoo three to five tattoos a day, three or four days a week. So let’s say I do 15 a week. We have a secret code that if you meet me out in the world, you have a better chance of getting it, like if you come to a party that I throw. And then beyond that, I just read through the submissions.

We do themes every month, so any ideas that are closest to the themes take priority. I’m the kind of person who just gets really stuck on one thing and obsessed with it, so the themes reflect that. Right now, I’m really obsessed with Marie Antoinette, so imagery of cake and roses. I’m also working on some illustrations where Marie Antionette is fat, or has a penis. I put out free flash sheets with it and then you’re allowed to suggest something else within the theme too. For a while, I was doing a lot of jungle cats – I recently did a page called pussy power that was basically almost entirely cats and cat ladies and tigers on leashes. 

Would you say that your clients are mostly women, and queer people, like yourself? 

Mira Mariah: It’s not by choice, but it’s almost entirely women. It’s less than once a week that I’m seeing a masculine person come to me. I think that’s the nature of the work I make – it’s available to men if they want it, but it is designed with femmes in mind. 

Could you say a bit more about why your work is designed with femmes in mind? 

Mira Mariah: There could be a larger, more political answer, but the truth is, it’s because that’s what I like! I’m sitting in my bedroom now and it’s all perfume bottles and hair clips and candles on vanities and like wax sculptures of slices cake. This is what I like and what I want to do. 

That brings me on to my next question. Could you tell me a bit about your own tattoos?

Mira Mariah: Sure. I collect tattoos really thoughtlessly. Just like if one of my friends knows how to tattoo and I just kind of want something. But I love my tattoos. They’re a really big part of my relationship with my body and my relationship with storytelling. My favorite tattoos change all the time. Lately it’s been a butterfly on my hand and the words “Frida is special”, which was written by my daughter. It’s in her handwriting. She was referencing Frida Kahlo. 

I take my daughter with me to almost all of my work events that are not totally inappropriate for her to be there. The likeliness that she’ll be there for your tattoo appointment is actually pretty high. That’s like, a big piece of my work also – I am a mother and I want people to be kind of forced to have to recognise that. 

How does being someone who lives with a disability affect your approach to tattooing?  

Mira Mariah: Bridging the gap between tattoos and beauty is really important and interesting to me. It’s about beautifying and ornamenting and reclamation – that is such a big part of my work as a disabled person. I’m missing my leg and for me, the goal has been feeling free in this body I’ve had such a complicated relationship with over so much time. I just want to make other people feel happy and comfortable in themselves and I want to help them set themselves free. Getting to know yourself is really important to me and I try to help people with that. With tattoos, you know, it’s making permanent decisions about a body that a lot of times, other people have made decisions about before you got the opportunity to. 

Finally, any tattoo artists who we should check out?

Mira Mariah: Oh my gosh, I love this question. Mars Hobrecker is like such a cool tattoo artist. Their work is really cool with lots of like amazing queer themes. I really like @tiny.tattooer on Instagram too. Her work is really special. 

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