From her shaved head and heavy eyeliner to her patch of vitiligo and chipped teeth, Coral Veronica Mae Johnson is unapologetic about her unique beauty
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“When I’m shoving a needle through someone’s skin, I make a connection with them,” explains Coral Johnson-McDaniel. “It’s rather sentimental, a pure stranger is giving over their trust in me to modify their personal canvas.” A professional body modification artist, freelance model, artist and muse, Coral’s relationship to needles can be traced back to watching her godmother perform piercings and etching colourful ink into people's skin at her tattoo shop. Although it wasn’t until after high school that Coral decided she wanted to take up the mantle herself and “give others that feeling of individuality and owning your body,” she explains.
Currently living in Dallas, Texas, Coral describes herself as a “queer, black alternative woman.” Considered a “freak” by her classmates, growing up she made connections with the ocean, culture, and animals more than she did people. "Mostly because those things never bullied or ridiculed me for being myself,” she says. Now 21, Coral boasts a following of 25.1k online, whom she enchants with her beautiful and empowering selfies, and we can’t get enough of her.
Can you tell us a bit about your work with body modification?
I’ve been piercing for over three years now and it’s the most spiritual occupation I’ve had. It’s a romantic relationship I have with the needle and the soul underneath the skin. I get to watch a client grow from being anxious about the pain, to fearless and reminded that it’s their body. Piercings are far more than skin deep to me, pun intended.
What is it about your craft that appeals to you?
Art is universal. It connects energies in ways that can only remain unspoken. Everything that I do involves an art form, not only to satisfy my soul but to make others feel something other than getting likes on a post. To make others feel less alone in the world.
How do you express yourself on a day to day basis?
Being absolutely unapologetic. I live in a world where people treat me without respect because I wear heavy eyeliner and platform boots. My shaved head screams “dyke”. My vitiligo on my face yells “stare”. However, I shave my head because I love a woman that doesn’t have to damage her hair to feel attractive. I love the pale mark on my left eye because I am humbled by just how human I really am. I love my chipped, gap teeth and the stories they tell. I take a lot of pride in my self-love and expression. People will want to tear me down for it or build themselves to achieve it. Either way, I made someone feel something.
What are you working on at the moment?
My mental health.
How do you want to change the world?
Giving a voice to the misunderstood. The misconceived are always the ones insane enough who change the world.
Tomorrow you wake up with another face of your choice. Whose is it and why?
I would have to say Grace Jones. She’s one of those icons that you’ve never met, probably never will, but you feel like you know them. Waking up and seeing her face wouldn’t feel unfamiliar. Our faces are distinct, however, our stories are the same. Like me, she was teased in her adolescence yet used her individuality as a strength to impact the world and question “beauty”. That’s all I want in my life.
You have to donate a feature/limb of your body to an icon of yours. You get nothing in return. What feature/limb do you give and why?
I’m donating my vitiligo to Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi). He is one of those artists that makes sure people know who they are and how deep being human really is. He shares his depression, traumatic childhood scars, coping with toxic habits, and drug abuse in the industry. I believe if he had vitiligo, he would raise awareness through his music and engagement with fans. I wouldn’t want anything in return, the masses would be educated and the outcasts would be heard. That’s what everyone deserves.
It's 30 years from now. You stumble home at 3am and catch your reflection in the fridge door. What do you look like?
I’m still on my bullshit at 51, the alcohol numbs my middle-aged back as I look up to see age consumed me. My hair is still buzzed short, my eyes have seen years of emotion and they are weak now, my vitiligo never travelled across my terrain. I smile softly, my smile lines greet me humbly. Did my eyebrows never grow back or am I still shaving them off? I laugh off my early staged memory loss as I drunk text my child that in fact, “Black don’t crack”.
If you could have a new sense on top of your existing ones, what would it be?