Faster Pussycat! Ink! Ink!

Laura Satana first tattooed herself when she was 14 years old and hasn’t stopped since. The owner of Paris’ Exxxotic Tattoos has inked Parisian rappers Booba, 25G, Nessbeal, singer-songwriter Julian Perretta and Jonny from Social Distortion. We spoke with the internationally known artist about the struggles as a woman in the industry, what it’s like to tattoo yourself and how the business is changing.

Laura Satana Exxxotic Tattoos

Laura Satana. Is that your real name?
No. It should be.

Where did it come from?
From Tura Satana, the actress from Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! I really fell in love with that movie when I was very young. It showed strong women able to beat men and be a little bit evil. It’s another side of women. I fell in love with the actress and then people told me, “You look like her.” So I took her last name as my artist name.

So, why tattoos? What about them drew you in?
I’ve drawn since I was a very young kid. I had the idea to become a tattoo artist because my friends were all doing tattoos and asking me to design stuff for them so that they could get it tattooed. I wanted to learn professionally but it wasn’t that easy to find a real apprenticeship. So, I started with a homemade machine because I had some gypsy friends who were tattooing homemade, like prison style. I started at home on my friends when I was 15 or 16 years old. I got my diploma and then I decided to find a real apprenticeship. I was 19 when I found it.

Laura Satana

What was the apprenticeship like?
It was more about cleaning the shop and doing the stencil stuff then really learning to tattoo. I learned most by myself.

Would you say you had an unconventional childhood?
I had a regular childhood, I think. I have always been attracted to that badass mentality. Images that show women in a strong way. Doing tattoos makes you beautiful, of course, but gives you freedom at the same time. It gives you strength at the end.

What was the first tattoo you ever did?

It was three dots on my hand. In France, it means against all authorities.

Laura Satana

Does it hurt when you tattoo yourself?
I have a soft hand. It was done with just a needle and a wire around and ink. I started to tattoo myself with a machine when I was an apprentice. It’s yourself against yourself. You can’t relax and accept the pain. You have to stay concentrated on what you’re doing. It’s really difficult to tattoo yourself. But I have a soft hand when I do myself. [laughs]

You started tattooing in 1997. What was it like being a woman in the tattoo industry when it was still for only the truly badasses?

15 years ago it was really different. It was the really badass guy tattooing only bikers and skinheads. They were really tough and really hard with me. They didn’t treat me well because I was young. I was 19 years old, can you image? It gives you a bigger character. It was hard to find an apprenticeship. I think I had all the dirty talks you can give to a young lady. I had to stay quiet and accept this if I wanted to learn tattooing.

Did you have any mentors?
I had two. They taught be a lot about tattooing. My friend Marcus who is doing that fantastic show called Gypsy Gentlemen. He was my very first guest in my tattoo shop in Paris. He helped me out correcting and fixing every mistake I made from learning by myself. Tin-Tin as well. He’s kind of the tattoo daddy for me: giving me advice, even when I don’t ask for it — especially when I don’t ask.

Laura Satana Exxxotic Tattoos

Have you been a mentor to an up-and-coming tattoo artist?
I have had an apprentice called Mathias at my shop for four years now. He does better and better. I teach him everything from building a needle to holding a machine to using it.

Who is your favorite person that you’ve tattooed?

I feel like when you tattoo someone you are giving him a part of yourself. It’s a big exchange. Every time it’s something new and something creative and deep. I can’t say. If I tattooed my mom, I would say my mom but that’s not the case.

Are you close with your mom?

Ah, yes. Really.

Laura Satana Exxxotic Tattoos

Does she have any tattoos?
Not at all.

Does she love what you do?

Tattoos represented something bad for them. I remember they were worried about my future and having so much tattoos on my body can close some doors. Finally, it opened more doors than it closed. They saw there wouldn’t be any problems with being tattooed. They’re really proud — even if they don’t like tattoos.

What has been your WILDest experience?
Every tattoo is a crazy experience. There is nothing weird because every demand is always something personal. Finding it strange would be judging.

Do you see the tattoo industry changing?
There is a new scene coming from hip hop that don’t have the same influences. Those guys don’t go to the tattoo conventions. They start to have their own tattoo magazines. It’s not about bikers and white trash things. It comes from more black people and Latinos: all the people who didn’t choose to get tattooed before. I see this new scene evolving. I think tattoo conventions will soon have to start changing a little bit and make a place for those people.

Laura Satana Exxxotic Tattoos

Do you ever see yourself changing careers?
I’m still every happy when I’m tattooing. I feel like it’s my very favorite artwork. I like to do some other artistic stuff. I’ve recently been an actress in short movies. I’ve done two this year and I’m really proud of it. So other artistic activities.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I think it was advice from Marcus when he tried to explain to me how less can be more.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever given?
Never take yourself too seriously.

And do you take your own advice?

Of course. I hate when people are too serious. I think we all need to have fun in our life.

Do you have any regrets?
Not yet. It’s all good for now.

Laura Satana Exxxotic Tattoos

Do you know where you would want to go?
That’s the problem because there are many places I’d want to go. There are a bunch of cool places that I’ve visited that I want to go back to. More South America, of course.

What’s your WILD wish?
Having a kid. No, that’s not cool. Don’t say that. It’s too cheesy.

I wouldn’t say that’s cheesy.
But I really wish I had one. Having kids and traveling with them. That’s my WILD wish.

All photographs by Xavier Balner

Check out Laura’s Website here.

text by: Katie Grimmer

photography by: Xavier Balner

Don't yet have an account? now!

Order The Radiant Issue Today

Order The Radiant Issue Today

Order The Radiant Issue Today

Order The Radiant Issue Today