Beauty pageants can be homogenous — but the one at House of Blues next month won't be. On Sept. 23, the 2017 Miss Inked USA pageant will celebrate women who have turned their bodies into canvases for art of all kinds.
Photographer Art Cantu founded Miss Texas Inked in 2014, and it has since grown to include women from all over the United States and Canada. This year, the number of finalists expanded from 12 to 20. Two finalists, Lawren Boe and Erin Landis, reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
This week, we caught up with Boe, who was born in Arlington and lives in downtown Dallas. She tells us about her ink, the Miss Inked experience and what people misunderstand about tattoos.
How old were you when you got your first tattoo, and what was it?
My first tattoo was a peacock feather on my hip. I had just turned 18, and my parents had said they would get me my first tattoo when I was 18 as long as I drew it. Sure enough, I did, and they kept their promise.
What made you want to enter the Miss Inked USA pageant, and what do you hope to get out of the experience?
I've always wanted to be in pageants but never thought it would happen because I knew I wanted to have tattoos, body modifications and crazy-colored hair. Sadly, that's not accepted. When I found out something like this existed, I knew I had to dive in. Something I want to take away would be most of all proving to myself that I can put myself out there, to get over my stage fright, to prove that you can still follow your dreams even when you don't fit society's version of normal or beautiful. It's OK to be different and to follow your dreams.
Do you have experience as a model?
I started dabbling in modeling in high school. A lot of my friends needed people to use as subjects for photography classes, so I played around with it then. But I started pursuing my modeling seriously about a year ago.
How do you become a Miss Inked finalist, and what was your reaction when you found out you were selected?
The process was crazy. You have to write a 400-word essay, send pictures of all your tattoos, along with full-body portraits as well as face portraits. Originally, there were 12 finalists. When they announced the finalists, I was listening to the podcast with my girlfriend and my stepmom. I went outside because I was so nervous and anxious. They got to the 12th person, and they didn't say my name. Instead, they said they extended to 20 girls. Finally, they get to the 20th person and said my name. I jumped up and down, danced around in a circle, ran inside and did a quiet scream because my dad was asleep. It was an awesome feeling.
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Do you have a favorite tattoo?
I have a small queen of hearts tattoo on my wrist that my girlfriend and I got together in Las Vegas. It was our first tattoo together, and that trip was so amazing. Every time I look at it I can't help but smile.
What tattoo style or theme appeals to you the most?
I love traditional tattoos. I love bold and colorful work. But I have chosen several different styles for myself.
What's the biggest misconception about people who have a lot of tattoos or body modifications?
That we are just punks up to no good. That we can't live a normal life just because we express ourselves in ways that other people don't accept. It doesn't mean we are ruining our bodies. It's artwork; it's self-expression. I think I'm beautiful with my crazy-colored hair, my piercings and tattoos.
Miss Inked USA 2017, 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St., $43-$150, eventbrite.com.