Body art boom

Siobhan Brosnan

Never one to shy from upping the shock value ante, Lady Gaga wowed audiences across the world once again in a recent appearance on the Jay Leno talk show, sporting what appeared to be a series of small horns on her forehead and cheeks.

Although her “sub-dermal implants” were as a result of prosthetics and clever make-up, for years countless body modification enthusiasts have paid small fortunes to have small silicone or Teflon-based shapes implanted under their skin, a painful and controversial procedure. Although still considered quite an underground subculture, Gaga’s display of these has me wondering if society is finally coming around to accepting the more extreme forms body modification into the mainstream.

Google ‘scarification’, ‘dermal and sub-dermal implants’, and ‘tongue splitting’ and thousands of often gut-wrenching images will instantly appear before you.  But they are becoming more and more popular. Only last year a good friend of mine spent an obscene amount of money to have a lotus flower scarred into her upper back.

To each their own (I personally think the detailing is amazing and it does suit her own very individual style), but is the line between pushing boundaries for creative purposes and pushing them for shock value slowly meshing into one big blur?

As a long-time appreciator of most forms of body modification, I have for a long time been a fan of, and online community for those interested in tattoos and piercings, as well as some of the more extreme procedures. However, in recent years it has come to my attention that many are in direct competition with one another to have the most unique and often shocking additions to their bodies, often resulting in painful and sometimes dangerous procedures. I mean, surely no one could be stupid enough to pierce their own eyelid? I kid you not…

Body piercing has been a socially acceptable mainstream practice for decades. From the 1960s onwards, girls from a very young age sported a single pair of earrings. Multiple ear and nose piercings, often self-pierced and adorned with household items, such as safety pins, were embraced by the punk movement of the 1970s.

The opening of Gauntlet Enterprises in 1978 helped further in making body piercing both safer and more widespread. The trend continued throughout the eighties, but really started to take off with Generation Y adopting the craze in the nineties.

Who can forget Scary Spice with her trademark tongue stud, a look that launched countless copycats?  Facial piercings became far more widespread and accepted, and the navel-piercing craze really took off after Aerosmith’s video for their 1993 song “Cryin’” featured Alicia Silverstone of “Clueless” fame getting her navel pierced.

The video won “Best Music Video” at the MTV Awards, and the piercing became the must have item for teenage girls all over the world. Likewise, Britney Spears’ jewel-adorned bellybutton in the late 90s launched hoards of tweenage girls begging their parents to allow them to follow suit.

The trend has continued throughout the naughties, with many celebrities following suit. Scarlett Johansson is often seen out and about sporting multiple ear piercings (included the extremely popular tragus piercing), as well as jewellery in her nostril and septum. Alyssa Milano, Joss Stone and Pink have all worn nose rings at one point or another, and Kate Moss and Fergie have frequently been seen with multiple ear piercings.

Their body modifications have often made the news; Pink famously got pierced backstage at a concert with her mother watching and I’m sure no one is going to forget Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at her 2004 Superbowel performance in a hurry!

Love them or loathe them, body piercings are not a brief fad – they’re around for the long haul. The question is this: will 2011’s pre-teen princess be begging Mom and Dad for a pretty diamond nose-stud, or silicone horns?!


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