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Jinxi Boo was something of a late starter. The mother of three was 30 years old when she finally plucked up the courage to have her first tattoo. Instantly hooked, she’s wasted no time in collecting many more in the nine years since that first inking.
From decorating her flesh with a black and white dairy cow to signify her dedication to veganism, through to a sprawling octopus across her throat and chest, it’s fair to say Ms Boo is a tattoo convert. She’s even let two artists work on her scalp at the same time.
But there’s more to this Californian than just looking stunning. When she’s not running her own business, being featured in countless tattoo mags or just generally “destroying the status quo”, she’s horrifying God-fearing folk on TV show Wife Swap, a programme which took her into the living rooms of America. In short: she’s Bizarre’s kind of lady.
As is often the case for people with extreme lifestyles, Jinxi Boo’s choices are in contrast to, and possibly a direct reaction to, her strict religious unbringing. Raised by Mormons – her father was a bishop – she grew up in a conservative household, where caffeine and wearing shorts were banned. Jinxi’s occasional glimpses into other worlds showed her that there was more to life than religion. Ironically, it was seeing her first tattoo during a trip to Disneyland at 16 that had a ‘profound effect’.
More weird and strange tattoo stories here!
“I remember seeing a girl with a Cheshire Cat tattoo on her back,” Jinxi explains. “I thought it was the dreamiest thing I’d ever seen. I think at that moment I fell in love with tattoos and knew I wanted to get one, but I was a little scared.”
Jinxi escaped from the confines of this rigid Mormon existence when she married, aged 21. Husband Steve was her gateway to a freer, more colourful world and, following the completion of a degree in psychology, in 1997 she was among the first people to set up a successful eBay trading business. Only then did she have her first tatt – a miniscule cherry on her ankle.
“Even though it was small, I felt transformed in a way,” she recalls. “From that day, I became a collector. Tattoos haven’t made me the person I am, but they’ve certainly given me confidence.”
So the metaphorical floodgates opened? “No kidding!” laughs Jinxi. “It’s an expensive hobby, isn’t it? I have many themes on my skin, but the portraits of my husband and children are most special to me. The cow on my legs has meaning for me because my husband and I are both vegans, and our kids are all vegetarian. Not everything I have is meaningful, though – I don’t feel that there needs to be a big story behind everything.”
Along the way Jinxi has also accumulated images of her favourite female musicians, including Gwen Stefani, Björk, Cyndi Lauper and Meg White. But given that most parents are uncool in their children’s eyes, what do her three kids think about their mother?
“I often ask their opinions on designs,” she reasons. “It’s tough for a kid to have a mum that stands out so much, but one cool thing is that they seem to appreciate people more for the person they are, rather than their appearance.”
Other people are less understanding, however. “One time, Steve and I were at Disneyland, and a lady came right up to me and said, ‘You’re grotesque.’ Isn’t that lovely? I also often get parents pulling their kids closer or saying loudly, ‘Oh my gosh, look at that!’ It’s normal when kids say that to their parents, because if they’ve never seen someone with tattoos then it’s a new experience for them. But I think it’s so awful when parents say it to their kids, because they’re teaching them to judge somebody. I usually just smile. Sometimes that takes people aback.”
Unsurprisingly, Jinxi says her most famous tattoo – the octopus on her chest and neck by artist Mike DeVries – was also one of her most difficult sessions.
“It took 26 hours to finish,” she winces. “The tattooist usually stretches the skin as the ink’s going in, but it’s difficult to do that on the throat because you’d choke the person. But my head takes the cake for the most painful experience. I had two tattoo artists inking either side of my scalp at the same time. I have a butterfly, a ladybird, a grasshopper and a bumble bee – it’s like a garden. My head bled a lot more quickly and it was swollen afterwards.”
None of this was as painful as appearing on Wife Swap after the show’s producers found Jinxi, Steve and their three children via MySpace. As devout atheists trading lives with fundamental Christians, it was destined to be an awkward experience.
“I walked into the family’s house and they were holding out a bible,” she recalls. “There were crosses and pictures of Jesus hanging everywhere too. Every 10 minutes, the lady who came to stay with my family told Steve he was going to hell. Then when Steve had some tattooed and gay friends over, the woman asked him, ‘Aren’t you afraid that these people will molest your children?’ It was crazy.”
Far from being the Satanic family the show no doubt hoped to portray them as, Jinxi and Steve received thousands of supportive emails from like-minded folk. Of course, they did manage to piss off a few more Christians along the way.
“Poor Steve had a few nasty messages. During filming, he broke a house rule, so his ‘new wife’ ordered him to go to the local supermarket, stand on a soapbox and preach from the bible. After a while, Steve thought, ‘Fuck this,’ and started telling people there was no God. Then he threw the book in the bin. A few Christian organisations boycotted ABC after seeing the programme, and a few people emailed us to say we needed to be ‘saved’.”
All of which makes Bizarre love this family even more than we thought we could…
When she’s not under the needle or irking fundamentalists, Jinxi Boo leads a life that is disappointingly normal to the Christians whose wrath she invokes.
As a freelance writer she’s co-written two books on tattoo history, publishes her favourite vegan recipes online, and is also the ‘cupcake curator’ for a project that solicits – well – cupcake-themed artwork.
But Jinxi’s thoughts are never too far away from that next piece of body art. Her next move is to have an image inspired by her (and her daughter’s) favourite band The Cure on her shoulder.
“Overall, I really want to have full coverage apart from my face, but I’ll never say never as I’m running out of skin fast!” she laughs. “I’m down to just a few more good areas of plain skin now. But then a lot of my old stuff will always need some tender, loving care, so I think I’ll still be able to get my fix – just so long as I can keep colouring over all the old ones!”
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