Not only accepting the fact that she’s severely scarred for the rest of her life, Montreal-based professional linguist, performer, and model Ella (IAM:ella) is celebrating it. And by celebrating it, I mean showing it off. And who can complain about a hot girl who shows off her body?
Up until several years ago though, Ella didn’t show off: She did everything to avoid people seeing the scars left by a pot of boiling water falling on top of her at age four. She wore long sleeved shirts the majority of the time until age eighteen, hoping that the questions and ridicule would stop if people couldn’t see that she was any different than them.
It worked the majority of time, and that made her happy until, during her teenage rebellion stage, she decided she was going to show the world what she really looked like, and the long sleeves disappeared.
Expecting an “OH MY GOD” reaction from everyone who came into contact with her, she was disappointed to find that very few people seemed to care. Her attempt at a “‘fuck you’ rebellion thing” seemed to go totally unnoticed.
There are events in our lives that can change our perception of ourselves, our lives, and the world. Ella’s paradigm shift was caused by someone — her then boyfriend — who not only accepted her physical differences, but found beauty in them. The point of view seemed contagious, and Ella’s attitude towards her scars changed. She too began to see them as beautiful; she started to see them as a good thing. Shortly after that, she began modelling.
Her ex-boyfriend was good friends with Jerome Abramovitch of Chapter9Photography, and they did several photo shoots together. Modelling proved to help her become even more comfortable with the way she looked, and soon she moved onto doing burlesque shows at a fetish club run by a friend of hers. She later progressed into television, where she was featured in seven out of thirteen episodes of Kink III, on the Showcase channel. Talk about celebrating your differences.
Amina Munster (IAM:Amina Munster), who I interviewed in February 2005, is planning on coming out with her secret to her SuicideGirls public within the next couple of months. As a child she nearly drowned, resulting in the loss of the fingertips on her right hand, a quarter of her right leg, and half of her right lung. Amina has done a fantastic job of hiding the fact that she is missing parts of her body in real life and online where she’s an active and popular SuicideGirl.
She’s soon ready to join Ella and celebrate the fact that her body is different than anyone else’s. In preparation for an A&E show called “Inked,” who decided to feature Amina on an episode, she had her prosthetic leg airbrushed to look tattooed. In the near future, Amina will show her online fans that she’s not who they thought she was by doing photo shoots that don’t hide her missing leg. She’s hoping for the best, of course, and expects even more positive feedback, much like the comments she got from the people of BME after the article featuring her was published.
The main difference between these two girls is that Ella considers what happened to her as a child as “body modification” whereas Amina does not. Another outcome of Ella’s paradigm shift was that she decided to highlight her scars with scarification: a testament to the fact that she loves how her body has been changed.
Kudos to Ella. Not only has she accepted what has happened to her, she’s dealing with it in the most positive light. It’s admirable to see someone whose strong body matches a strong mind. She’s a role model for other people who have gone through similar traumatic experiences, she shows people that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the level of scarring or deformation that someone has. There’s a strong difference between simply accepting what your body looks like and actually falling in love with its changes. Intentional modifications or not, Ella’s body is beautiful.
- Gillian Hyde
When your physical appearance changes against your will, like scarring or losing a limb, is it considered body modification? I’m not just talking about accidentally slicing your finger open while cutting a watermelon, or burning your arm on a stove rack, but rather, severe circumstances like what happened to Ella Earp-Lynch (IAM:ella), who was burned by a pot of boiling water at age four, or to Amina Munster (IAM:Amina Munster) who had her leg amputated and the tips of her fingers fall off as a consequence of nearly drowning before the age of two.
Ella, who has scarring on nearly a third of her entire body, says that she absolutely considers what has happened to her as body modification. And why? “The disingenuous answer would be to say, ‘because my body is modified from the way it originally was, it’s different from the way it was at birth’.
But I can also say that I first started thinking of my scars as body modification when I began to see the beauty in them, and to feel that having them made me more, rather than less attractive.”
These women interpret their experiences in very different ways. Ella showcases her modifications, and even highlights them with Dremel and scalpel scarification and branding. This decision was easy for her, and began when her friend, “a scarificationist, mentioned that he thought that the small scar on my left shoulder looked like a bird, specifically, like a Chinese phoenix, and said that he would like to try and “bring it out” with a technique he had been experimenting with using a Dremel tool to
“Another part of what I like about my current project (of modifying/outlining my existing scars and eventually mirroring their outlines on the other side of my body with more conventional scarifications) is that I feel it reflects my attitude towards my scars more accurately to the average person, and makes it easier for them to see what I see.”
Amina, on the other hand, hides her “modifications” both in real life and online, where she is an active and popular Suicide Girl.
She debuted on SuicideGirls.com in late December 2002, and she has never shown her missing leg or fingers in any of her photos. She’s fairly heavily tattooed, has a gold tooth and breast implants, all of which she considers mods, but does not consider her “missing parts” body modification. She believes that in order to classify something as body modification, it needs to be an intentional act.
Why the gray area? Intentional amputations happen, accidental amputations certainly happen more often — but when is it considered body modification? Is it simply in the eye of the beholder?
I decided to interview Amina to find out what it is exactly that stops her from classifying the accidental changes to her body as “body modification.”
Certainly, if I break a fingernail or get a bruise on my leg, I would not consider it body modification nor body art. I guess, ultimately, it’s up to the people who have unintentionally injured their bodies to classify any changes as “body modification” or not. Regardless of whether it’s by choice or accident, these girls’ bodies are different than what they’re supposed to be. Everything after that is left up to interpretation. Who really needs the labels anyway?
- Gillian Hyde
Mothers with Mods
The image of what a Mother is has drastically changed in the past fifty years. Many years ago, mothers only wore dresses, stayed home to rear the children and take care of their husbands. Then they began to get jobs, laws passed to allow women to get paid the same wage as men, women even started loving other women in public!
Monica Beyer (IAM:Orinda)
Now it’s commonplace for mothers to not have husbands, to never wear dresses… and some… some have tattoos! Piercings! The shame! How can they be good role models for their children? What a terrible disgrace! What has the world come to?
Obviously this point of view isn’t shared by everyone, but is still dominant in our society. Everyone who has visible modifications has probably, at some point, been discriminated against, or at least been stereotyped by someone unmodified. Is it worse for a pregnant woman who has visible modifications?
A social shift in what is acceptable and unacceptable is currently underway, and we’re never going to be able to please everyone. Modified mothers and fathers can be equally fit parents as someone without modifications; tattoos and piercings don’t automatically lower someone’s intelligence or make them abusive. Pregnant women or mothers toting around children have enough to worry about, the last thing they need is to justify their lifestyle to those who don’t understand.
Monica Beyer (IAM:Orinda), a successful entrepreneur who owns and operates SigningBaby.com and SigningBabyShop.com, has created a forum for members of IAM to discuss anything and everything they want to while pregnant. She initially started the forum because she couldn’t find anywhere else online where she really fit in. After two failed attempts (they just didn’t catch on) at the forum, she now has 141 members who actively participate in topics ranging from nipple piercings to circumcision to labor. It is a closed forum, so those of us who aren’t pregnant are not allowed to join in the conversation, however anyone who is pregnant is welcome to participate, but you will have to contact Monica in order to view the forum, of course.
Initially, the forums were public, but because of some unforeseen drama (one member used what was said in the forums against other members in order to tarnish their reputation and to ultimately hurt their feelings) and excessive posts by members who weren’t pregnant, Monica decided to make them private. She wanted to keep the forum a “safe place where people can feel free to talk about whatever they want to talk about.” She and other members didn’t think it was necessary to involve people who didn’t have anything worthwhile to contribute. It is a place for support, understanding and the ins and outs of becoming a mother.
Monica’s eggwarrior tattoos
Left one designed by Corbin (age 5), right by Dagan (age 8)
It’s hard enough to deal with society on a day-to-day basis, but throw in morning sickness, weight gain and water retention and you may be dealing with a hormonal monster! Give the girl a break!
We are an ever-changing society, and the image of what a Mother is will likely be completely different by the time the children of the mothers of this generation start having babies. We’re constantly breaking ground — it’s a very exciting time to be having kids, and with the support from other modified mothers and fathers, it’s getting easier and easier.
- Gillian Hyde (iam:typealice)
Gillian Hyde is a Canadian writer with a passion for design, ocean, travel, and fonts. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to also read her journal, This Was My Gambia about five months spent teaching in The Gambia.
Online presentation copyright © 2005 BMEzine.com LLC. A number of the photographs in this article are © 2004 Sam Lerner. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published online January 10th, 2005 by BMEzine.com LLC from La Paz, Mexico.