Interstellar.

An interview with Stella and her star tattoo.

In memory of Lizzie Treip

After having decided on the colour ‘Nude’ for our fifth issue of Lux, we begun to look closer to home for touching introspective stories. Immediately, we were drawn to the stories behind stranger’s and friend’s personal markings and art on their skin in the form of tattoos. At a party last year, our starry-minded friend Stella showed us her personal pointed tat, delicately painted onto her hip, and told us her story behind it. Our ‘Nude’ edition seemed to be the perfect opportunity for us to ask her to share it with you. We thought it individual yet filled with warm tales and touching themes that often affect us all. 

Let’s begin with your background university life- what do you study at Edinburgh?

I’m reading history in my third year. 

I’m really into modern Russian history- so I’m doing a Stalin’s revolution course which is good fun and then I’m also doing a politics and power in post-colonial Africa which is pretty rogue and wasn’t actually one of my choices but it’s actually alright!

 

I’m from London, East London, Whitechapel. I’ve always lived there, same street my whole life. It’s a very interesting place to grow up because it’s hugely diverse. I went to a very local primary school where I was very much the ethnic minority - it was 92% Bangladeshi children. Then I went from that to a very different secondary school which was a private north west London girls school where I was considered the ‘ghetto’ kid ahaha (which I’m not!)

"...the idea is that you can be imperfect but you can still be a star. It’s not all about seeking perfection all the time."

Talk to me about your tattoo. So about a year ago we were at a party and you flashed me your star!

I got it in February 2016. Quite near the end of my first year at uni. I didn’t really tell many people- I went with my friend Domini to get it. Didn’t think it was something to particularly shout about. Then, to be honest was probably drunk, I definitely revealed it to you and others at some party haha. 

 

It’s a star, partly because Stella means star. When I was little my mum used to always call me her “star baby”. I have a really aesthetic attachment to stars. I have loads of merchandise with stars on it! Stars all over my rooom, mugs with stars onnn. 

Oh, I actually lost it really recently, but I had a little star earring in my tragus piercing.

 

You’ve got a moon now though so that’s quite close

Yeah I’ve actually got a new star one in the post which is very exciting.

How many points does your star have?

Five. It’s a five pointed star. The outline was drawn by my brother who is very very good at drawing. He’s very artistic. I told him just to do a very rough sketch, I didn’t want it to to be a perfect star. I guess I thought I didn’t want it to be standardised because that could mean there were other perfect stars out there and this means that it’s something that’s individual to me. And, also, the idea is that you can be imperfect but you can still be a star. It’s not all about seeking perfection all the time. That’s kinda the main idea behind it. 

Linked to the idea of being imperfect and modern culture and especially the sort of school I went to, and I don’t blame them or anyone else, but it’s very easy to channel your energies into this notion of being perfect and, while initially for me that was to do with getting the perfect grades etc, once that was out of my control it’s very easy to channel it into something else. My tattoo tries to remind me that I don’t need to channel my energies into making my body perfect or society’s perception of perfect because there’s no such thing. Regardless of whether you see your body as perfect or someone else sees your body as perfect you can be a star without it!

I also went to an all girls school but left for sixth form. I felt like during those years there were so many good things, they fed a sense of female empowerment. But there was also this quest for perfection within our age group, especially the older we got. 

Yes, completely. You don’t mean to egg each other on but these kind of things do just become an epidemic. I think that it very much plagued my school and is in fact very common. 

I don’t think it’s absent anywhere else and people who are suffering in other environments should very much not be discredited because this can happen to anyone anywhere anytime. But I do think there’s a lot of pressure, especially among a quite elite girls school. You want to focus on something and a lot of the time that translates to your body and your image because you think that if you can’t control anything else, and that’s what you can control, then why not control it. 

You just have to sit back, like now, eat your caramel nibbles (as we're doing now) and accept that there’s nothing you can control. And that’s fine. And okay. Seek the best you can do but that doesn’t have to be the best for anyone else. You will never be completely satisfied with who you are if you do so stop trying! 

I got my tattoo when I got an all clear from the doctor. So that was kind of like a stamp on that and to celebrate that that part of my life was largely over. 

But, I think these things are malleable. If I suddenly think of a new meaning there’s no reason to not attach it to that. I will always associate it with that massive sigh of relief and I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that everything was okay- I could come to that conclusion myself but to have that official stamp of approval was amazing. That gives you the confidence to move on elsewhere.

It’s also exciting to expect the unexpected! It’s not fun to know. I’m happy to know that I won’t know what I’ll be doing in two years time. That’s a good thing. 

While I want to open as many opportunities as I can, I don’t actually want to know what will happen. 

 

It sounds fucking cliche but it’s true that you never really know who or what will be around the corner. 

A massive thank you to Stella for sharing her intimate story with us.