Amber Santiago, Damien Brown and Ashley Nazario are all 20-somethings actively seeking to achieve their dreams in different ways. While discovering their talents, they want to hold close things that resonate with them most throughout their journey; what better way to do that then to turn their skin into a canvas? APN interviewed these three individuals to hear their tattoo stories.


Santiago, a Bronx native and global dreamer, believes that freedom of expression is significant to an individual. She has her own Youtube channel where she expresses her thoughts through creative content and personal narrative. From travel vlogs to makeup tutorials, she incorporates humor and advice.

Photos by Jainaba Darboe

APN: When did you get tattoo(s)? How many do you have? What’s the story?

Santiago: “I got my first one in Miami. It’s a Palm tree. I got it with my mom and her best friend as a memory and also because we all share a love for palm trees. I got Amelia “All in time” three months later as a birthday gift from my momma. It’s my most meaningful piece. It has destructive flowers and colors to represent the hardships in my life and how, in time, I’ll always overcome anything, and happiness will always be a key factor. I got one today on my side boob. It’s a open heart. I just loved the concept of open tattoos and thought that would be a perfect spot.”

APN: If you went with someone, did they make the experience better or worse?

Santiago: “I got my first with my mom and her best friend, and it did make the experience better. I got  my second with my cousin, who also made it better and got my third with [My best friend] Raff. I got them all with people I love and who are so dear to my heart, so it definitely made more of a difference and a memory.”

APN: On a scale of 1 to 10, how painful was the process?

Santiago:  “I have three. The first one was a 3/10. Second was a 6/10 just because of the color, and the third was a 2/10.”


Brown is an employee at PC Richardson and an underground rapper who creates visual art. So far, he has mastered two albums and one music video. He hopes to thrive in his musical career and spread messages through his lyrics.

Photo by Jainaba Darboe

APN: When did you get tattoo(s)? How many do you have?

Brown: “I have two. I got my first tattoo about three years ago, my second tattoo a little over a year ago, and my third tattoo (cover-up of the first) last summer.”

APN: What’s the story ?

Brown: “Honestly, I just rushed into it. I like my tattoos, but I wish I gave them a little more thought.”

APN: If you went with someone, did they make the experience better or worse?

Brown: “I didn’t go with anyone.”

APN: On a scale of 1to 10, how painful was the process?

Brown:  “8.5.”


Nazario is an employee at Crossroads, a vintage exchange store located in the lower east side of New York City. When she isn’t dealing with customers, she is working on her craft by doing freelance makeup and spreading empowerment on her social media. Nazario’s bold personality could be seen through her versatile fashion on her Instagram page.

Photo by Jainaba Darboe

APN: When did you get tattoo(s)? How many do you have?

Nazario: “I got my tattoos between my 18th birthday and last month (September 2014-February 2017). I have seven tattoos currently”

APN: What’s the story?

Nazario: ”Every tattoo either has a personal message for myself or a memory behind it. I try to get things I haven’t seen on other people either. The girl with the flowers coming out of her eyes  is supposed to be ‘blinded by beauty.’  In our society with our standards for women, it’s important to look past what’s on the outside and search for what’s inside.”

APN: If you went with someone, did they make the experience better or worse?

Nazario: “I actually have not done a tattoo going by myself; the company is my favorite part.”

APN: On a scale of 1 to 10, how painful was the process?

Nazario: “Placement is key when it comes to pain. Some of my biggest pieces haven’t hurt compared to the smallest ones because of placement. Avoid ribs and any place with less fat tissue if pain is an issue for you. Still, any tattoo will be a little uncomfortable.”


Tattoos could be a memory shared with loved ones or it could be a spur of the moment decision. Either way, body art is a form of self-expression and many individuals feel empowered by taking part in the act. Go for it (or don’t); however you choose to express yourself is acceptable as long as you are not harming anyone in the process.

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