As a performance artist, Busola’s body is essential to their work. It’s vital that it looks its best - and that extends to the tattoos on their skin, too. But impulsive decisions when they were younger and a headstrong nature has left them with body art that no longer serves them or suits their aesthetic. And after deciding to remove their unwanted tattoos, the next challenge was finding a skin-safe laser they trusted…
Tell us why you’ve chosen to remove your tattoos.
In my line of work, I’m in front of cameras all the time and they pick up everything, so you have to make sure that you’re happy with what you’re seeing. It’s reflected back to you as if you’re in a mirror. When it came to my tattoos, I wasn’t enjoying what I was seeing so I thought, ‘right, it’s time to do something about it.’
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I’m removing a phoenix on my back which coils around to my inner bicep and some script on my ribs. Let’s just say we all make mistakes. There were a lot of discrepancies in the design of the script, but I was adamant that I wanted it done. I was very young and very impulsive.
I can be a bit of a wordsmith sometimes. It says to ‘live your life like every moment is your last, before your last moment becomes everything you’ve ever lived.’ I think the sentiment is amazing, but I grew out of the tattoo. I’m big on details and it doesn’t fit my aesthetic or work with the contours of my body. It has to go because every time I look at it, it’s not me; it’s not who I am as a person and where I am now. My other tattoos tell a story, whereas this was rushed.
“My tattoos are an iconic timestamp for me and my journey within my whole trajectory of life. I have to make sure they are perfect.”
With the phoenix, I was in Manchester at the time and the tattoo artist was in London, so I arranged everything over the phone. It was over 10 years ago and the technology just wasn’t there for FaceTiming or conference calls. It was all supposed to work out and it really, really didn’t.
I walked into the shop and the tattooist declined all of my ideas. He was saying he couldn’t do it, didn’t want to do it, it wasn’t his style… I was a complete novice to the different genres and styles of tattooing so I was just like, ‘well, I want it done, so what can we do?’ I was 21, he already had a lump sum of my money, and I was headstrong. He said he’d have to freehand it, but when I looked at the details, they did not look like the tails of a phoenix at all.
When I met my next tattoo artist, he gave me exactly what I wanted - the full experience from top, middle, to bottom. He put in the time and tried the stencil on so many different places of my body. I just thought, ‘this is what it should have been like’. That was a big wake-up call for me.
What was the journey from not liking a tattoo to removing it?
I’ve learned a lot about the style that suits me and the different ways of culminating a final piece that means something and has longevity. My tattoos are an iconic timestamp for me and my journey within my whole trajectory of life. I have to make sure they are perfect - or as perfect as they can be. This is me. This is for life. I’m very, very strategic now with my choices.
In the last couple of years, I’ve really grown into my authentic self in its totality. Knowing my identity, knowing where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through, I think I’m lucky to inhabit this shell now. My aesthetic and how I express myself is so important. Visibility, for me, is absolutely everything within the communities I intersect in. Within day-to-day life, the people that I may inspire by walking down the street…all of that means so much to me.
I’m living somewhere I can be who I want to be. There are places in the world where you don’t have that fundamental right. But in this time, this place, and this body that I’m in, I think it’s absolutely essential that I treat it well. This is my journey and my story. Some of these tattoos just don’t fit into that. That’s why I’m here.
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"NAAMA feels like you’re stepping into another home. You don’t feel like you’re about to have a procedure and I think that’s essential to the experience.”
Why did you choose NAAMA for your tattoo removal?
When it comes to my skin and scarring, I do not pull any punches. I was thinking about laser removal for a while but it had to be right and somewhere that catered to my skin tone. I came across NAAMA on Instagram and I saw different people of different races, different genders… just a whole bunch of inclusivity.
I’ve had a few sessions now. The first was very easy, very light, and a nice introduction to what it would be like. It’s a large job, so I enjoyed that I was weaned into something as opposed to just dropped into the deep end. The last session was a lot more intense, which is what we need to do, so I’m glad we’ve moved on.
I’ve got my Netflix, I’ve got my headphones, the consultants are always lovely, and there’s never any kind of pressure. They take their time and I’m always fully informed with what they’re going to do. Nothing’s a shock. The process is just stellar for me.
I actually used to have another tattoo that I got when I was 15. I’m obsessed with Buffy and I wanted my name in the Buffy font. But it just really was not conducive with my industry, so I got it removed. It was a very different time back then. I walked into the clinic and the wallpaper was peeling off the walls, they made me sit in this office chair with no back, and I had to hold the goggles on myself. I didn’t even know what type of laser it was or whether it was going to be good for my skin tone.
At NAAMA, I love the whole setup. When I was looking for a studio, I wasn’t really thinking about the exterior of it, I was just thinking about the laser and making sure it was healthy. So the fact that I walked in here and it doesn’t feel clinical, it’s looked after by people that evidently care about the space as well, it’s clean, it’s got its own signature look… it makes you feel like you’re stepping into another home. You don’t feel alienated or like you’re about to have a procedure and I think that’s essential to the experience.
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What would your advice be for someone considering tattoo removal?
If you want it and you can afford it, if it keeps playing on your mind and you can’t get it out of your brain, absolutely go for it. Even just take the first step and have a consultation. That’s exactly what I did: I phoned and I had a very honest consultation. And then I came in and decided, ‘right, let’s go for it.’
Do you have plans for more tattoos?
I lost two friends over the course of lockdown and I’ve saved some space as I’m thinking of getting an ode to them. I haven’t decided what yet. We all make mistakes and this one will definitely not be a mistake. It’ll be thought out, it’ll be well-considered, and it will be the perfect tribute to their passing.