Mira Mariah sometimes jokes that she sells friendship. It’s almost antithetical to her whole personality; she is present and genuine during the day-long shoot we have with her in Brooklyn, where she lives and works. But for the hoards of people she tattoos, it probably rings true.
“I like getting to know people,” the Instagram-famous tattoo artist, better known as @GirlKnewYork, tells ELLE.com. “I like hearing their stories and telling them mine… I feel friends with everyone that comes through to get tattooed. I feel love with everyone who comes through to get tattooed.”
Working at Fleur Noire, Mariah has become known on the internet for her minimal tattoos and feminine designs. She’s done multiple tattoos for Ariana Grande (but not that tattoo), Pete Davidson, Ilana Glazer, and YouTubers like Estée Lalonde.
Watch above as Mariah gives ELLE.com a peek into her world and her work space (she offered to give me one of her signature tattoos for this video). And keep reading for more insight into her thoughts around regretting tattoos, refining your Instagram feed, and designing tattoos for modern, feminist women.
Whether she ever regrets getting a tattoo:
“My tattoos are just a way to express myself in the moment. I don’t really feel that feeling of tattoo regret because they’re just presentations of a moment. I’m not one of those people who looks at a photo of myself from a few years ago and is embarrassed by what I wore because I also understand that that is a testament of the time. And maybe tattoos I have now that are a few years old and are starting to get outdated, I know that they’re just a testament of another time.”
How to make your Instagram feed better:
“If you’re scrolling through Instagram, and you’re only seeing one body type, and it’s so far away from yours, or one lifestyle that has nothing to do with yours, that is I think where the trauma of social media comes in. You don’t just want to get stuck in your peers and people who are like you. We want to understand the plight and the circumstances of women who are different than us. We also don’t want to just be looking at an image of perfection or an image of aspiration that’s so far away from what we are. So I think able-bodied people need to be following disabled people. And white people need to be also following people of color. And people of color also need to make sure they’re not just following a bunch of white girls and setting some European beauty standards that are just not available to them and should never have been set in place at all.”
The problem with “I woke up like this” culture:
“I want to talk about [my] lip fillers. It’s not healthy for us to act like we’re not wearing makeup when we are. It’s not healthy for me to act like my skin just looks like this, and it isn’t. It’s not healthy to have perfectly clear skin that you work really hard at, and act like, ‘I don’t know how this happens.’ I woke up like this culture is fun, but it’s damaging if we really believe it.”
How women have connected with her tattoos:
“There have been certain things that I’ve drawn that a lot of people have felt like they related to and then built off of that. [There’s] a drawing I did of a woman with her hair wrapped in a towel— which I don’t know when every girl learns to do that, but it’s a thing we all know how to do, and we all do all the time. She has a face mask on, and she’s smoking a cigarette. I didn’t really think much of the drawing. And every girl was like, ‘Oh my God, this is me.’ Like a little self care, a little rebellion, a little indulgent. She’s also topless. You can see her nipples. So I thought, ‘No one is going to want this. No one’s even going to like it.’ [But] the response was so warm, and everyone was so excited about it.”
How her tattoos are always changing:
“I’ve been really interested to see how people will be like, ‘I really like this tattoo you did, but here are the things I want to change about her to make her more relatable to me.’ I’ve drawn just a woman doing something, and someone’s like, “Yeah, but can you make her fat?” And I’ve been like, ‘OK, cool. What kind of fat?’ Should she have like a big belly and little boobs, or should she have like big boobs and big hips and big thighs and skinny wrists with her arms out? There’s so many different ways that we can be, so allowing the room for change in your tattoo, so that you can kind of make it your own and feel like you relate to this image or feel like this image reflects someone you care about has, been really special for me.”