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it Hurts! But Not the Animals The Satya Interview with Danielle
Photo by Matt Miller
the west coast to her east coast home in New York, Danielle DiStefano has been professionally
tattooing for nearly four years. Although her ink-covered body may not
resemble all of Satya’s readers, this talented artist has something
in common with many of our readers—she’s vegan. In fact,
after nine years of living cruelty-free, this 24 year-old added a new
tattoo on the left side of her neck, in shades of black and gray the
word “Vegan” says it all.
Danielle is also the co-founder of Upstarts, a New York tattoo art show
dedicated to highlighting the work of tattooers who have been working
for five years or
less. At Dare Devil Tattoo in New York’s lower east side, over the buzzing
of the tattoo gun, Maureen Wyse was able to chat it up with Danielle
What sets you apart from other tattooers?
I don’t know if I am different than other tattooers. I still feel weird
saying I stand apart. I’ve always liked the idea of being in a male dominated
industry and trying to prove myself as an artist, not just as a woman. It seems
to be tougher for girls to start up. There are some people that have stereotypes
of women not being capable of doing a good bold tattoo. So I’ve worked
really hard to get respect from other tattooers.
How receptive is the rest of the tattooing community to veganism?
Okay, I guess it is fair to say that I stand out—being a female vegan tattooer
is not prevalent in this community. It definitely is more male, meat-eating centered.
I guess I just never really thought about it because the majority of people at
the shop I work at are vegetarian. But definitely going on the road, being at
tattoo conventions—where there is nothing to eat except french fries or
cotton candy, which I don’t mind eating, but not for breakfast lunch and
dinner—it hits me that I stick out from the others.
What kind of reactions do you get from other tattoo artists?
Most tattooers that actually want to spend time talking about it just want to
make fun of me. Not in a mean-spirited way, it’s just something that they
are not used to, something they don’t understand or are not exposed to.
It is just a different lifestyle for them.
Is there, by chance, a community of vegan tattoo artists?
[Laughs.] There is no organized revolution yet, but there definitely is a group
of us. I think there’s a younger generation, hardcore-based kids who are
definitely more vegan and vegetarian than with the older tattooers.
What about ink? Is it vegan?
I actually make all of my own inks, so mine are vegan. The pigments I use are
plant-based, but they are hard to find. Most inks contain glycerin—a liquid
commonly extracted from animal fats—but I make mine with vegetable glycerin.
Why did you choose to get the word “vegan” tattooed on your
and what kinds of reactions do you get?
I have been waiting to get a vegan tattoo for a long time and I could never think
of an important place to get it, until I decided on my neck. It just represents
who I am and what I live for day by day. It is kind of an awareness, a statement
for other people.
[Laughs.] Most people think it says “Vegas” [laughs], and they ask
me if I like Vegas a lot. Or they ask me if that’s my boyfriend’s
name [laughs]. Some people look at me and see I am heavily tattooed, and think
I am this extreme person they can never understand. They can’t comprehend
not eating dairy or meat.
There are other people who are really curious and feel comfortable asking me
about it. Young people are interested, and I guess they find the answers I give
Has tattooing helped you to spread your message?
I definitely have connected to a lot of people being a vegan tattooer. I definitely
have done a lot of tattoos, because I am vegan. Without really even looking at
my work, people have such strong moral issues, they feel like we already have
that connection, and that’s more important than the quality of the tattoo
or anything else. It’s really amazing that they have all this trust in
me because I make good lifestyle choices. I have done quite a few vegan themed
tattoos. Mostly the word “vegan” but in different designs, like a
dagger going through a tomato, saying, “vegan.” I think that was
the best one.
Related to the theme of this issue, how do you feel about the “New Taste
of Vegan?” Where do you think it is going?
Veganism is such an important lifestyle and a healthier way of living. I hope
people become more informed and try to incorporate it more into their everyday
life. There were not nearly as many options out there when I first went vegan.
So, any way you make it easier for people to obtain products at grocery stores,
or at restaurants is going to make it that much easier for people to switch over—it’s
How about the other vegan Danielle (Konya) and her Vegan Treats?
Oooh, I don’t know her, but I love her. [Giggles.] She’s definitely
the best baker… ever.
Do you have any advice for future vegans—you have been vegan for
Some simple advice: definitely research what you are getting into. And don’t
be ignorant about your health. You still have to take care of yourself. You can’t
just stop eating everything without supplementing and not watching your health.
Take your vitamins.
Advice for future tattooers?
Pay your dues, work hard, and draw your ass off!
What tattoo would you love to design?
Any tattoo that has meaning to someone. I know that is an easy answer, but making
the person happy and giving them what they want is what I want to do… And
I get really excited about doing vegan tattoos.