Woman, 25, who risked BLINDNESS to get her eyeballs tattooed purple insists she ‘loves’ the eerie inking – despite facing horror from strangers who tell her she is going to HELL because of it
- Devon O’Kelly, from San Diego, had her eyeballs tattooed in 2018 – despite being warned that it could lead to headaches, blurred vision and blindness
- The model and dancer, who has 23 tattoos in total, says she loves the inking
- However she admits it has attracted a lot of unwanted attention from strangers, with some men ‘grabbing’ her in the street to ‘get a better look’
- Religious people have also told her she is going to hell because of the inking, and she says she has been refused service in restaurants because of her eye color
- Eyeball tattoos involve artists injecting colored ink under the conjunctiva – the thin membrane that covers the front of the eye – to color the white of the eye
- Risks include headaches, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and blindness
A woman who risked blindness to have her eyeballs tattooed purple has spoken out to defend the eerie inking – despite admitting that she has been refused service in restaurants as a result of it, and has been told by strangers that she is ‘going to hell’.
Exotic dancer and model Devon O’Kelly, 25, from San Diego, had her eyeballs tattooed in 2018, despite being warned that the procedure could cause a number of health issues, from headaches and blurred vision to total blindness.
But Devon, who fell in love with tattoos and piercings when she was just 11 years old and now has 23 tattoos, says the inking is among her favorites – and insists that society needs to ‘destigmatize’ body art.
Unique: Model and dancer Devon O’Kelly, 25, risked blindness to have her eyeballs tattooed purple in 2018 and has now spoken out to defend the strange inking
Risky: The San Diego resident (pictured left before her eyeball tattoo, and right after) says the inking is one of her favorites – despite her purple eyes attracting plenty of unwanted attention
The model says she believes body art and piercings are a form of self-expression – and she first began to embrace them as a pre-teen when she realized that she needed other ways to convey her true self beyond clothes, hair and makeup.
After her first piercing to her septum when she was 13, followed by her first tattoo of cello F-holes on her back when she was 15, Devon knew that she would like to decorate her whole body with beautiful tattoos one day.
What are eyeball tattoos and how are they done?
Eyeball tattoos are not like traditional body inkings, which involve ink being injected into the dermis via a machine that delivers thousands of tiny pricks per minute via a needle.
Instead, eyeball tattoos – which were invented by body modification expert Luna Cobra in the early 2000s – are achieved by injecting a small amount of ink under the conjuctiva, which is the thin clear membrane that covers the front of the eye.
The ink spreads under the membrane and colors the sclera (the whites of the eye).
Although Luna Cobra says she has performed hundreds of safe eyeball tattoos, experts still warn against ever undergoing the procedure.
Risks include everything from headaches and blurred vision to permanent light sensitivity and even blindness.
Since then, Devon estimates that she’s had more than 23 tattoos in total all over her body including castles, skeletons, blackout work, phrases like ‘Trust No One’ and ‘Fear No Evil’ and tattoos to honor her family members.
Devon then had her eyeballs inked purple in 2018, after researching the procedure for almost five years. She says she was fully aware of the risks, which include headaches, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and even blindness, before she went under the needle, but believed that the dangers were worth it.
Devon traveled to Los Angeles to have the procedure done by Luna Cobra, an esteemed tattooist who invented the eyeball tattoo. It took approximately two weeks for Devon’s eyes to heal afterwards and she hasn’t had any vision issues. As the years go by, Devon’s purple eyeballs have become more noticeable and sometimes her tears are tinged with lilac.
Over the years Devon has spent approximately 115 hours under the needle and $5,500 on her tattoos. She’s been lucky enough to get a lot of her tattoos done for free or at a discount through her friends.
Devon’s stunning tattoos have enabled her to meet lots of interesting people and have allowed her to work on various modelling projects but not everyone appreciates her beautiful body art.
When Devon is out in restaurants and bars, she has had staff and other customers openly express their disgust at her tattoos and has even been refused service on several occasions.
In the streets, she has had people try to grab and touch her without her permission and has even had men tell her they ‘love women’ like her and ‘despise women’ like her for the same reasons. More shockingly, Devon is approached by people who tell her she is going to hell and that she should let them save her.
Whilst some people appreciate her tattoos and react positively, Devon hopes to be able to help break the negative stigma that is often associated with them.
‘I grew up with enough freedom to express myself and have my own style and while I was exploring that, I always felt that the outfits, hair and makeup weren’t enough,’ said Devon.
‘I always knew my body needed some ‘decoration’ too so by the time I started getting pierced, I knew that was it. I fell in love with body modification and I knew I was going to be covered in art one day.
‘My first tattoo was the cello F-Holes on my back – not only because music has always been a part of my life and how ornamental they look, but because they’re used on instruments to allow them to vibrate and sound more powerful and free, which I think it’s a pretty cool concept.
‘I have a variety from ornamental tattoos like castles, blackout tattoos and skeletons, to lettering with words/phrases that read, ‘Trust No One,’ ‘Fear No Evil,’ ‘Misanthrope,’ and ‘Riot.’
‘I have pieces representing personal experiences or beliefs, and small personal tattoos like my kid’s day of birth, a memorial tattoo for my grandpa, and some matching tattoos with my partner, mum and sisters.
‘The castle on my legs definitely took the longest. It was done by two tattoo artists at the same time, one on each leg and by designing it, trying to make it symmetrical and tattooing it together, it probably took about nine hours. I remember we started on an evening and finished by five-in-the-morning on the next day.
‘The blackout fingers on my left hand were probably the most painful.
‘I first fell in love with eyeball tattoos around 2013 when there was barely any information about it. By 2016/2017, they became more popularized and I had a better idea of what I was getting into. I was aware of its dangers and decided getting it done by Luna Cobra, the inventor of eyeball tattoos, would be the safest choice.
‘The process didn’t take very long. He was very cautious and very good at creating a calm atmosphere.
‘I did have to leave wearing sunglasses as he warned me that exposure to the sun in the first few days can be painful.
‘I would say it took me around two weeks to fully heal, stop feeling pain, sensitivity to the light and start noticing the initial color in my eyeballs.
Backlash: While Devon loves her eyeball tattoos, she admits that they have caused her some issues – including restaurants refusing to serve her
Back off: She also admits that strangers see her tattoos as an excuse to ‘grab her’, insisting that they simply want a better look at her body art
‘Since then, I haven’t had any issues and my vision is still the same, but the color has been changing and becoming more noticeable with the years, which according to Luna is normal, and while some people require more sessions to have a solid color, I’m still very happy with the results I got.
‘I wasn’t exactly worried, but I was very aware that it’s a very risky procedure so I tried doing my research as best as I could to find someone that had enough experience and good references to minimize that risk as much as possible.
‘I’ve had bad experiences in public places like bars or restaurants both by customers and employees such as openly expressing their disgust or disapproval, offering me a poor service or trying to deny me their service.
‘People on the street will often give me their unwanted opinions on how it’s not OK, it doesn’t look good, it’s not girly to have tattoos and it won’t get me anywhere in life. Others feel entitled to try to grab me and touch me “to have a better look”.
‘Men often make situations uncomfortable by being loud or creepy about how they love women like me or how much they despise women like me.
‘Religious people are constantly trying to “save me” and reminding me that they could send me to hell. When people mix knowing about my profession with their opinions on how I look that’s when they become the most condescending and even try to assume how I must not be intelligent at all.
‘Some people can also be very respectful and cool about it, but a lot of people still stigmatize tattoos.’
When Devon first started on her body modification journey, those closest to her suspected it was just a phase that she would grow out of.
On her wish list of procedures is to extend and finish her back tattoos, cut her earlobes bigger, get a split tongue and have a scarification procedure done.
Finally, Devon shared her words of advice to others who are considering going under the needle.
‘Choose your artists wisely. Whether it’s something simple or something more elaborate, don’t be desperate and take your time looking for someone that can offer you good quality,’ she said.
‘The taboo and stigma towards tattoos still exist, so just be aware you will have to deal with a lot of judgmental people, and a lot of workplaces still have strict rules regarding body modifications or won’t allow them at all.
‘Shout out to my tattoo artists at La Vida Tinta and Perdóname Madre. Thanks for helping me get closer to achieve my goal of covering my whole body.
‘There’s a lot of things that can make you a ‘bad’ or ‘indecent’ person, but looking different, having body modifications or being a sex worker does not make you one of them.’
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