When Alisha Gory moved to the U.S. from South Korea when she was 18 years old, she didn’t know what she was getting herself into.
“It exposed me to a lot of different culture and it opened my mind,” Gory told In The Know. “The real world really hit me, pretty much, it was a tough time.”
As Gory tried to find her footing — being an immigrant, Gory says she struggled with not having any family or friends close by during those first few years — she worked a lot of crazy jobs all over New York City. Gory loved art but knew she didn’t want to be a “starving artist,” which is when tattooing came into the picture.
Gory is covered in tattoos herself. “It came from wanting to be different. I come from a culture where everybody looks the same, they don’t really celebrate a lot of individuality, and I’ve always been very different.”
According to Gory, South Korea has a very established ideal beauty standard that’s hard to deviate from. It’s all about “natural beauty,” and tattoos directly conflict with what Korean women are expected to look like.
“[Tattoos] are normally related to gang members, yakuza, things like that,” Gory explained. “[Getting tattoos] is illegal. That’s a big problem — because it’s illegal, a lot of people feel like they can’t accept it.”
When Gory goes back to visit family in South Korea, she has to cover up. She says her parents disagree with her tattoos and career choices because it goes against what their wishes for how Gory, as a Korean woman, should look.
“It is hard having to hide yourself in some ways, but I do know that it’s a different culture and I have to respect different cultures.”
But this is why Gory fell in love with tattooing in the first place. She’s always wanted to be different and after traveling the world and living in New York City, she wants to help shatter the stigma surrounding women with tattoos.
“We are all just humans, we feel the same, we want the same things,” Gory said. “We’re no different because we’re covered in tattoos. And I don’t have to look like every other woman in order to be beautiful.”
Watch the full episode of In The Know: Extreme Lengths above to learn more about Alisha Gory and the lengths she goes to, to break down idealized beauty standards for women.
More to watch: