BlackBook Interview: Celebrity Tattoo Artist Mira Mariah on Self-Care, Staying Creative + Partying After Corona
You may already be familiar with visual artist Mira Mariah’s abstracted connected line work from her “girlknewyork” Instagram. Or maybe you know her as Ariana Grande’s go-to tattoo artist, whose work has garnered 200k followers on IG. Her designs have inspired collaborations with fine jewelry collection Amarilo and beauty brand Fresh.
BlackBook caught up with a quarantined Mira for “girl talk” (one of her favorite terms) during the COVID-19 lockdown, to find out what she’s working on creatively, what’s important to her during these unprecedented times, and just what her plans are for when this is all over. (Hint: she wants to host the biggest party NYC has ever seen.)
Throughout our interview, she talked fascinatingly about beauty, creativity, and how she receives thousands of tattoo requests every month; we also learned that there’s secret password that will give you priority access to her talents, which she will pass on to you if you are lucky enough to bump into her in New York, Paris, Los Angeles or London. Her dog Chi Chi also made an appearance as we connected via Zoom.
Are you a product junkie?
Yes, I really love skin care products and I’ve gotten really interested in them. I really appreciate Korean skin care: it’s really divine and special and it’s going to be sold in Sephora for the first time ever, which is really cool. I obviously love Fresh Beauty, and getting to work with them for the past year; and getting to know all their products in and out through that experience was really cool. A lot of the products I try are from referrals—the things that clients of mine recommend. They are the people that tell me “you have to try this,” and I am willing to experiment with new products all the time.
Right, because especially with tattooing, it’s a real bonding experience.
I’m friends with all those girls [that I tattoo] in real life. I wind up being friends with everybody. I love friends. I’m a social girl. I stay friends with all my clients.
How has self-quarantine changed any of your beauty routines? Are you still on top of it?
I don’t wear makeup every day in real life, and I wear less makeup in quarantine. Maybe I wear makeup three days a week.
Well it’s great for the skin to take breaks. It allows it to regenerate and have a breather, so to speak.
Yes, it’s my skin breathing. I am doing the same amount of skincare, if not maybe a little bit more, than I would normally be doing.
Changing gears a bit now…what advice would you give creatives out there with time to work on projects, but who are facing a creative block?
I think experiencing a creative block is definitely real, and there’s a lot of rhetoric about how important it is to be productive right now, because it’s precious free time. There’s also a counterpoint to that, which says, “No, it’s a pandemic, so get done what you can get done and accept that we are going through a difficult, unprecedented period.” I think that the answer is a bit of both; give yourself a few days where you really dedicate yourself to your craft, and a few days where you can rest and cry if you need to.
Yes, rest and cry. We’ve all been there.
Quarantine looks different for everyone. I have a daughter, so quarantine for me is also a lot of family organizing, meal preparation, and home schooling. So, my advice to creatives is to carve out time where you can. If you’re experiencing a block, you just need time to work through it, honestly. When I get a creative block, I just push through and draw the whole time, even if everything needs to be deleted. At least that way I am exercising my brain.
What helps your creative flow?
I release myself of the purpose of the drawing. It doesn’t matter what the drawing is. As an artist and illustrator, I switch mediums and I move from one thing to another. In quarantine, I’ve been sewing a lot, so if I get stuck on something or have a block there, I move to illustrating; and if I’m stuck on illustrating, I move to dance or photography or something else. My art consists of different practices and media, and I also find that moving around is really helpful.
I firmly believe in that. I practice Kundalini every morning, and movement is part of the practice to propel energy around. No matter what, you just push that energy and stagnation.
Yes, and sewing is so technical that a lot of times, when I’m really stuck on something, I can get through that a lot easier.
How are you staying connected to art and culture during this period of social distancing?
I read a lot.
What are you reading?
Right now I am reading a really cool book called Idols of Perversity. It’s an exploration of Lilith and Lilith type characters, and how women and their sexuality have been portrayed in our art, illustration, and culture throughout history, starting from the beginning of time and ending in the 1900s.
That sounds like an inspirational book for your work.
Yes, it really relates to my work, and I found it interesting to know more detail about it and to examine that lens even further. It’s historical and it uses a lot of direct references, from major artworks to smaller illustrations that are printed in newspapers or in newsletters published in early America.
Speaking of smaller publications and print, have you ever consider doing a zine or a limited-edition book?
That would be a lot of fun! I’ve contributed to zines before.
Is there a design/tribute you would recommend to someone looking to honor a loved one during this pandemic?
(Her chihuahua makes an appearance) This is Chi Chi. I think that, often, memorial tattoos work out best when they are a symbol of the person you’ve lost. I really like when people get something that kind of nods toward that person: maybe it’s their favorite fruit, their favorite flower or even a place you went together. I think that’s a special thing, especially to choose honor someone at this moment in history, versus just getting a tattoo because it’s a cool thing to do. A lot of my tattoos are like “I got this when I was in Paris,” and the imagery is a less relevant to me than having it mark the milestone.
Self-care is important right now in the midst of uncertainty, in which there are more questions than answers, and people feel overwhelmed with information. What does self-care mean to you during this time?
I have been giving myself a lot of permission, and I think that, for me, self-care is a lot of permission. And I think for a lot of people thinking of self-care as permission is really positive. So, that means not giving myself a hard time if I ate too much that day, or if I didn’t feel like eating that day, and just saying to myself, “that’s okay.” I’m not going to pressure myself about that. And then I think taking that permission even further and giving yourself permission to have an indulgence, like deciding that I’m just going to be in the bathtub right now and that’s all I’m doing, and I’m not reading the news, and I’m not obligated to answer my phone. As much as I love products, I think that the self-care conversation needs to move away from products at this time and move toward people finding inner peace.
What are your plans after social distancing ends?
I want to throw the most ridiculous party that anyone has ever seen. I want 70-year-olds to come to this party and be like “OMG, I thought Studio 54 was wild, but apparently, it was really tame.”
I love it! What did you need to postpone because of corona?
My whole life, basically.
Did you have travel plans? Do you want to travel after this?
I was supposed to be in LA twice so far, since we’ve been in quarantine. So, I definitely can’t wait to get back to see my friends. My good friend is having her baby in France right now, so I can’t wait to go back to meet her child. Also, work…I really love working in Paris and I love working in London. I’m really excited about some projects that will take place in London, so I can’t wait to get back there as soon as we are allowed. I want to do everything on earth! Now more than ever, because I’ve been in here so long.