You won’t see Betty Jeffries dressed like this on the street much longer, but indoors she shows a lot of skin year-round. She has “two sleeves, a full leg piece, a stomach piece, and a chest piece,” which means there are swallows poking out above her neckline and “flowers and fairies and dragonflies” peeking out the top and bottom of her low-rise pants. Jeffries, who works at Uptown’s Tattoo Factory, has been decorating other people’s bodies since she was 17, but she started on her own more than a decade ago, at age 15, with the dainty purple rose on her right hand. “It’s the one tattoo I regret,” she says; it’s the one she can’t hide in a fancy restaurant or at her five-year-old daughter’s school. (She does remove all her facial hardware for such occasions.) Besides the hands, “I’m going to leave this part of my stomach open,” she says, pointing to her tiny potbelly. “Just because I guess I want some kind of skin left.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Saverio Truglia.