'I've got £22,000 worth of tattoos – there's even one in my belly button'

Mareike Herder, a former Germany’s Next Top Model contestant, has spent the equivalent of £22,000 on over 66 tattoos so far in her lifetime.

The 27-year-old also got two nose piercings, a piercing on her bottom lip, and she’s had her ears stretched.

Mareike, the founder and head designer at sustainable fashion label Black Circle, said that some of her judgey exes wouldn’t even let her meet their parents because of all her ink, but now she’s married to the love of her life, Philipp, who has always loved tattoos.

Indeed, they bond over their shared interest in tattoos, and Mareike recently started tattooing Philipp herself.

‘I have always really liked expressing myself in a different way and liked being able to stand out,’ she said.

‘By the time I was 23, I had covered almost my whole body.

‘I have been getting tattooed for a long time, the shortest tattoo took about an hour and the longest took ten hours. So probably if you had to put all the time together it would tally up to a few weeks.’

Mareike began getting tattoos when she was still a teen.

She said: ‘I did my first tattoo myself when I was 17, and it was an anchor on my right foot.

‘But my first proper tattoo by an artist I got when I was 18, and it was a feather on my right rib.

‘It is now covered with a big bird, and it’s part of the wing. I had a slightly different idea of what I thought was cool back then. I blame Tumblr – just joking.

‘The last tattoo I did was on my palms, and it’s a peony which is my favourite flower.

‘I’d say the most painful tattoo was blackening out the belly button. That was crazy painful.’

As part of a school exchange program when she was just 16, Mareike went and lived in Wisconsin, USA for ten months. It was there that she first met lots of people with different styles of tattoos.

That same year, she had her tongue pierced by her friend in a basement (not something we’d recommend). She picked that spot because she needed something that she could easily hide from her mum.

These days, Mareike has around 500,000 followers on Instagram and, thinks the fact that she was the first heavily tattooed model on Germany’s Next Top Model helped her stand out on the show.

‘A lot happened for me both on, and after I appeared on the show,’ she said.

‘Lots of people used to message me to say they found it really cool and refreshing to see someone covered in tattoos could be relatable.

‘Again a huge stigma, especially in Germany, is usually attached to this kind of look.

‘Some people also said that after the show it has helped other people be more open and accepting of people with lots of tattoos and for helping to at least soften the stigma around it.

‘Most people in Germany have a very conservative view around it. Which is nothing against it, but you do get judged a bit off the bat.’

Indeed, it took some time for her family to get used to the idea.

‘In Germany at the time people associated lots of tattoos with people not really being successful and just having a bad connotation to it,’ said Mareike.

‘I got a lot of “but what will happen when you are old” from people.

‘My parents were more concerned for my health because of the level of “trauma” to my skin as I did so many in quite a short time.

‘Today people are more clued-up on what and how tattoos work.

‘My family love my tattoos, even my mum has two now.

‘My friends have always been supportive and know that my tattoos are part of who I am. Many have never even known me without them.’

With that being said, she does have some words of warning for people looking to get into body mods.

‘If you want to get into body modification, think about the future, and what the long-term after-effects could be.

‘For instance, my labret piercing in my bottom lip just above my chin, I had it stretched back then, and it’s closed now, but if I want to 100% get rid of the hole, I would need surgery to fix it.’

Mareike’s fashion label, which is produced in Bali and shipped from a warehouse in Germany, will be appearing in British Vogue this September under their designer showcase.

‘I am so grateful for my big platform,’ she said. ‘It is thanks to that I have been able to start my own business and use my reach to develop it over time to where it is now.

‘I do believe if I didn’t have a specific look I most likely wouldn’t have got some of the opportunities I did, which then in turn would mean I would have had to take a bit of a different route.

‘Currently, I have no plans in the near future to add to my collection of tattoos.

‘My focus for right now is on growing the brand and enjoying life in beautiful Bali.’

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