Michelle McGee & the Tattooed Woman's Lament
10:27 AM
Michell McGee NY Post cover.jpg
About a week ago, the tabloids began their frenzied coverage of Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, a self-described "tattoo model," who not only had an affair with Jesse James who's married to actress Sandra Bullock, but also served up the details of their trysts in an effort to "cash in" and become "famous."

I was going to ignore it or link it as a small footnote to a news review here, but as the week went on, the news stories moved beyond this tattooed woman and became about tattooed women. From newspaper covers to radio shows like Howard Stern to gossip blogs and comment forums, words like "skanks," "sluts," "whores," "trash," "idiots," "fuckups" ... became to attached to all of us, so I can't ignore it.

Over the weekend, I sought to write this post, a diatribe against a stupid girl. The first draft was an angry rant. The second was an attempt at humor. But neither conveyed how I really feel. I feel sad.

And so this post isn't entertaining. It isn't a call to arms against the media. It is a shout out to young women, and men as well, to let them know this:

Being tattooed should be an expression of love and how beautiful you feel about yourself, not a cry for others to give that to you.

michelle mcgee.jpgWhile Michelle McGee stands as a blaring example of the latter, she is not alone. The title "tattoo model" has become a sought-out occupation amongst many. "Tattooed Vixens," "Hot Inked Girl," "Painted Pin-ups."  Countless young women vie for these titles rather than M.D., J.D., or Artist in Residence.

Watch this video of "Sexy Miss Tattoo" to see how ugly these contests can be.

Some blame the magazines and websites for exploiting these girls, but really, they wouldn't be able to have these features if no one sent in their naked or half-naked photos.

Inked Magazine, (which I write for so the hypocrisy is not lost on me) has a Girl of the Day, who you can "share with your friends." A girl a day. One picked out of hundreds who upload their photos to the mag's site. [To be funny, I did a feature early on in this blog called "Objectified Tattooed Man" and barely got one a month.] 

Granted, the essence of tattoo magazines is to show tattoos, to show skin, and the more tattoos you have, the more skin you'll show. But it need not be done in a way that evokes the "skank" and "trash" tramp-stamp of approval.

Not an easy task, however. Next week I have a photo shoot for a magazine article where I talk about being a tattooed lawyer (and also promote my book). And it has been really tough to find something to wear to show the art on my arms, back, stomach and ribs without looking like ... well, Michelle McGee. I've thought about ditching the shoot altogether but I want more professional tattooed women in these mags and hopefully we can start that trend.

It can still be sexy -- because I believe tattooing is sexy in itself -- but as the recent headlines have shown, today's tattooed "bombshell" is more likely to be a post-traumatic mess. Our weapon of mass seduction should be the allure of strong women and men kickin ass to further their lives and, thereby, society's perception of the tattooed.

So thank you, Michelle McGee, for showing us the ugliness to inspire greater and more beautiful things for ourselves.

Well said!
When my large side piece is finished my artist wants to do a professional photograph of it.
This will mean that I will have to be semi-naked.
I am happy to do this.
The outcome will be a classy, tasteful image of a proud, beautiful 53 year old who wears a fabulous work of art on her skin.

good for you for taking 3 deep breaths/drafts then sending this out.

thank YOU, marisa. here's to the beauty within and out.


"..weapon of mass seduction.."

love it!!

I was awaiting more voices about this. The Daily News pissed me off by "interviewing" people about the whole Jesse James thing and all of them made comments about a woman with all those tattoos has to be mentally unstable, and why would he cheat on such a classy woman with a crazy tattooed chick. I'd take a "tattooed chick" over Bullock any day. Oh wait, I have.

Right on Marisa!

Sadly, hype sells news. Doesn't matter if it's a sleazy tabloid or the New York Times. The Youtube video only re-enforces the image of the mindless tattooed bimbo. In that video, Michelle McGee talks about her tattoos, while admiting they are an a meaningless, collection of un-related crap. She's the winner?
The poor lighting and bad cinematography, doesn't help either.

The moment i heard this moron say something along the lines of, "i slept with him to get famous," I decided that formulating any kind of opinion on the "scandal" was pointless. That said, you've hit the nail on the head, Marisa, with your statement about love and the celebration of the body.

Nothing says "self-respect" like a proper paint job...

Great job, Marisa!

What's even sadder about it is that "Historic Vote on Health Care" had to SPLIT the front page.

Way to prioritize, America.

even naked tattoo shoots can be tasteful...or at least i think mine were?

Great article. I was anxiously waiting to see your thoughts on this. I have plenty of my own to share, and will take your cue and wait a few beats/ drafts, before going off on this. One thing that irks me are the many media folks saying that this was bound to happen because Jesse is a tattooed biker guy - because, obviously that means he's a cheating bastard... Of course, unlike Tiger, Jesse has yet to admit to any sexual fact, he states almost the opposite by saying that the majority of the rumors are unfounded and untrue... Most annoying "news" types are also saying that Sandra is better off w/ out b/c they were mismatched - he was tatted, she wasn't... Thank you, Marisa, for always taking the high road, and writing your thoughts in a concise and thoughtful manner. You should look into being a lawyer, or something... ;)

Because Sandra Bullock fits the "nice girl" archetype and because our culture tends to not hold cheating men accountable, I have to wonder how exaggerated and embellished some of these claims about Ms. McGee are.

I hope that all of the aspiring "Suicide Girl" types out there have paid attention to what's happened here, and that they have the insight to realize that tattoos/body modification are a double-edged sword. If people love your personality and lifestyle, they will be more likely to accept your tattoos/modifications. However, if they perceive you as some kind of predatory low-life, they will often perceive your tattoos as a symptom of your flaws.

It's sad that this incident is going to follow Michelle McGee for the rest of her life and that she didn't ever get any media attention for something positive instead.

I think the biggest offense is the Nazi paraphernalia that she's sporting more so then any of her mis-matched tattoos. Tattoos are beautiful, and some of hers look well done, but she chose to have W and P tattooed near her knees and dress in Nazi gear for her photos so that in itself will cause controversy.

@Twardy - Jeez, man... it sounds like you used to work on Monster Garage or something...


I agree with your concerns and it's wonderful that you've posted this!

-tattoo artist, BMOD member, exotic dancer, victorian era enthusiast: jonnie rotton/nautical noxious ilse.

@Bri - yes, I am biased. Having seen firsthand the type of person he is, I am quick to defend... Also, having been the non-tatted/ clean-cut business "face" of several tatted folks in the past, I am always quick to get behind those that receive negative reps because of other folks like "Bombshell." The irony is that while most of the folks I've worked with/ for have the bad boy reputation, their rap sheets pale in comparison to mine, yet I'm never judged poorly by my squeeky clean appearance... Truth of the matter is that nobody truly knows what did or did not happen except the parties involved. The fact that McGee is clearly seeking publicity pegs her as the instigator on this one. Any negative press she gets, is exactly what she seeks. Just a shame that she's dragging a lot of talented and "good" women down with her. I also get annoyed when folks argue that JJ is seeking Sandra's money... Last time I checked, Sandra didn't have a clothing line featured everywhere from WalMart to Nordstrom's, or a global toy line. Financially, they are both quite well off without the other one's bank accounts. Sad that this all went down, since they did seem to have a genuine love for each other - and they are both kind, generous souls who give enormous ammounts to charities without seeking publicity for it; individually and as a couple...bummer, indeed. And yes, folks, mismatches in relationships happen all the time. On the surface, most of the folks I hang out with would not look like they should be friends...yet here we all are! I agree with Lindsay that the biggest offense is the Nazi references, and WP tats...not too bright for a supposed smart woman. Hopefully this will all pass soon and we get back to discussing Danny Trejos' prison ink being shown off in his latest flick, Machete!

wow - because i'm living in london i'd not been following this story but now have kinda caught up - sorry if my comment above seemed flippant - it was more to get marisa to pose naked for us!
(tastefully of course)

ive been so tired of the tattoo model from awhile now. i much prefer real people sharing thier mods and stories to the BS of 'beautiful people'. same BS the media and corps feed us every day. body art is a chance so break those norms and own yourself.

but im more disgusted and enraged by the linking of heavily tattooed people to the fucking swastika. someone talk some sense into that woman. i would like to hear the photographer explain why this BS was valid.

i could care less whos sleeping with whom, but i do car who the secret nazis are. we must kill every fucking one of them.

Michelle "Blowhard" McGee.

as always well said momma, she's just another home wrecker, tattooed or not. stay away from married men.

Another great post Marisa, and Carrie I think your statement that " If people love your personality and lifestyle, they will be more likely to accept your tattoos/modifications. However, if they perceive you as some kind of predatory low-life, they will often perceive your tattoos as a symptom of your flaws. " is absolutely dead on.
We live in a society that tends to reduce things a lot, especially the more complicated issues such as body mod, psychology and relationships. There will always be and have been people like Michelle who will be quick to pander to such reductive means in order to fulfill their ambitions.
This is a scenario where I truly believe a "life well lived is the best revenge" against narrow-minded folks and morons.
melina bee

I see a lot of layers to this story. Agree, she's a bitch home wrecker. Sandra the star is a victim and Jessie, what can I say, needs to have a talk with his little head. But on another level Jesse is from the tattooed tribe and with Sandra he ventures into the territory of another tribe at the highest levels and visibility. How does he feel about this? Is his indiscretion a return to what he may believe is a member of his tribe and his comfort and lust. But all tribes have good and bad members, he allowed a self serving bad apple to pull him down. Did comfort and lust win over love?

I have been reading a lot about this "bombshell" lately. Not sure why she is called one but it is definitely more bad publicity for tattoos.

Also, tattoos should be accepted in every workplace. I find it ridiculous how some professions require no exposed tattoos.

Fuck the nazi !

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