Known as “The classy lassie with the tattooed chassis”, Cindy Ray’s history is intricate and unexpected: not all roses.
In the early XX century tattooed ladies did make noise (see Maud Wagner and Stella Gassman). Australian Cindy Ray was born in 1942, as Bev Nicholas. She was a single mother when she saw an advertisement by photographer Harry Bartram who was looking for models ready to shave their eyebrows and decided to answer. This is how the young Bev met the man who would have create the character of Cindy Ray.
It was Bartram who convinced her to get tattooed by promising her fame and fortune. Bev got her first four tattoos all at once in the same night: three down one arm and a wrist band on the other one. She got her parents hit the roof, too, of course.
Actually, Bartram was only thinking about himself. While the new-born Cindy Ray kept on getting inked, he started to make money out of it, but she never saw any. Later he also started to sell Cindy Ray tattoo machines and books, and she tells how he made her write letters to people articulating every word.
Cindy Ray was a tattoo artist, too. She practiced with her tattoo artist boyfriend and she started to tattoo when he broke his hand in a pub brawl. She worked in his shop in Williamstown, just outside Melbourne, with people passing by and staring at her like she was a freak. It was the 60s and she was a heavily tattooed woman who made tattoos to live: scandal. But she made it through and she became one of the most famous and influential personality in the modern history of tattooing, so that in the Old Tattoo Expo of San Francisco (2005) she was included into the Tattoo Hall Of Fame.
So even if she did not like all the attentions, Bev Nicholas began Cindy Ray and Cindy Ray began a very famous and demanded tattoo attraction with a colorful life of abuses and satisfactions.