These days tramp stamps and ankle tatts are almost rights of passage for 18-29-year-old gals, which makes Julia Gnuse somewhat of a late bloomer. She didn’t get her first tattoo—an Octopus on her left calf—until she was 35. And even then getting inked was largely medical; she suffers from a skin condition known as Porphyria and the images helped cover her blisters.
“I was hooked from the first second the needle hit my skin,” says Julia, now 55. “After I left the tattoo shop that day, I’d made up my mind. I told my artist, ‘I’m going to do my whole body.’ He laughed and thought I was kidding.”
Julia wasn’t. Two decades later, she has artwork covering 95% of her skin and has been named most tattooed woman in the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records.
“I don’t have any tattoos on my ears and feet,” she says. “That’s it, everything else is covered, a lot of them I can’t show you in public.”
Her body art runs the gambit from elaborate jungle scenes to simple designs. And her back and stomach boast scenes from classic television shows including Abner and Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched and Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory episode of I Love Lucy.
“I love the good old days of TV, when Comedy was comedy,” Julia says. “You can watch the reruns again and again and never get tired, they always make you happy. Every time I see those images on me, I’m happy.”
On her shoulder Julia even has an image of her tattoo artist, Art Godoy, who did the color full octopus in 1986 and has done every one of her tattoos since.
Art’s work isn’t done yet.
“I’m not finished left, I’ve got a little tiny space left,” says Julia. “But I’m going to take my time with my body. I didn’t tattoo my body to try to break a record; I did it for me. If you want a tattoo do it for yourself.”
While loving oneself is all well and good, it begs the question with all that ink covering everything — including her face and lady parts — one has to wonder if that’s had an affect on Julia’s, uh, intimate life.
“I was with this man for 25 years, this year. We never got married, but we’re on again off-again, and we still are,” she says. “He’s not got one tattoo on his body, and he’s never gone with me to get one, but he has nothing against them. He likes who I am inside.”
Should things not work out with the longtime beau, Julia might make a love connection with New Zealand’s Lucky Diamond Rich—the record holder for most tattooed man with 100% coverage, including his foreskin. “I take my hat off to him,” says Julia. “I hope to meet him soon.”