Marilyn Rondon Presents: ‘Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos?’
Hard core children's books will never die!
WHERE THE FUCK DID ALL THE HARD CORE CHILDREN’S BOOKS GO? Okay, it’s been a while, so maybe I’m a little out of the loop—but WTF, right?
When I grew up, it was Good Night Moon and Where The Side Walk Ends — fuck, who remembers Go Dog Go? Colorful images with subversive messages, encouraging bravery and self exploration: These books contained positive lessons and realizations I’ve referred back to my entire life. Is that what’s wrong with these millennial kids? The Internet landed on their childhoods and the ‘good children’s book’ was, if only for a moment, set aside and forgotten. Lost to Mario Kart and MySpace. Holy fuck… Did Justin Bieber kill the children’s book?
Luckily, the answer is a resounding “NO!” Thanks to rock star artists like Marilyn Rondon, the hard core children’s book is here for all. When I first heard about her book Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos?, I knew I had to talk to her, and help get the message to the people.
I met Marilyn in Miami, on Wynwood. I offered her a Cuban coffee.
“I don’t drink coffee…”
“Cool,” I answered, as I opened my Cuban sandwich. “You want half? I don’t usually eat this early…”
She answers again, with a cut-ass spring in her step. “No, thanks I don’t eat meat.’
“Copy that.” I re-wrapped the sandwich and pulled out a somewhat-distressed-looking-but-extremely-proper joint out of my front pocket. As I unwrapped it from the plastic bag, she preemptively answered, “I haven’t smoked since Wyatt’s funeral.”
So, without coffee or tree, we relaxed in the Miami warmth and talked. Marilyn’s coming off of a semi-professional boxing match for charity; looking closely at her eyelid tattoos—one reads “NO FEAR,” the other “NO HATE”—it appears she has a bit of a shiner. In a sea of women claiming to be “bad bitches,” it’s refreshing to realize that the real bad bitches are the ones out here actually changing the fabric of culture, raising the levels for real.
After I got a chance to check out the book first hand, I caught up with Rondon via email about how it came together. Check out our interview below.
Mass Appeal: How did this project start?
Marily Rondon: A few years ago after curating a show with friends, the idea popped up when one of my friends suggest I write a children’s book based on what my illustrations were evolving into.
Did you write it first, draw it first, how did the process unfold?
A bit of both. I would draw something and make up a story behind why someone would get that tattooed; it challenged me also to put meanings behind my tattoos. Most of the illustrations in the book I have tattooed on myself.
Is this for kids really, or an art piece about society, and judgment?
It’s a bit of both. I like the idea of approaching children with this topic, and forcing parents, and non parents to think about judgement in a different direction.
Why are kid’s books so important? Did you have one that really affected you?
One of my favorite books as a kid was Pat the Bunny. I liked the different textures and learning about what I was touching. And I loved Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss books. The best!
Why did you get your last tattoo?
What is my last tattoo? I gotta think about this…hmmm, I think the last tattoo I got was a Jesus portrait on my leg that’s crying and saying, “Aye, dios mio.” I got it cause I say that a lot lol.
What was your first?
I have a tiny club stamp lookin thang on my wrist that says “innocence is bliss.” I got it when I was 18 and still somewhat innocent.
Who are your public paintings for?
For me, for Drake. For anyone that feels anything from them.
How is writing a book similar to doing a public mural?
You gotta really think about what you’re putting out there. They are both pretty incredible opportunities. Creating public art is a privilege. It’s important to engage the world with something that might move them, or a message that makes you think. I like approaching each space differently—almost like an instillation. I feel similarly about writing and illustrating a book. I think it’s important to put your best work forward. Even if someone doesn’t purchase it, they’ll see it and be influenced by what they see—even if it’s subliminally.
What’s up with Miami though?
It’s lit! Perfect weather, great food, a strong fitness community; the ocean is blocks away from my home, close to family, being able to speak Spanish all day long without leaving the country.
How do you feel you’re perceived by older human beings?
Idk. I think people may be intimidated by my shell, but really I’m a softy and a goof. I’m a bad gal gone good 😉
How does being a woman with tattoos change their meaning? Do you get judged more?
Idk because I only know what it’s like to be a woman. I have no idea what it’s like to be a tattooed man; but I think tattooed men get laid way more than tattooed women (LOL), because guys either aren’t attracted to heavily tattooed women, or are just intimidated—it takes a tough woman to put herself through hours of physical pain in my opinion. It’s kind of a, pardon my language, bullshit meter.
Has anyone said some shit?
Oh yeah, but I created this machine that erases all negativity from my memory—I haven’t shared it with the world yet though. 😉
What’s your mom think about your skin?
She thinks I am who I am and loves me regardless of my tattoos, she doesn’t even see them anymore, like anyone that knows me, you stop noticing, and then one day, someone will be like, “Woah, that tattoo’s sick, is it new?” And I’ll be like, “Nah, fam. I’ve been had that.”
Any tattoos you regret?
What made you hit the eyelids?
Life. Choosing to stay positive no matter what is thrown at me. I’m a pretty mental person, I need reminders. I try to tell myself to not be afraid of anything—fear stunts growth, and hatred is the killer of love, and all that exists is love. So, it’s a reminder to not use the word “hate” ever—even if I really dislike something. Or “fear, afraid” because fear is an acronym for “false evidence appearing real.”
Why don’t you finish your snake you puss?
Ya mean on my belly? Skull with the snake wrapped around it? Last few times I was in New York the artist that started it was out of town, and I’m still working on a six pack. Lol, the more I tattoo my stomach, the less I’ll be able to see muscle definition. It’ll be on hold for a while.
If kids got tattoos, what do you think they should get?
None. Because kids should wait till they’re old enough.
You ever thought about tattooing?
Yeah, I worked at a few shops for years (Dare Devil and Fun City Tattoo). After being a shop girl for three years, I decided I need the type of lifestyle where I can move around and do whatever the hell I want throughout the day. Sitting in a shop for 6–10 hrs a day didn’t seem appealing to me anymore at the age of 25. Mad respect to tattooers though, I just can’t cause pain to others. I’d rather share love.
Anyone ever get any of your work on their bodies?
Yes! Whenever anyone DMs me somethings of mine they’ve gotten tattooed it warms my heart. And still blows my mind.
What do you hope a grown up takes away from your kid’s book?
To stop being so judgmental! Everyone! Stop judging each other. You gain nothing from it.
What will you tell your kids when they ask you about WHY you have tattoos?
Idk. I don’t plan on having kids—childbirth seems terrifying. If I decide to adopt, I’ll tell them whatever they wanna know. How old I was when I got each, where I was, who did it and how long it took, and how much it hurt lol.
What’s your face say gangster?
Left side of my face says “self made,” right side says “respect,” my forehead says “thoughts become things,” and my eyelids say “no hate, no fear.”
WTF is up with you and Drake?
I’m his ghostwriter.
You should make a kid’s book about Drake… If you did what would the title be?
Bedtime Stories About Heartbreak and Rejection.
Do children view skin art with the same predigests?
Kids usually just stare. I love having stare-offs with children; I’ll watch them get uncomfortable and then I’ll make a silly face and watch them shyly look away, and then look back at me and smile. I have no idea what goes on in the mind of a child.
Is there a tattoo sheet with impermanent tattoos come with it?
No, but they will be sold separately. 😉
What do tattoos represent to you?
They’re like memories; everything else in life is so impermanent, they’re like a life timeline for me.
How old is too young to get one?
Below 18. I think we make irrational decisions at a young age, even at 18…I mean, I got married at 19, and divorced at 21…So yeah.
Does this book encourage kids to get tatted?
No, it’s meant to simply inform them that they are magical.
Do you think your kid will think tattoos are corny because MOM is covered?
Probably. Lol, growing up I though EVERYTHING my mom did was corny, so most likely my kids will be anti tats…if I have them, which I’m not planning on, but you know how life LOVES to throw you curve balls.
How does your painting work in line with kids eyes, and kids minds?
I paint with bright colors. I embrace my inner child.
Why did this project take so long to get completed?
I was illegal most of my life until two years ago—working 2–3 jobs full time to get by and supply materials for myself to create, while building an art career simultaneously and working on my physical and mental health. Things are a lot harder when you have obstacles in the way—trying to hold you back, keeping you at the poverty line. I’ve never had anyone to fall back on; I’ve had incredible friends to help me when things got way too difficult (my books being dedicated to them). But the majority of my life, I’ve taken care of my every necessity. Being an illegal immigrant slows everything down. I have mad respect for immigrant parents—mine worked extremely hard to get my family by.
I also didn’t wanna rush it. I wanted the story and illustrations to evolve on their own. A year into writing the book, I became a nanny—and that influenced me a lot more than when I was writing it and illustrating it without testing it on a child.
What is up next for you?
Just painted two murals at a new music venue in Detroit. I’m planning some more murals in L.A., and some in New York, maybe Boston, and anywhere else opportunity pops up.
Are there any more books to follow up?
Yes! I’m working on Why Does Daddy Have Tattoos? for all the zaddies out there, and also another children’s book about something I can’t talk about yet…but it’s gonna be mad cute. I’m also writing a memoir about how I got sober and out of an abusive relationship a few years ago.
What’s a message you hope to leave here after you’re gone?
Be kind. Love each other and yourself! Listen to Drake 😉 JK, don’t do that; he’s been hanging out with Future too much and he’s a terrible influence on society. I don’t care how wealthy he is, you can tell him I said that.
Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos? is available on Amazon now.
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