Every other Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!
So without further delay, let me introduce the awesome Lizzie Renaud…
Lizzie Renaud is a 27 year old Toronto-based tattoo artist and owner of Speakeasy Tattoo. After an on/off apprenticeship, she has now been tattooing for more than 6 years and has worked in various countries including England, Belgium, Canada, USA, Netherlands, and France.
After opening Speakeasy Tattoo, her custom art studio, in July of 2009 to great initial success and participating in dozens of art shows around the city, her future plans are to travel to as many conventions as her “little hands can handle, find the time to paint every day, learn the fine art of scotch and bourbon appreciation, study crochet, and finally pick up where I left off at with my piano studies” and she’s this week’s Shameless Woman.
What drives you to do what you do?
The best answer I have for this, sadly, is the most rational. The combination of life experiences a person digests ultimately effects his/her drive in life. I was raised with very strong role models for what it takes to be in the arts as a career. My mother, stepfather, and bio-dad are all involved in the visual arts or music in some capacity. I saw first-hand what kind of organization and care had to go into scheduling, organizing and nurturing a business in the arts and what work it took to be a self-sufficient business owner in an unconventional field. I am happy when my business is running well, so I use the tools I picked up as a child to find that happiness in a self-driven way.
How does being a woman empower / challenge you?
Tattooing is a boys’ club and that’s exactly what I need. I thrive in an environment where masculine energy is present because like many women, the air can sometimes become thick with competition and jealousy when I’m around too many of us. I’m a strict believer in our evolutionary instincts and I think it’s fair to theorize that women can be extremely possessive of their dominance in a field like tattooing. It’s each person for themselves and the only brand you are pushing is YOU. YOU become your best and only product and not surprisingly, YOU are bias towards your product and will do anything to protect it. I think every tattoo shop needs their one, and one only, female tattooer to be the balancing hormonal input in what can turn into a complete sausage fest.
That being said, being a woman in a sea of boys is incredibly challenging. I’m not a tattoo artist; I’m a ‘female’ tattoo artist. Because of my breasts and vagina, I’m never immediately on par with my male counterparts’ talents (in their minds). I find empowerment in using my sexuality and charm to find easily opened doors into very popular tattoo artist cliques. It’s a game guys can’t play. Tattooers love a good flirt and I think every woman can use her tools responsibly, wisely, and with intelligence to play the gender game. Women tattooers have the huge advantage that we’re noticed and welcomed as a novelty. It’s at this juncture that I find the perfect opportunity to put the boys in their place, work harder, draw better, and tattoo more compassionately and efficiently than 90% of the men I meet. As a pleasant result I garner respect from some of the world’s most reputable artists and find opportunities flying in my direction that no longer have to deal with my looks or my clothes or my flirty charm. The opportunities eventually all turn into those that are influenced by the fact that I had to work 10x harder to prove myself on par. It’s a challenge that is steeped in eons of thick sexism in the blue collar trades and one that I look right in the eyes and say, “Bring it on.”
What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
The most crucial piece of advice I have for young women today is that you should only pursue post-secondary if it’s absolutely and precisely the path you want to take. Fuck what your parents want you to do. School isn’t for everyone. When you finish the 12th grade and application time is coming, the screaming, kicking, fund-witholding, name-calling, and silent treatment you may get form your parents when you say “I ain’t doing it!” is worth it. I am turning 28 this year and I still sit on a $30,000 debt for NOTHING. I wanted to make my parents happy and I was miserable. I hated every day of my life at that place and as a result, started drinking and doing drugs before school, if I even went at all. I learned nothing. Dick squat. I resent my loan, I resent the cowardice I showed in staying for someone else’s happiness than mine, and I made a mockery of good teachers who didn’t deserve it. I needed none of these things to be the successful woman I am today and had you asked me at 18 if I needed university, I would have told you THEN that I had no interest.
This isn’t me saying, “Don’t go to school.” It’s me saying do what is RIGHT for you in the post-secondary world. I get all verklempt when a young woman comes in and makes conversation with me about her thesis and how empowered she feels in her straight-A world. That’s a strong girl who is doing exactly what will steer her into her career path in life. That’s a woman who is respecting herself and her future self by honouring her true interests to matter what the cost. But girls, if isn’t for you, don’t ever feel scared to be true to yourself and to go out in the world and pick up a trade or a DIY business. The fulfillment you get will be right on the level with your neighbour’s framed degrees.
Name one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?
I think one thing that every woman needs to know about is the queer movement of our generation. We used to be a minority controlled and governed by old white men with money and small dicks, dying to prove something in the world. And now those same small dicked bumpkins are challenging the rights and basic human needs of our queer community and I feel it’s EVERY human’s duty to seek positive and supportive information and apply it to our lives. Woman, however, owe a special attention to the cause as a group who only this past century gained the rights to vote, be free, and show a little leg now and then. Just because you weren’t alive to burn your bra doesn’t mean your empathy wasn’t born into you with your double X chromosome. Become a part of the camaraderie and help strengthen the group in numbers so when their rights are being challenged, you align yourself with humanity and realize that your rights are being challenged just as much. It’s the most empowering thing I did about 7 years ago and I am now the proudest hetero queer this side of the city.
What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?
Be local. Make changes within arms’ reach and watch the ripple effect. I feel that a familiarity with world issues is wonderful and helps one appreciate his/her blessings in life, but ignoring the charity that you owe your community in exchange for a trending cause is sad and pathetic, and as wasteful as buying a luis vuitton purse on your credit card with a $200.00 paycheque. Leave the global miracle worker shit to the celebrities and be a local hero. If everyone did it and had the resources needed to succeed, our world would be greener, more musical, and more blindingly perfect than we can even imagine.
You can find Lizzie at her tattoo shop, Speakeasy Tattoo at 299 Harbord Street, Toronto (647.378.2481) or online here.