After leaving an abusive marriage María José Cristerna went to rather extreme lengths to show her strength, courage and liberation.
The 45-year-old, popularly known as “Vampire Woman”, or, as she prefers, “The Jaguar Woman”, holds the Guinness World Record for the most body modifications.
She has 49 body modifications in total, including fanged teeth, a range of transdermal implants on her forehead, chest and arms, as well as multiple piercings in her eyebrows, nose, tongue, ear lobes, belly button and nipples, and a split tongue and titanium horns on her head.
María explained, “The horns I have are a symbol of strength. I had the fangs done because I loved vampires as a little girl and I changed the colour of my eyes so they were how I really wanted them to be.”
Her implants were done without the use of anaesthetics and she sees them as symbols of courage after surviving domestic violence during her marriage.
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The former lawyer, who now owns a tattoo studio and a clothing shop and also works as a DJ, says she’s always been different.
She grew up in a deeply religious household in Mexico and got her first tattoo at age 14, the logo of Swedish metal band Bathory.
Speaking about her tattoos, which cover 86% of her body, María said, “I am expressing beauty through my art for the world to see. God lives inside of me and I believe it is what I do daily for others and my actions that make me who I am, not how I look or my appearance.”
While she’s gained fame because of her appearance, acceptance didn't always come easily.
A close friend of hers told the Daily Mail, “In the early days local people and anyone from the community would cross the street when she passed, making cross gestures as if she was the devil or was possessed.
"People feared her immensely and were understandably intimidated by her presence. Many thought she was on drugs or crazy! But now they kiss her hand when they meet her. Many almost worship her and take her blessings like she is some kind of goddess with mystical powers.”
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She’s also become a popular feature at tattoo festivals around the world and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has erected a wax statue of her in its museums.
Since she started working as a tattoo artist, she says, “Tattooing is my way of being immortal, of really being a vampire and not dying – by leaving my work on other people’s skin.
“Yes I like people to look at me, but I am a product of my experiences and what I have seen around me since very young. I have always been different!
“We all have the power to change the world if that is what we choose to do. Even if it is just changing your own world or circumstances. We have the power within us all.”
Sources: guinnessworldrecords.com, huffpost.com, dailymail.co.uk, mirror.co.uk, digitalspy.com