Body art helps the healing for Campbell River nurse


Michelle Brezden remembers getting her first tattoo when she was 21.

“It was a Japanese symbol on my lower back, it was supposed to signify ‘heaven and earth,’” she recalls.

The Campbell River nurse has since transformed her entire back – and other parts of her body – into a canvas for amazing artwork. Her penchant for tattoos prompted many friends to encourage her to enter the Inked Magazine Cover Girl contest, a public-vote competition now in the quarter-finals.

“I had close to 20 people tag me in a post saying ‘you have to do this,’” she says. Michelle finished first in her group in the most recent round and is vying for the cover shoot and a $25,000 prize for the overall winner!

All her tattoos have special meaning

Ask about the thoughts behind her tattoos and you’ll get some heartwarming answers.

An inscription of “The Dance” (a Garth Brooks song) with her father’s birth and death date keep him in mind – “he used to sing that to me all the time” – as do the butterflies on her left hip. A watch face on her left arm indicates that “time heals everything,” and close by, a key and heart show that “I wear my heart on my sleeve.”

Other tattoos have been collaborations with artist Ryan Tree at Golden Anchor Tattoos in Willow Point, including the huge tattooed woman on her back that some say resembles Michelle.

A beautiful distraction

Diagnosed with fibromyalgia at age 25, Michelle used tattoos to distract her from the pain her disorder caused.

“I was in bed for an entire year and on many medications to try to cope with my pain,” she says. “I started getting little tattoos and it was so bizarre, I started not feeling any of my inside pain. My body was feeling something different than what it was feeling on a daily basis. I got addicted to tattoos and began exercising to relieve my pain, and lost a lot of weight in the process.”

Personal connection to the artist

Michelle initially worked with tattoo artists at Black and Blue in her hometown of Nanaimo, but has since forged a connection with Tree. She estimates roughly 85 per cent of her body is now decorated with tattoos, many of which are his work. Her most recent tattoo decorates her right rib cage and is a dedication to the Golden Anchor.

Multiple ways to vote

You can vote for Michelle every 24 hours. When you purchase extra votes, the proceeds go directly to the MusiCares Foundation. Should Michelle advance through this round, the voting resets and the semis run March 27 to April 2. The finals happen April 3 to 9.

Follow her progress on Facebook and view her body art on her Instagram page.

artistcontestfundraiserVisual Arts

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Michelle Brezden shows a dramatic portrait illustration on her back, one of the many pieces of art she has emblazoned on her body. Photo by Stan Novotny Portraiture


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