Last May, on the first day of the New York City Tattoo Convention, I was almost thirty blocks away from the Roseland Ballroom, where the three-day event takes place, when I bright flash of yellow hair caught my eye on Broadway.

I was about to meet Melissa "Alabama" Graves.

Her bright yellow hair was not the only thing I noticed - she was also heavily-tattooed.

I stopped to talk to her, but she was on her way to an appointment, but she seemed open to being featured on Tattoosday and she assured me she'd make time for me to interview her the next day, Saturday, at the convention.

Melissa is a model and she is a striking figure - despite her tiny frame, she fills a room with her personality and she commands a great presence.

Not to mention, her bright hairstyle makes her easy to spot in a crowded tattoo convention. She was kind enough to spend a significant amount of time with me talking about her tattoos. I could have written much more, but had to pare down our conversation for brevity's sake.

Incidentally, this is my last remaining item from 2012, and I'd like to think I've saved one of the best for last.

Among her tattoos, Melissa chose to share the gun inked on her right thigh:

Here's a closer look:

She credited this work to Gene Coffey at Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, explaining that she was thrilled that he was able to depict so well this image of a .45 Magnum, tattooed to scale.

Melissa gave me the nitty-gritty about why she had a gun, specifically this gun, inked on her thigh:
“I met this guy a long time ago, his name was Blackie ... he was ripped and tattooed and rockabilly and sexy and he had this, you know, powerful thing about him … He moved away with his girlfriend, it must’ve been … five years ago and the girlfriend and him had been together for a while, and I had a crush on him for a long time …[when] him and the girlfriend are breaking up and, this must’ve been 2008 ... I went on vacation from my job at the beginning of 2009 ... He talked me into going out to California with him and ... I went out to California and we had a week-long vacation together that was probably the most ... fun time I ever had with somebody. And the best sex I ever had in my entire life.
And one of the things we did together was we went to the Downtown L.A. gun range and I fired his .45 magnum in that gun range wearing a mini skirt and six-inch stiletto heels … the chunky heels ... and the guys in the gun range were like, this girl cannot fire this gun … it’s like a cannon of a gun ... it’s life size, compared to little me ... and, you know, um, I weigh a little bit more now than I did back then, but only like five pounds more, and they were like, she still can’t fire this gun. In those heels? No. And I said, Oh yeah I can fire this gun, and I was just ballsing it and I took the gun and I fired it and I asked for the most bizarre absurd targets. And I fired that gun and I hit every target. And ... he was so impressed. It turned him on. And we went back home after I fired that gun. I saved every target and we had the best sex afterwards, I mean, he was just so turned on that I could fire a gun that well. And I’ll never forget that experience. It was like, I could fire a gun and hit a target in the forehead and it was just like really exciting, girl power kind of thing and I left L.A. and he left me at the airport and said ... I’ll see you later kid.”
She added that "he was cordial enough after we broke up when I got the idea for the tattoo to scan the gun and send me the image of the gun."

Melissa praised Gene Coffey, the tattoo artist, to no end. He was responsible for the art on her left leg, which she said he had worked on while he was still an apprentice.

What's cool about the tattoo, as well, as that it circles the thigh, with a garter and a badge:

Melissa added,
"The gun signifies a lot to me because I have a broken heart [seen in top photo on her lower abdomen] ... that's broken and stitched back together ... the gun is protecting it ... this gun, I can pull out and say Don't break my heart ... but it's a metaphorical thing - I would never want to hurt somebody ... I'm the sheriff of my heart. I guard my heart and I police my heart and I have my gun to protect it."
She wanted to make sure we credited Gene for this work that she entrusted with him. "He's a really talented artist and ... he's going to do the rest of my right leg." We also featured a really cool sleeve by Gene last year here.

Thanks to Melissa for sharing her gun (and time) with us here on Tattoosday! You can check out her website here.

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