Forever Yours: Kendall Jenner, Joan Smalls, Lara Stone, and More Get Inked for V

Forever Yours: Kendall Jenner, Joan Smalls, Lara Stone, and More Get Inked for V

True supermodels last longer than any tattoo, and these seven—each freshly inked for V's January issue—will never lose their luster.

True supermodels last longer than any tattoo, and these seven—each freshly inked for V's January issue—will never lose their luster.

Photography: Mario Testino

Styling: Paul Cavaco

Text: Derek Blasberg

When I was a kid, I thought tattoos were scary. I grew up in the ultra-conservative American Midwest, and the only people who had them were big, stinky, hairy men who wore leather vests and rode motorcycles and tawdry girls who thought they were sexy and wild because they had little dolphins jumping over rainbows inked on their ankles. But the origins of permanent body art transcend my early opinions (see V’s history of the tattoo feature on page 52) and today, tattoos can mean many things: a way to honor a loved one who is no longer with us, testaments to our spiritual or religious beliefs, or relics of a wild night out that peaked with a moment of bad decision-making.

For this story, we were intrigued by the notion of the eternalness of tattoos in an industry known for constant change. Fashion is a cyclical, season-based business, yet tattoos have never veered too far from the front of the camera. Most of the girls we shot for this story have them somewhere on their body: Kendall Jenner has three—two on her hands and one on the inside of her lip; Amber Valletta has her boyfriend’s initials on her left ring finger, “but you can’t see it unless you really look for it,” she says; and Joan Smalls has her mom’s signature on the left side of her ribs, “close to my heart.” At one point in her life, the most tattooed person here was Carolyn Murphy, though she’s in the process of getting hers removed. “I had always wanted a tattoo so, when I was 25, I got a big one. A very big one. It was on the entire right side of my body: a large Japanese koi fish with waves and peonies,” she says. “But it’s almost gone.”

She’s perhaps the most rebellious here, since making a permanent decision—and then un-making it—is pretty hardcore. Then again, ideas of what constitutes a rebel are subjective. Kendall says she was her most outrageous self when she walked her first ever fashion show nearly naked. (It was Marc Jacobs Fall 2014 and her outfit was completely sheer.) Newcomer Ellen Rosa says, “I think I’m rebelling when  I choose to stay home instead of going out!” Lily Aldridge says the most outrageous thing she has ever done is give birth to her daughter, Dixie Pearl Followill. And Murphy says getting her massive tattoo was only one of her big moments of acting out: “Leaving the industry at the height of my career to live in Costa Rica, turning down a career as an actress because I didn’t want to deal with fame…Not sure if that all makes me ‘bad ass’ or just plain crazy,” she jokes.

Valetta points out that often the best kind of rebel is one with a cause: “The most bad ass thing I’ve done in fashion was in the 1990s. I got Versace, the biggest supermodels, the best hair and makeup all to fly to my hometown Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a charity fashion show. It was for the local food bank and we raised about $300,000.”

But a rebel without a cause will always have a crucial place in fashion, and most of these women agree that designers like Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and John Galliano are key figures. Rihanna, however, got the most votes for queen of that title. According to my estimation (thanks, Google!), she has more than 25 tattoos, including a shark, her birthday, music notes, crucifixes, and an intricate hand tat that looks like a henna design. “She manages to pull everything off. She can do no fashion wrong!” says Jenner.

As evidenced by RiRi, tattoos are about individualism, which all these girls agree is an important part of modeling today. “Right now, it’s all about personalities! It’s more than just the model, people want to know what you’re about,” says Aldridge. Rosa wants the uniqueness of different types of bodies back on the runway: “The old glamour of fashion is coming back. I see more curves than usual and I’m loving it!” According to Valletta, “we are in a moment that is about celebrating authenticity. It feels like there is a need and desire for more of the self-expression and creativity that permeated the industry in the ’90s.”

Murphy, who is looking forward to the day when her body is tat-free, wisely circles back to the idea that the only true constant in fashion is change. “I’ve proven they’re not permanent,” she says. “You can always change your mind and try something new.”

Which reminds me, I should probably tell you that all the tattoos in this story are temporary.

Head over to the V Magazine Shop to pre-order your copy of the issue with the full story (previewed in the slideshow below) before it hits newsstands on January 12, as well as limited-edition temporary tattoos of the issue's cover stars, available only online while supplies last.

LARA WEARS ON EYES L'OREAL PARIS INFALLIBLE EYESHADOW, ON LIPS L'OREAL PARIS COLOUR RICHE LIPCOLOUR, ON NAILS L'OREAL PARIS COLOUR RICHE NAIL
Credits: MAKEUP YADIM (ART PARTNER)  HAIR CHRISTIAAN  MODELS PAUL LEMAIRE (BANANAS MODELS), KENDALL JENNER (THE SOCIETY MANAGEMENT), LARA STONE, CAROLYN MURPHY, LILY ALDRIDGE, JOAN SMALLS, AMBER VALLETTA (IMG), ELLEN ROSA (DNA MODELS)  BODY MAKE-UP ARTIST JENAI CHIN USING SKIN ILLUSTRATOR, KAT VON D BEAUTY AND DIOR NUDE AIR (HALLEY RESOURCES INC.)  MANICURE GINA VIVIANO (ARTISTS BY TIMOTHY PRIANO)  SET DESIGN ANDREA STANLEY (STREETERS)  PRODUCTION GABRIEL HILL AND ROGER DONG (GE PROJECTS)  DIGITAL TECHNICIAN JAKOB STORM  ONSET RETOUCHER LIAM BLACK  PHOTO ASSISTANT ALEX WALTL  STYLIST ASSISTANTS NICOLAS EFTAXIAS AND EJ BRIONES  MAKEUP ASSISTANTS MONDO LEON, JANESSA PARE, AYA WANTANBE, MAMI IIZUKA  HAIR ASSISTANT TAKU SUGAWARA  BODY MAKE-UP ASSISTANT MAGDALENA MAJOR  MANICURE ASSISTANT SHANI EVANS  SET DESIGN ASSISTANTS COLIN LYTTON AND NANSE KAWASHIMA  LOCATION CANOE STUDIOS  

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