Ink on skin

For many people, tattoos offer a way to express themselves and share with the world what best represents them.

For others, they are simply art committed to the canvas of their bodies

What’s the story behind the tattoos you see – and don’t see – on University of Detroit Mercy students?

Several students agreed to reveal theirs.


Tabatha Sack

“I have a small tattoo on my foot that says ‘Hope’,” said Tabatha Sack, a sophomore. “I chose this specifically because my mother and aunt were diagnosed with the illness and luckily are now cancer-free. I picked this tattoo because I saw how courageous they were during that period of their life and wished to emulate that.”

 Her tattoo shows her dedication to her mother but is also a remembrance of the struggle she watched her mother and aunt go through and how with strength they were able to overcome it.

“Although my mother was initially against the idea of me getting it, she was able to identify the importance for me,” she said.

 In a way, her tattoo is to give inspiration to the many other people suffering from breast cancer.


Kelsey Baer

“My tattoo says, ‘Love never fails’ from 1 Corinthians 13:8,” noted Kelsey Baer, a sophomore. “I decided on this because I have had my ups and downs in life and realized the one factor that remained the same was love and the love I received from friends and family. Also during this time my grandfather had passed away and at his funeral we had said that even though his heart failed, his love never did.”

This tattoo being in memory of her grandfather provides a daily reminder of how she wishes to live her life and how love can bring anyone out of a dark period.


Jessica Wahby

Not all tattoos have to have a specific meaning behind them. Many people get tattoos just to decorate their bodies with something they find beautiful or artistic.

“My tattoo doesn’t have any real significance or importance to it,” said Jessica Wahby, also a sophomore. “I wanted a tattoo but really wasn’t sure what to get. So, instead, I had my friend who attends the College for Creative Studies in Detroit draw me up some ideas that she thought I might like and I ended up choosing an intricate dream catcher.”

It is featured on the middle of her back.


Alani Letang

Autism is a complex and complicated disorder, but Alani Letang, a junior majoring in communications studies, thinks it is as beautiful as the technicolor butterfly she has inked on her right shoulder blade.

Letang decided to dedicate her first tattoo in honor of her brother, who was diagnosed with autism. This was a happy and exciting time for both Letang and her mother. Unlike most teens who have to sneak and hide their first tattoo, Letang had the support of her mother, who sat with her the whole time and took plenty of pictures.

“It is an autism butterfly and it holds a special meaning,” Letang said. “The symbol for autism is puzzle pieces to signify that this disorder is a mystery as to where it comes from and how to treat it properly. I decided to put the puzzle pieces inside the butterfly (something beautiful) to say that this is not an ugly disorder, rather a unique one.”

The tattoo is unique.

“I was super excited to get my tattoo because I had put a lot of thought into it, and I actually designed it myself,” she said. “So I was anxious to see the final results, and I have been pleased with it ever since.”


Felicia Safford

Felicia Safford, a senior, was one of the unlucky teens who had to hide her first tattoo.

Her experience was not as enjoyable as Letang’s.

“I was 16 years old when I got my first tattoo and at the time I was scared because I actually snuck and got it,” she said. “I was thinking, is it going to hurt? How long is this going to take? What if my parents find out? Will I bleed to death? I was a mess.”

Despite her fear, Safford was brave enough to go through with it. Since then, she has gotten three more tattoos. She now has a total of four, but only one of them carries a special meaning.

 It is her most recent tattoo with the word “love” inked on her ring finger.

“I’m not married, but I’m waiting to find that special person so when I do get married, it will demonstrate I found my true love,” she said.


Jessie Barnes

Jessie Barnes III, a sophomore majoring in automotive mechanical engineering, is glad he made the choice to get matching tattoos with his father and sister.

Barnes has two tattoos that are both meaningful to him. But the one he shares with his deceased father and younger sister means the most.

It is a cross located on his left outer arm with his dad’s initials JB2 inked on the top half of the cross and KMB, his sister’s initials, on the lower half.

“This tattoo has great value to me because this one is shared by my dad, my sister and I,” he said. “We all wanted something to remember each other by. Now that my dad has passed away, I feel like I will always have something to remember him by.”