Former Northeast Kingdom nurse forges new path with cosmetic tattooing

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 4:19 PM EST
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NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) - The pandemic has changed a lot of things, and for some people that included careers. When one Northeast Kingdom nurse found herself laid off, she decided to jump headfirst into tattooing, and it’s not just any kind of tattooing.

Tracy Russell brought cosmetic tattooing, or microblading, to the Green Mountain State, and it’s just one of many services offered at Main Tattoo. Inside the Newport shop, the vibes are different than what you might expect. Stevie Nicks plays over the speakers and Bob Ross is on TV. And while some are coming for traditional tattoos or piercings, other clients are coming for a little makeover.

“It’s called cosmetic tattoo. We think of it as vanity. I want to save time in the morning, I want to not apply my makeup every day, but cosmetic tattooing, especially for me as someone coming from a nursing background, has been something that’s healing for people,” Russell said.

She worked as a nurse for 13 years but recently became a licensed cosmetic tattoo artist. “In 2019 I actually got my own brows microbladed and I was talking to a friend at lunch one day about how I loved getting my brows microbladed and how it was fascinating and how I wanted to start my own business. And she said, ‘Well, why don’t you do that?’” Russell recalled.

She had to go to Montreal to get them done because there were no shops in Vermont at the time offering the service. What began as a side hustle became a full-time endeavor during the pandemic. “I spent all of last year kind of creating this shop, starting to do permanent makeup training, and that has led to now having other artists working alongside me and offering piercings,” Russell said.

She was laid off from the small Northeast Kingdom hospital she worked for during the pandemic, because case counts were extremely low. Rather than returning to nursing, she instead decided to pursue her passion full-time. “It’s really led me down the path of being able to heal people without being at the bedside,” Russell said.

While permanent brows and eyeliner sound like more of a convenience, for some it’s a serious confidence boost. “People with chemotherapy-related hair loss, people with alopecia, people who will never get their hair back potentially,” Russell said. “And it’s more than just brows. It’s now led me to 3D areola restoration for recovering mastectomy patients, or those undergoing gender reassignment surgery, scar camouflage for those with vitiligo.”

Now, Russell works hard to share her passion with others. She’s the only person approved by the state to offer permanent makeup training. She’s trained 12 women in the past year and says they’ve all hit the ground running. “There’s a lot of women who are now being able to do what I do and quitting their jobs just like I did and knowing that we can do it on our own, we don’t need someone to sign our paycheck. That’s really empowering in this day and age,” she said.

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