Lonni Pike was 30 when she got her first tattoo.
After a messy separation from her then-husband, the American took the radical decision to embrace change and had an image of barbed wire inked around her ankle – a symbol of keeping bad relationships out and good ones in.
Around 27 years later, Lonni has gathered over one million followers on her TikTok account, where she hopes to inspire others to embrace their true selves by dressing stylishly and getting inked up to her armpits.
READ MORE: Meet body modification fan who spent £7k covering 65% of body in tattoos
Known as GrayHairAndTattoos online, the 57-year-old recently left her administrative job to work on her social media platforms, posing daily in chic vintage outfits and flashing her colourfully tattooed arms and hands.
Lonni was enthusiastic about her transition into a tattooed influencer – but exclusively told Daily Star that she's battled against nasty comments about her age at times.
“There’s still a lot of old stereotypes that just don’t go away associated with tattooing and just associated with age in itself,” she confessed.
“I still get comments that I’m too old for tattoos and I have yet to have anybody tell me what am I supposed to do about it?
“I do videos all the time and i’m like, ‘okay you tell me i’m too old but what’s the alternative? Do you want me to just go away? They don’t wash off at a certain age.
“So there’s still a real stereotype, but I think it’s more just a really loud woman who’s living authentically has a tendency to make people uncomfortable, so I think it’s the tattoos that they hyper-focus on instead of me as a whole.”
Despite this, Lonni stressed that each and every troll online is outmatched by the positive reception she receives from others desperate to chase their own dreams.
She said: “I get such beautiful emails and comments on my videos from people who are finding their own spark.
“If I can help just one person who’s been hiding themselves get out and finally start being happy, then it’s worth it.”
In fact, despite the ageist comments directed her way, Lonni revealed that most of her audience are aged 19-25.
“A lot of people my age – I think that’s why my demographic is higher with the younger group – is they don’t understand this,” she suggested, pointing at her colourful arms.
“I went on a dating site one time and I would get comments like, ‘I would date you but you have tattoos’.”
This attitude hasn’t held Lonni back, though.
She recently completed her sleeve with a hand tattoo, which she confessed had been one of her most painful yet.
And, nearing her 58th birthday, Lonni – who also hosts a podcast with her two sons – refused to rule out getting more radical tattoos in the future.
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“The hand tattoo is becoming more popular, but hands, neck and face have always been like, ‘wow’, there’s no going back, there’s no hiding that now,” she explained.
“If the day came up where I woke up and I wanted [a face or neck tattoo] I would get it.
“In this moment, no, but that doesn’t mean I won’t wake up in six months and be like, ‘hey I want a neck tattoo’.”
And, if any of her ink malfunctions with age – or she changes her mind – Lonni joked: "If my tattoos start to look like s*** I'll just black them out, simple as that."
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