25/09/2017 Society

The tattooist who returns the smile to the warriors

The Argentine celebrities trust his art. Among actors, television celebrities, soccer players and rockers of the national scene are part of the long list of customers. But the founder of Mandinga Tattoo, Diego Staropoli, has something more to tell: for a couple of years he makes nipple tattoos to breast cancer survivors for free.

Diego Staropoli,
Diego Staropoli,

Courtesy Diego Staropoli/LANA


And it wasn´t easy for Diego. He began tattooing in the Central Market bathroom in a "difficult time for the tattoo, it was frowned upon, only the prisoners were tattooed" and emphasizes "it was clear from my appearance of that time that I wasn´t of the characters that went unnoticed in that place, long hairs and tattoos wasn´t very common among the workers there". They paid him with clothes, slippers, cassettes, but never with money.


Today, almost three decades after those beginnings that he describes as marginal, Diego is a well-known tattoo artist for both Argentines and foreigners. Along with his brothers are the founders of Mandinga Tattoo with whom they ended up being a phenomenon of television cult thanks to his own reality show Mandinga Tattoo Show and being the organizers of Tattoo Show Argentina, the convention of tattoos more convener of Latin America and one of the 3 around the world.

But Diego is also wanted by women who leave in their hands the reconstruction of the areola mammary, one of the sequels that usually lead those who had breast cancer and who had to have a mastectomy or, because of the location of the tumor, lost the nipple.


The reason of his project is in his family history. Her grandmother removed both breasts "at 60 years and lived until the 98 with a bra stuffed with birdseed to pretend she still had her breasts since at that time there wasn´t implants. And the story goes, "two years ago my mother also suffered breast cancer, I also lost my father because of a bone cancer and today my 41 year old brother and who has been with me for 20 years in Mandinga is suffering from hodking lymphoma". His relationship with the disease is frankly intense and he couldn´t find a better way to pay homage to his own.

The cause found Diego through social networks. A follower of his told him that a foreign tattoo artist was rebuilding breast areolas for free to cancer survivors "I wondered how I missed this activity and decided to publish on the networks that we were going to do in Mandinga permanently all year. was blunt and incredible", he recalls.


The gratuity of his work doesn´t go unnoticed "it is not about social classes or who can or can not pay it, I decided that I would never charge to do it beyond that at the end of the month I have material costs, I receive no help from anyone and that really motivates me even more."


Today he has more than 250 women tattooed but in many the mastectomy was double so he calculates about 400 areolas.


Diego feels privileged that these women choose to close a cycle so painful and regain their self-esteem "when you look at yourself in the mirror you no longer see the cancer accompanying you in that mirror and making you remember that it is part of your life, rebuilding your nipples you closed the door on that ghost and you become a woman again. "

Camila Gavieiro/pal/ali/lana