The electric tattoo needle humming along the edge of Linda Lee Franklin’s eyes sounds like a bumblebee. But Franklin isn’t worried. The retired schoolteacher is happy to lie still as Chapman alumna Kimberly Armstrong (M.A. ’98) gently inks in feathery arcs of pale brown color along the rims of her eyelids.
Because after years of coping with hair loss caused by alopecia, Franklin is happy to summon patience and time for Armstrong’s skills.
“I was humiliated, upset and saddened when I lost my hair,” Franklin says. “Now to get up in the morning and look in the mirror and see eyebrows and lashes, it’s like a brand-new world.”
Moments and stories like these are not new for Armstrong. Over the past 10 years, the permanent-makeup tattoo artist has expanded her business to serve an increasing number of clients who come to her for artful restorations that also restore confidence and change lives. But whether the task is re-creating areolas and nipples for a breast cancer survivor or camouflaging a dog bite scar for a young woman, Armstrong says she is transformed, too.
“It’s unbelievable. Every day is filled with new possibilities and opportunities to help people feel normal again. It’s an unbelievable experience,” she says, sitting in her spa-like studio in Laguna Hills.
She tears up as she tells these stories, then laughs as she brushes away tears.
“We’re always laughing and crying in here,” she says.
Armstrong didn’t anticipate this path when she earned a master’s degree in rhetoric and composition from Chapman. But she’s never shied away from shifting gears.
“Life is full of surprises and you never, never know where your path will take you,” she says. “You just have to trust the journey.”