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A Story of Brave Hearts, Love, and a Tattoo

Photo provided by Eden Body Art Studios

This picture of my daughter, Deanna James, and me is one of my favorites of all time. It is right after she gave me my first, and most magnificent tattoo, at the ripe young age of 61. What means the most to me is that this moment exemplifies what it truly means to have a Brave Heart.

A Brave Heart is one of the four pillars we aim to cultivate in all of our Live Free Yoga programs:

  1. Strong Mind

  2. Brave Heart

  3. Wise Body

  4. Noble Spirit

A Brave Heart represents the courage to be who we want to be, to step outside of our comfort zone and speak our truth, to defend those who need us, and to love unconditionally.

My tattoo represents all of those things.

A little back story...

My unconditional love for my daughter began when she was born. As she grew she discovered art and drew on everything that was and wasn't tied down - napkins, walls, you name it.

It was obvious at a very young age that Deanna had talent. We knew early on that we needed to cultivate that talent. When she was 11 years old, we put her in her first art class at Hobby Lobby where she was the only child among adults. She won awards for her art in elementary school, which led her to an arts magnet middle school where she won more awards, and then the crème de la crème...she got into the Dallas Arts Magnet, Booker T. Washington High School for Visual and Performing Arts.

In order to get into Booker T, you had to audition. Ok, I admit that my mama bear instincts paved the way for Deanna to get in, but she had to earn it with her talent. Which she did.

It wasn't easy for either of us, because the school wasn't in our school district, so we had to drive many more miles to get there. While she was at this elite arts magnet (think the movie, "Fame"), Deanna's Brave Heart took hold and gave her the courage to defy rules, which didn't always bode well for her. For example, she wore clothes that were deemed inappropriate (yes, I was called to the school one too many times), and often didn't follow the teacher's instructions for assignment, which often got her into trouble. Her teachers liked to remind me of that during parent open house events.

Side of Deanna's art teachers complained, because she didn't follow instructions on a particular drawing technique for a school art show, for which Deanna ended up winning won first prize anyway.

As a traditional "Jewish Mother," I assumed Deanna would go to college, which is also what the school culture pushed for. I was busy arranging for tours of visual arts colleges around the country, which we did until one day I noticed she wasn't paying attention to me as I was planning our trips.

Deanna's Brave Heart opened up again, and she courageously told me she didn't want to go to college, but instead wanted to become a tattoo artist. My jaw dropped, I shed a few tears, and then my Brave Heart and unconditional love for her got to work.

In fact...I was instrumental in getting Deanna her first tattoo apprenticeship, and then another one later on. Deanna hit the ground running working her way through various apprenticeships as well as the "hazing" and injustice inflicted on her as a young woman in a mostly male-dominated industry.

Deanna never gave up. Her Brave Heart once again stepped up and gave her the courage to audition for the reality TV competition show Ink Master Angels, which she won, and earned her a contestant spot on Ink Masters for which she made it to the top five. She was also voted Best Tattoo Artist in Dallas Observer Magazine in 2018. (Ok, I'm bragging, but it's hard not to)

My Brave Heart story...

Now Deanna owns her own state-of-the-art tattoo shop in Dallas, Eden Body Art Studios, with her husband, and employs five other artists who are mostly women.

So here's where my Brave Heart story culminates. As much as I have always supported Deanna in her chosen art form, I never thought I would get a tattoo. As a Jewish person, although more culturally than religiously, it just didn't feel right for me to get one. I honored, supported and respected her, but it wasn't for me.

But after Deanna tattooed her father (my husband), my mindset changed. I thought if I am truly going to support her, I need to be all-in. That day came last week when Deanna had a cancellation, and asked me if I wanted to get tattooed. My Brave Heart stepped up and stepped into my fears.

Now, as I look at that picture of me and Deanna with my beautiful tattoo that I absolutely adore, I see years of bravery, blood, sweat, tears, and lots and lots of love. I am proud of my daughter for the Brave Heart it took for her to follow her truth, and do what she loved. I am proud of my Brave Heart for having the courage to defy conformity as a parent, and support her through it all, even getting a tattoo myself.

Your Brave Heart...

Now it's your turn. What is your Brave Heart story? Think about the times you stood up for your truth or for someone else's. What are you wanting to say that you're not saying? What do you want to do that you're not doing? What wrong's do you want to right?

To discover your own Brave Heart, try taking some time each day doing some form of mindfulness practice such as yoga, conscious breathing, meditation, or a mindful walk in nature.

Our mind and our hearts are connected. When we take time to live in the present moment without worrying about the past or future, we will discover so much about ourselves. It is in these moments that we discover our truth, and then cultivate our Brave Heart to take action towards what we truly desire.


Need some help discovering your Brave Heart? Check out our mindfulness video series, Lighter Being, to help you cultivate your daily mindfulness practice today.


Author, Phyllis Smith, is the Co-founder and CEO of Live Free Yoga, which provides yoga and mindfulness programs for youth and adults who serve them. She is also the co-creator of Lighter Being, a transformative mindfulness video series to help you find more balance, self-love, and a lighter state of being.

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