Graveyard Shift

The "Vampire Lady" With The Body Modification World Record Has A Fascinating Story

It's easy to make assumptions about people who practice extreme body modification, but these artists usually have interesting and personal stories that explain why they do what they do.

Take Maria Jose Cristerna, the woman with the the body modification world record. Though her appearance is far from mainstream, her story of why she so heavily modified her body — earning her the nickname "Vampire Lady" —  is a fascinating, moving tale of personal reclamation and self-healing.

The facts about Maria Cristerna the Vampire Lady are as interesting as her many body mods. From tattoos, to subdermal implants, to fangs, there is nobody on Earth quite like her. Cristerna's story is inspirational, not just because she transformed her body into a canvas for her art, but also because of how she has channeled her life experience into artwork and outreach. 

  • The Vampire Woman Got Her First Tattoo After Her Divorce

    The Vampire Woman Got Her First Tattoo After Her Divorce
    Video: YouTube

    Extreme body modification wasn’t always part of Maria Cristerna’s life. She didn't pursue heavy body mods until she took her kids and left a 10-year-long abusive marriage. Her first tattoo came after she filed for divorce, with the rest of the body modifications following soon after. Though Maria’s appearance might be off-putting for some, her looks make her feel empowered.

    As she says, she’s a product of her experiences, and changing her body is embracing the qualities that make her unique.

  • She Uses Her Platform To Speak Out Against Domestic Violence

    Maria Cristerna isn't just a personal advocate for body mod acceptance. Her history as a survivor of domestic abuse, combined with her background as a lawyer, have brought her acclaim and success in raising awareness for abused women.

    After leaving her husband, Cristerna said "I could breathe, as many women can breathe when they wake up in the morning and have a coffee without feeling as if someone is going to squeeze their throat.” Her advocacy work helps other women find that same freedom, especially in countries where women may not receive help from the government.

  • Her Nickname Started As An Insult, But Now She Likes It

    Her Nickname Started As An Insult, But Now She Likes It
    Video: YouTube

    "Vampire Woman" isn't a name that Cristerna chose for herself. In fact, she would prefer that people call her "Jaguar Woman," a reference to the traditional Olmec story. Cristerna was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she still lives today, and her cultural history is very important to her.

    While she might have adopted the name "Vampire Woman" after being called that for so long, it has since become part of her persona. What was once an insult has become her public identity; while she's always Maria Jose Cristerna, she's also the Vampire Woman.

  • Maria’s Tattoos Have Significant Meaning To Her

    Maria Cristerna's tattoos are more than just decorative; they symbolize her freedom from her abusive ex-husband and her taking back control of her life. According to Cristerna, they're an external version of what was always inside her waiting to be let out.

    While some of her tattoos reference the vampires she idolized as a kid, others have more specific meanings. The stars on her face, for example, are for her mother, who told her to look to the stars when she was in trouble. After her mother passed away, the stars served as a reminder that she's always looking out for Cristerna.