By the time I show up to Tørst, a Scandi-inspired craft beer bar in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, Mira Mariah is already sipping a glass of Three Floyds Zombie Dust, a hop-heavy pale ale. Ever since word got out that the 26-year-old is Ariana Grande’s go-to tattoo artist, Mariah hasn’t had much downtime for a drink. Her unmistakably intricate linework appears on the singer in the form of a bee and Chihiro Ogino from Spirited Away. She’s also inked Grande’s ex-fiancé Pete Davidson, who picked up a portrait of the couple’s pet pig during happier times. Sadly, the celeb pair has had to cover up some of her handiwork since splitting in October, including their matching finger tattoos reading “AG” and “Pete.”
Mariah isn’t here to dish about Grande and Davidson, though—she wants to talk about beer. Although her waitlist at Fleur Noir Tattoo Parlour in Williamsburg is overloaded, she’s found time to join forces with Wicked Weed as part of an ongoing series highlighting work by artists. Dubbed Artistry Series III: Girl Knew York after her Instagram handle, the lilac-tinted wine barrel-aged sour ale flavored with dragonfruit, orange blossom, angelica root and fennel pollen features her artwork on the label is expected to drop around March of next year.
We ordered a round and talked about the crossroads of tattoo and beer culture, intersectional feminism, and building a powerhouse career as a disabled mom.
So I hear there’s going to be a Girl Knew York beer. How did that happen?
I’m collaborating with Wicked Weed on a beer. It’s part of a series where they commission an artist to design a label for them. They followed me on Instagram and reached out after liking some of my artwork. I’ll be going there in January for a few days to test out some beers and take a brewery tour. I’m really excited.
Did you have any say in the beer itself?
I didn’t really get to choose, but I love their work so much. They were like, “What do you think of this beer?” which happened to be a sour.
Wicked Weed isn’t the only brewery paying more attention to the artistic design behind its labels. Why do you think that is?
A lot of people are moving toward buying beer in a similar way you might buy wine. When you’re shopping around and looking at bottles, the label becomes more important as a way to stand out.
Beer and tattooing are all about creating opportunities for intimate conversations.”
Especially when there are a zillion craft beers on the shelves. It can get a bit overwhelming if you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for.
Honestly, that’s why I tend to gravitate toward the same beers that I have all the time. I’m a creature of habit. If I know I like it, I’ll buy it again.
What are your go-to beers?
Full disclosure: My favorite beer in the world is a Coors Light. I think it’s hydrating and a beer at the same time, which I know is physically impossible, but that’s the way I feel when I drink it. My thirst is quenched. I’m happy here. That being said, I really like sour beers. Brooklyn Brewery’s Bel Air Sour Ale was my favorite this summer. It’s kind of pink and very sour and salty—I love a salty beer.
It’s like beer-y lemonade.
Exactly. That’s what I’m here for. I love pale ales, too. When I was nursing my child, I started getting into darker beers and exploring that, like drinking Dirty Bastards all the time.
You always hear that nursing mothers are supposed to load up on Guinness and other dark beers. Is that an urban myth?
I mean, it seemed to work. I think it’s just that you’re a new mom and you haven’t eaten in three days [Laughs]. I would have enough nutrition from beer to power through. I come from a beer family. My grandparents were beer distributors for a while. My grandfather used to say, “There’s a pork chop in every beer!” It fills you up and nourishes you.
Your daughter’s 4 now. How do you balance running a tattoo business with being a mom?
I act like a dad, honestly. I act like a man. I do what I need to do. I take care of her and I love her. We have a lot of fun, wonderful time together and then she goes to sleep and I get to work. I haven’t had more than four hours of sleep in years.
On top of everything that comes with motherhood, you’ve been very open about what it means to be a disabled professional. Could you talk a little bit about that?
I lost my left leg when I was 17, so technically I’m disabled. It’s been really important to me to be vocal about being disabled. I wish that I could see me when I was 17 and I’m sure there’s some 17-year-old out there who needs to see me. I’m not a role model. But I want people to know that it’s going to be fine and they’re going to be fine and we’re going to figure it out. If I can share that with someone and make their life easier, that’s really cool.
It doesn’t seem like it slows you down at all.
That part is not true. It slows me down completely, all the time. It’s totally difficult and it’s complicated. It gives me a complicated relationship with my body—and as women we already have complicated relationships with our bodies to begin with. And to be honest, it’s quite painful. That being said, those things have just forced me to develop more strategies and problem-solving skills. If I can make space for disabled people or help them navigate what it means to build a job or a lifestyle that works for their circumstances, I’m very interested in doing that.
How did you get to where you are in the tattooing scene?
I’ve lived in New York forever and I love New York. I went to FIT for fashion design, then I transitioned to tattooing right after my daughter was born. I apprenticed with a tattoo artist that I really admired and was able to grow a lot from that. Then I started working at a private studio and then I was invited to Fleur Noir. The elephant in the room that is obviously I’m so well-known because of Ariana Grande. That’s probably most of the reason I’ve been able to skyrocket.
How’d she find you?
We have mutual friends. She just texted me.
I’m guessing that tattooing celebs like Ariana Grande and Ilana Glazer must have given you a serious backlog.
We have a pretty long waiting list, which is awesome. We usually get maybe 500 to 800 applications when we open our books, which we try to do once a month. Lately, it looks more like once every other month just to keep up with the workload we can manage.
How would you describe your style?
I think that my work looks like contour drawings meets fashion illustration. It’s a lot of women, a lot of nude women, a lot of women in cool outfits, a lot of moody, sexy stuff, a lot of celestial stuff.
Some people have complained that the tattoo world is still pretty male-dominated. Has this been your experience?
I live in a bubble of girls. I am aware that there is a larger world behind this tight-knit femme community that we have created in Brooklyn. I’m aware of the kind of old brotherhood that wanted to keep tattooing a certain way and keep it amongst men, but I don’t think about it too much. If you get tattooed by a woman in Brooklyn, she probably knows all of the other women tattoo artists in Brooklyn. We all support each other wholeheartedly.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
I would raise you one. I would call myself an intersectional feminist, because I don’t think the word “feminist” is enough anymore. I think we need to be hyper-aware of TERF-y white feminism and make sure that our focus is on truly inclusive feminism that doesn’t forget our women of color or disabled or trans sisters and leave them behind.
I have to admit that I envisioned the tattoo scene as being more cutthroat than it sounds like it is.
For all of the ways that the tattoo community has been portrayed on television shows, it’s the most drama-free environment I’ve ever worked in. I sit next to my best friend who I love and we have an amazing time tattooing all day, then we go out with other tattoo artists.
I mean, I definitely wouldn’t want a person inking me to be stressed out.
You also want them to make you feel welcome. I think the rise of women tattoo artists has been able to make people feel welcome when they come in, which if you want me to tie this all together, is like beer. Beer and tattooing are all about creating opportunities for intimate conversations.