Amina Munster Interview
When your physical appearance changes against your will, like scarring or losing a limb, is it considered body modification? I’m not just talking about accidentally slicing your finger open while cutting a watermelon, or burning your arm on a stove rack, but rather, severe circumstances like what happened to Amina Munster who had her leg amputated and the tips of her fingers fall off as a consequence of nearly drowning before the age of two.
She debuted on SuicideGirls.com in late December 2002, and she has never shown her missing leg or fingers in any of her photos. She’s fairly heavily tattooed, has a gold tooth and breast implants, all of which she considers mods, but does not consider her “missing parts” body modification. She believes that in order to classify something as body modification, it needs to be an intentional act.
Why the gray area? Intentional amputations happen, accidental amputations certainly happen more often — but when is it considered body modification? Is it simply in the eye of the beholder?
I decided to interview Amina to find out what it is exactly that stops her from classifying the accidental changes to her body as “body modification.”
BME: What happened to your leg and your fingers?
AMINA: When I was seventeen months old I was left home with a babysitter because I had a fever. Instead of the babysitter watching over me and my five year old sister, she decided to call her friends and invite them over for a pool party. Believing that I could swim, I left the playroom, went outside, stacked up laundry baskets to climb over the pool gate and jumped in the spa that the babysitter had been heating up for her friends. The babysitter never found me, my next door neighbor heard my sister screaming at the spa. It was the neighbor who took me out of the water and called the paramedics.
My leg was lost due to loss of circulation and oxygen. My right leg was amputated below the knee. My fingers were left to fall off by themselves. When I was sent home, the tips of my fingers were black and dead. The tips gradually fell off by themselves. Resulting from this accident I am missing a quarter of my right leg, the tips of all five fingers on my right hand and half of my right lung.
BME: Did anything happen to the babysitter? Was she charged with any criminal acts?
AMINA: My parent’s home owners insurance paid for the hospital bills and a hefty settlement. My parents decided not to sue anyone. When I turned eighteen, I was told by my parents that I had the option to sue anyone I wanted including my parents, the babysitter, the hospital, or the babysitter’s parents considering that she was seventeen at the time of the accident. I decided to not sue anyone; the accident happened so long ago, isn’t the expression let dead dogs lie?
BME: Why did you become a Suicide Girl?
AMINA: Honestly, I have loved models and modeling since I can remember. I grew up looking at the Varga girls and 50’s style pin ups. Suicide Girls was like a breath of fresh air to me. I thought that it was amazing to find a place where girls were considered beautiful and had piercings and tattoos. I became a Suicide Girl just to try something different and I will never regret it.
BME: Why did you decide not to show your leg or your fingers in your photographs?
AMINA: When I had originally applied to Suicide Girls years ago I decided to keep the leg, or lack there of, a secret. I felt that SG would not accept me to be a model if they knew I was an amputee. Throughout the years it has gotten difficult to keep coming up with creative ways to cover my prosthetic leg, however, I still have not been able to shoot the mermaid set that I have dreamt about.
BME: Who takes your photos for SG?
AMINA: Currently all of the sets that I have up on Suicide Girls were shot by a friend and Missy, the owner of SG. However, recently I was able to shoot two sets with Steve Prue, who I greatly adore.
BME: Did your photographers try to convince you to show your leg?
AMINA: I have worked with many photographers and I have never felt pressured to show my leg. I did recently take a series of photos displaying the temporary prosthetic leg, but that was at my request. I love this leg because you can see the insides, it looks bionic.
BME: Are you planning on showing the online public that you have amputations?
AMINA: Right now I am wearing a temporary prosthetic leg. My other leg is currently getting airbrushed at the Hart and Huntington Tattoo studio in the Palms Hotel and Casino, they have an A&E show called “Inked” that covers the daily activities of the tattoo shop. My leg and I will be featured on that show. I honestly do not know what the artist is airbrushing on the leg other than a big Virgin Mary on the calf. After I have received the completed leg and have finished filming for ‘Inked’ I will be shooting a set for Suicide Girls exposing the airbrushed prosthesis. It will be the first time that it will be shown on Suicide Girls that I am an amputee. Should be interesting.
BME: Is the airbrushing just for the photo shoot or will the paint stay on the leg permanently?
AMINA: The leg is getting airbrushed to look like traditional tattoo work. The paint will permanently stay on the leg and I think I may mount it in a glass box when I am no longer able to wear it. I’ve had plans for many months now to expose the leg on Suicide Girls, I just thought it would be cool to show it looking tattooed. The artist and I both decided on traditional art work, very Sailor Jerry…but with no swallows or flames. I left the majority up to him.
BME: Do you have any fears about the people’s reactions?
AMINA: To tell you the truth, the general public on SG may not know about my prosthesis, but it is certainly not a secret. Rumors fly over that website all the time, people like to talk. Even many girls whom I consider to be good friends still feel the need to tell members or anyone interested in SG that I am an amputee. It is truly funny that when peoples own lives stop being interesting that they choose to talk about someone else.
When it is finally shown to the SG community that I am an amputee, I really expect for most people to be shocked. I hope that it will show them that people with missing parts are beautiful too. I really don’t expect outrage, but I’m sure I will get the occasional ‘that’s gross’ comment. It’s very hard to offend me, as I’ve heard it all before.
BME: So far, what has been the feedback on your presence on SG?
AMINA: I have met many girls off of SG who are now some of my best friends. I even met one of my tattoo artists off of SG, he agreed to tattoo me in exchange for three of my baby prosthetics. Naturally I am considerably popular on Suicide Girls due to my many tattoos and the fact that I show my boobies. But I am unsure if that will all change when my amputations are exposed.
BME: What brought you to BME?
AMINA: A friend and fellow Suicide Girl, Twwly told me about BME, I checked it out and fell in love.
BME: How long have you been tattooed?
AMINA: My first tattoo, if I remember correctly, would have to be the Winnie the Pooh outline on the inside of my left ankle. This tattoo was done when I was 15 in my bedroom by my first boyfriend. Of course at such a young age we did not have a tattoo machine and instead used a safety pin. This tattoo has been left untouched all these years as a reminder of my first love.
Since then I have been tattooed by many talented artists including Eric Maaske, Tim Kern, Tim Hendricks, Jim Miner and Chummy. I started getting real artwork by established artists when I was seventeen. I walked into Classic Tattoo in Fullerton, CA with my court papers proving that I was an emancipated teen and Eric Maaske agreed to work on me. My first tattoo on my arm was a pirate girl with a peg leg, some think it to be a self portrait.
BME: Is it actually a self-portrait?
AMINA: Technically it isn’t, but I did have her peg leg be on the right side to match mine.
BME: Does being an amputee impact your decision to get tattoos? Do you have any tattoos relating to your amputations?
AMINA: The only tattoo that I currently have directly relating to my amputations is the Pirate girl by Eric Maaske on my right arm. But I do have future plans for more. When I began getting tattoos on my arm I placed all of them on my left arm thinking that it would take attention away from the right side of my body. It would be a sham if I didn’t admit that. It worked, and when I shook hands with someone they would be so preoccupied with the tattoos covering my left arm that they wouldn’t notice the missing fingers on the hand that they were shaking. Since then I have moved on to tattoo my left arm and chest, and I am no longer trying to cover up my disability with tattoos. I have found that other people with ‘missing parts’ tried to do the same, so it is not uncommon.
BME: Do you consider your amputations as “body modification” as they weren’t intentional?
AMINA: Since my missing parts were not intentional I do not consider them ‘body modification.’ I think modification would have to do with the direct and intentional act of modifying something. Ha, I didn’t intentionally modify my leg, it just kind of fell off. I would, however, consider my white gold tooth as a modification. Although I did not intentionally knock it out, I did choose to replace it with white gold and not a replica of the latter, and unlike most people, I do consider my breast implants to be a modification.
BME: How did you loose your tooth?
AMINA: I blame losing that fucker on the leg. I have such bad balance. I was very intoxicated in San Francisco back in April of 2004 I drank some liquor that I will refer to as ‘the devil’ at the Budda Bar. As soon as last call hit, I traveled out onto the street and attempted to walk off of a curb. My attempt was ill fated. I fell flat on my face busting my lip and eye, and knocking out my front #10 tooth at the gum line.
BME: Why did you choose to replace it with white gold?
AMINA: The second that I was informed by three different dentists that the tooth replacement was going to set me back a whopping $3,000 bucks I knew that I wasn’t going to get a replica of what I had just knocked out. It turns out that if you knock out just one tooth at the gum line that you have no other alternative than to get a single dental implant, so I got the white gold as a treat to myself. Plus I find frontal gold teeth on men very, very sexy; I just don’t know more than one guy who has them. Bring on the men with gold teeth!
BME: Any specific or unique reason why you wanted breast implants?
AMINA: Not to be too blunt, but I love boobies and I love breast implants. Add that to the fact that I was as flat as a twelve year old boy. I got them June 4th of 1999, and still no regrets.
BME: What kind of feedback have you gotten from IAM members?
AMINA: I have had nothing but pleasant encounters with fellow BME members. I do get a lot of questions about how I lost my leg and fingers, but that’s just natural curiosity. I guess I should have an explanation somewhere on my page, but I don’t want my missing parts to define who I am. I don’t want someone to visit my page and just see information about my leg, there is much more to me than that.
BME: Do you find real life people more accepting than online people, or vice versa?
AMINA: The only place that I have shown my prosthesis online is on BME. Since I usually wear pants and never have my leg exposed in real life, I do not really know what the general public’s reactions would be. Other than some people noticing that I may be limping a little one particular day, it is rare that any one would ever think that I have one leg. I have never had a problem finding lovers, most men just don’t care. Although I do have that ‘Deuce Bigelow’ fear of not telling a man beforehand that my leg is a prosthesis and then watching it fall off in his hands. Now that I think about it, my friends and I have played many jokes similar to that one on unsuspecting targets.
BME: Why do you keep it a secret?
AMINA: If you’ve done something for so many years it just becomes routine. I would be delusional if I ever thought that my lack of a right leg could ever be considered a secret. My story seems to be something that people like to tell at cocktail parties. More often than not, when I meet someone that knows anyone that I do, they already know of my amputations. I kept it a secret on Suicide Girls possibility to be accepted or just to be one of the girls. Instead of Amina the amputee, I am just Amina. I wear pants daily because it is simply less of a hassle. Although online I could write a story and paste it on my profile that will hinder repetitive questions, I cannot walk around daily with the story taped to my chest. I will be showing it soon on Suicide Girls because I can no longer remember any reason to keep it hidden. It is what I am and ultimately makes me who I am.
BME: What do you think of people who intentionally amputate their fingers or other body parts?
AMINA: I will not ever say that it is disgusting or gross or that I do not understand it. Since I was a child I have wanted to amputate one of my toes, not because I would like how it looks but for more aesthetic purposes. I’ve always hated that my toes touch, as everybody’s toes do. I just always figured that by eliminating that one toe between my middle toe and my pinkie toe that the problem would be resolved. So I myself have considered voluntary amputation. I’m sure most people do it for different reasons, like cutting the bad parts out or eliminating something you prefer to be without. I know someone that voluntarily amputated a body part and to this day I still do not know the reasons that person had. But it was their choice, not a common or accepted choice, but a choice that person is very happy with.
If I had two legs would I prefer to have one amputated? No, never. I would never wish that upon someone who did not wish it upon themselves. Why? Simply because it is a hard existence. Not just because of the jokes, ridicule, stares or innocent questions, as that could not possibly be any less of a concern for me. But the physical technicalities are so hard and unending.
I’ve had to learn to walk fourteen times in my life, my prosthesis cost up to $20,000, and if I decided to drop some weight for health reasons, I have to get another leg. The shape of the stump changes with every couple pounds I lose. Since May of 2002 I have lost twenty-one pounds. However, I have only had two legs in that time. Some days my leg will be black and blue from walking, some days I can’t walk. Sometimes I wish that I could walk for more than eight minutes without giving my leg a rest. My knee is half the size as my other knee due to atrophy, very similar to the Chinese women who wrap their feet, and my knee never had the chance to grow beyond a juvenile’s size. Sometimes I envision my bone growing through the end of my stump as it did twice when I was younger. Also, because I am currently without health insurance, and if it were not for my Prosthetist being a good friend of mine, I’m sure that right now I would be without a prosthesis.
I have heard the saying “God only gives you what he thinks you can handle” many times. And if I believed in God I think I could find some peace in that.
Certainly, if I break a fingernail or get a bruise on my leg, I would not consider it body modification nor body art. I guess, ultimately, it’s up to the people who have unintentionally injured their bodies to classify any changes as “body modification” or not. Regardless of whether it’s by choice or accident, these girls’ bodies are different than what they’re supposed to be. Everything after that is left up to interpretation. Who really needs the labels anyway?