THE woman known as “the human pincushion” lifts a hand to her face, pulls back a tendril of brightly-coloured hair and reveals her left ear lobe, severed into two bizarre flaps of stretched skin.
“I did it with scissors,” nods newly-wed Elaine Davidson, matter of factly, as if taking a pair of blades to her heavily-pierced ear lobe and slicing through the spongy flesh is as normal as popping on the kettle for a cuppa and opening a packet of custard creams.
“There was a lot of blood, but that’s OK,” she shrugs. “No, not really any pain. Why did I do it? It’s about my body and seeing how much pain I can take.
“Look at my other ear, I cut through it too,” adds Elaine, making a snipping motion with her fingers: chop, chop chop.
Even without the dramatically modified ear lobes and the multi-coloured mass of ringlets, the several thousands of piercings on her face, arms, legs – indeed all over her body and, apologies to the squeamish, inside it too – mean Elaine is the kind of woman who knows how to make heads turn.
It certainly worked for her new husband, the substantially less flamboyant than her, former civil servant called Douglas Watson who recently found himself quite unwillingly snapped in his sensible suit and tie leaving the Registrar’s Office at Lothian Chambers with his new wife.
The images were striking. There stood Douglas, an ordinary kind of middle-aged chap looking faintly surprised to be photographed hand in hand with his bride, eye-popping in her ruffled white gown trimmed with brightly-coloured flowers, multi-coloured hair and, what every woman who’s ever wanted to make an impression as she headed up the aisle may well wish she’d thought of first – face painted with green, blue and white stripes enhanced with yellow dots.
To complete the look, Elaine opted for a giant silken butterfly on her head. And, of course, around 200 piercings in her face.
At least the third finger of her left hand was left free for a dazzling ring.
It now fights for attention with the glitter from dozens of studs, rings, metal bars and coloured beads which dangle from a chain at her chin under the dim lights of her Candlemaker Row shop Tropical Rainbow.
If the pair had hoped for a quiet, fuss-free wedding day, the photographers who snapped them moments after they had become man and wife were having none of it.
“It was terrible,” says Elaine. “Douglas was so upset. And the papers were so rude to him. One wrote that he wore a boring grey suit and a cheap tie out of Marks and Spencer. He was very upset.”
Indeed, next day’s headlines took full advantage of the spectacle. “Let’s hope he’s a stud”, read one, “Holey matrimony!” read another. Perhaps among the more scathing towards her beau: “The world’s most pierced woman marries the world’s most boring man.”
Today non-pierced, tattoo-free Douglas is keeping a very low profile, leaving his extraordinary Brazilian-born wife to do the talking about a relationship that on the surface appears to place its lead characters poles apart but which in reality turns out to be deceptively ordinary.
“I adore him,” squeals Elaine, 46, a former nurse who admits she was drawn to Scotland more years ago than she wants to remember in search of handsome men in kilts.
“He is very protective towards me, he is also a very sensitive person. The papers said his tie was cheap, they called him old and that’s sad because he hasn’t done anything. People are saying such rude things about him.
“People can say what they like about me, I don’t care. More people love me than hate me. But it upsets me that he’s upset because he has a sweet heart and he is lovely.
“All that matters is that we’re happy,” she continues. “I asked Douglas a while ago, ‘Are you OK with me being so crazy?’ because he is a totally ordinary person. But he knows this is my job, it’s what I do and he is happy for me to do my job.”
The couple met in Glasgow more than ten years ago. Elaine, a trained nurse, had yet to embark on her mission to transform her face and body and Douglas was working for the government as a civil servant.
“I was having a coffee in a cafe, we started to chat and he offered to buy my coffee. I said no, but you can buy me dinner,” she laughs.
It was an ordinary start to what would become a remarkable relationship. Friends for years, Douglas watched Elaine quickly transform her face and body in pursuit of a lifelong quest to become a world record holder – for the past seven years she has held the honour of being the world’s most pierced woman. She has 7000 piercings, hundreds of them internal.
“As a little girl I wanted to be in the book,” she explains, referring to the Guinness World Records. “I wanted to break a record. I was prepared to do anything to make it happen and now I’m proud of myself.
“It has been fun. It’s meant I’ve been able to travel everywhere – Japan, Thailand, Australia. I’ve had an absolutely wonderful time.”
She speaks of being originally inspired by a variety of cultures – African, Aborigine, South American tribes who paint, pierce and modify their bodies as part of ancient rituals. While her facial piercings are most obvious – indeed, she’s covered the hundreds on her arms and legs with long sleeves and flowing skirt – there are at least 2000 more hidden in intimate areas.
“They are all over my body,” she nods, stretching out an arm so I can feel each bump and lump created by dozens of metal rings, studs and bars. “Some I do myself, but only the ones on the front. I need help to do my back and other places.
“But my ears,” she continues, pulling at stretched skin. “I do those myself.”
She regards herself as an artist, but not everyone has been as supportive of her particular art as her new husband. Elaine’s family in Brazil have indicated they’d prefer she wasn’t sporting 7000 piercings while, tellingly, she admits that few of Douglas’s friends attended their July nuptials.
“I know lots of people think it’s unusual and they say how can anyone with no tattoos or piercings get involved in someone who looks like me? But this isn’t about anyone else,” she insists.
“Douglas knew me before I had these and I’m the same person now. I’m just me.”