IN what could be the world’s most horrific body modification, a rapper has ripped the flesh off his face to give himself a “demon smile”.
Renato de Santa, who has implants under his skin to give him horns, dyed black-black eyeballs, a bifurcated tongue and the number “666” carved into his head, has taken his body modification journey one step further.
In his most extreme modification yet, the 41-year-old from São Paulo, Brazil, has now had swathes of his flesh peeled back between the corners of his mouth and ears.
The transformation, which has been termed a Glasgow smile, is created with a scalpel.
“My new scarification is inspired by the Japanese legend of Kuchisake-onna – the woman with the cut mouth,” de Santa said.
In Japanese folklore, Kuchisake-onna is a malevolent spirit whose mouth is cut from ear to ear.
She’s said to ask her victims if they think she is beautiful – killing them if they say no, and cutting them to look like her if they say yes.
But de Santa’s look is not meant to be scary – in fact, he says some consider it sexy.
“Some women have fetishes for my changes and are full of admiration, but there are also women who have some kind of aversion,” he said.
“There’s still a lot of prejudice even in the tattoo world, and people with commercial or trendy tattoos sometimes get scared by my changes, but that’s no problem for me.”
How people react often depends on age, he said. .
“The kids like it a lot and see me as a superhero. They ask how the implants were made and also my eyes.”
“The elderly show more resistance in accepting my changes because they are from another time and used to other customs.”
De Santa also has subdermal implants in his arm and a tongue that’s been cut in two, as well as a row of titanium studs running back over his skull from his forehead.
“There’s still a lot of prejudice even in the tattoo world, and people with commercial or trendy tattoos sometimes get scared by my changes.”
Renato de Santa
The musician traces his fascination with self-transformation back to 1996, when he worked as an apprentice in a tattoo studio.
“My first tattoo was a tribal piece on my left arm,” he recalls.
“My first piercing was on the eyebrow and also some small earrings.”
“In 2000, I set up my first studio in my house tattooing friends, but little by little more clients appeared and I expanded the business.
“Today I have no idea how many tattoos I have, but I believe I have 65% of my body is tattooed.”
In total, he estimates he’s spent around $10,000 – a whopping £7,270 – on transforming his appearance.
Coming from such a religious country, however, his efforts are not always appreciated.
“Sometimes I get offensive messages on the internet,” he said.
“They are usually Christians saying that I’m going to hell and promoting hate speech.
“The 666 is a protest against the church and the system that obliges everyone to convert to Christianity in some way.”
De Santa said the abuse doesn’t bother him anymore.
“I feel good looking ‘like a demon’, as haters say.
“I want to show that the world is not just for Christians but for everyone who lives here regardless of beliefs, colour, race and sex.”