Maria Cristerna is a striking human aesthetic – a living, breathing canvas if you like. When you refer to modern body art or modification sub-cultures worldwide; Maria aka: ‘The Mexican Vampire Lady’ reigns as Queen. Having spent considerable time in her company this weekend, I would go as far as even referring to her as like some kind of mythical Goddess… or a form of one even.
Prior to our meet I had the pleasure of dining with a member of her team, who is also a very close friend and confidante of Maria. I was briefed on Maria’s history leading till now, her troubled past – having suffered many years of domestic abuse and severe violence from a former partner.
She married young and has four kids. Interestingly Maria also still lives in the same family home in which she grew up, in the heart of one of the most violent and notorious ghetto neighbourhoods in Mexico. Her parents have both passed and she chooses not to move away to a nicer neighbourhood; something she could easily afford to do so with things taking off with her music industry involvements and the many creative projects she juggles simultaneously throughout the year. Her schedule is packed, as she travels the world touring with her new music collective – alongside a funky female DJ partner on the decks and she herself being a highly talented VJ… or more aptly a VVJ (Vampire Video Jockey). There is also a live music element to their very ‘visual’ music set where over the course of upto 2 hours – they seamlessly mix urban, eclectic music styles – electro, drum’n’bass, techno, metal, rock and the odd worldly sounds in the mix.
“If I’m honest, my personal preference is metal… and I’m talking the dark, gothic, noisy kind. But when we DJ/VJ live – we play what the crowds want to hear!” says Maria in Spanish, and translated with the assistance of an interpreter.
Maria’s visual répertoire begins with her own striking appearance. As she dances hypnotically to the music, completely immersed in the moment – she resembles Neytiri from the film Avatar – the daughter of the leader of the Omaticaya (Na’vi clan) – Tall with the high heeled black boots, long bright red dreadlocks, and of course covered in quite intricately designed body art and implants and tribal modifications.
Whilst waiting backstage prior to their DJ/VJ set I asked Maria many questions. I wanted to understand the motivations behind what she has inflicted on her body and how the reaction of others whom she meets daily on her travels makes her feel… is she religious, is her appearance reflective of spiritual beliefs, is this some kind of extreme cathartic reaction to pains and suffering she has experienced, does she have any regrets seeing as so many people have tattoos and piercings they themselves later regret… is she happy??
“I have used my body as a canvas… I am expressing beauty through my art for the world to see, God lives inside of me, and I believe it is what I do daily for others and my actions that make me who I am, not how I look or my appearance. Yes I like people to look at me… but I am a product of my experiences and what I have seen around me since very young. I have always been different!” she told me.
Where Maria lives, violent gang culture is rife. There are severe social ills and struggles on her doorstep daily and after considerable time, her neighbourhood and her wider Latino community now fully accept her for who she is and what she looks like on the outside.
Her confidante told me: “In the early days local people and anyone from the community would cross the street when she passed, making the ‘cross’ gestures as if she was the devil or was possessed. People feared her immensely and were understandably intimidated by her presence. Many thought she was on drugs or crazy! But now they kiss her hand when they meet her. Many almost worship her and take her blessings – like she is some kind of Goddess with mystical powers!”
Maria also delivers local domestic violence talks to women groups and others who have suffered or are suffering in her city. She holds a strong affinity with people – wherever she travels people naturally gravitate to her and from my own time with her I noticed there is a strong, almost magical vibe to her:
“We all have the power to change the world if that’s what we choose to do. Even if it is just changing your own world or circumstances. We have the power within us all!” she explained.
Maria was in Vienna, Austria this weekend as part of the headline artists for an event line-up that is probably one of the world’s most unique. The event is called WILDSTYLE - the creative genius of a very successful Austrian entrepreneur called Jochen. The same line-up that also includes music artist, and fellow tattoo fan (also very good friends with singer Lady Gaga!) – Zombie Boy, as well as acclaimed musician Rob Holiday from UK music collective ‘Prodigy’. The event consists of tattoo conventions by day and eclectic, visual DJ and music sets in the evening. It travels across many cities in Austria and over the years has grown into a bit of an international cult following across the region.
Maria’s profile is a key driving force on the marketing side for the Wildstyle series of events… after all, it’s not every day you can say that you went and watched a magical Vampir-ess and her ghoulish buddies mix visuals and music on stage!
It was a real pleasure meeting Maria and her collective – Gis Sanchez: the funky, talented female DJ alongside Mr Rodriguez on his electric guitar and adorning the famous Mexican wrestling mask. They beautifully fused an almost 4-D musical performance with the visuals, funky beats and live vocals alongside live music… but the key focal point at the centre of the set without a doubt is Maria herself. She is truly incredible on many levels… and no matter what you think about how she appears, she is one of the most unique individuals on Planet Earth today.
Whether her outward appearance is a reaction, or a by-product of her experience and surroundings, again on the outside… from the inside she carries herself as a warm, friendly, compassionate, vulnerable and rather polite woman, who just happens to be esoteric and with a fascination for the darker side of life which she chooses to magnify through her outward identity.
As my time with Maria came to a close in the early hours of the following morning and so I shook her hand and without even thinking, I leant forward to kiss her goodbye on the cheek. Prior to our meet I would have thought twice about this and maybe would have been a little reserved… afraid even. Her skin was surprisingly very soft, contrasting with the hard exterior that meets the eye. Seeing her beyond the outward appearance I was rather charmed by her whole presence. I asked her what was coming next for Maria Cristerna aka: The Mexican Vampire Lady:
“I’m currently a little obsessed with a new hobby of bodybuilding and I am in serious training with a professional coach in my hometown!” she said.
It seems Maria, like a growing number during these very modern and ever-changing times is fascinated by transformations, and evolving and pushing limits, boundaries and perceptions even… a little too far many would say. She is a restless creative, and I’d safely assume probably also has an addictive personality. I have no doubt that in the next year she is going to unveil another aspect to her body modification obsession – this time with bulging muscles accompanying her intricate art and implants. She also mentioned an interest in acting in films that she would like to pursue.
Whilst traveling back to the hotel I reflected on quite the remarkable encounter I’d had with a real-life Vampire lady. I also wondered whether the title ‘Vampire lady’ was more of a tabloid-friendly term that some journalist somewhere conjured and it just got stuck here onwards by the press.
I then thought back to some familiar images that appear in Hinduism of mythical monsters, and even a Goddess worshipped and feared worldwide by the name of Kali. She too is often visualised in a similarly frightening outward appearance… yet she is revered as the Goddess of time and change. She is said to be just another form of another Goddess called Durga who appears more angel-like in appearance… although worshipped in the two different forms, both Durga and Kali are said to be metaphoric representations of the same feminine energy referred to in Sanskrit as ‘Shakti’ – and translated in English as meaning ‘Power’.
Maria is certainly someone I would say carries this kind of strong energy, and she embraces both the dark and light side of her very own powers. I’d also add that the famous saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” couldn’t be more apt.
Written by Vin Sharma for #thisisguavo Media
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Video + Photography: Vin Sharma
Filmed: @ Planet.tt @ Gasometer in Vienna, Austria @ the Wildstyle event