Replacing Scars With Art
Akilah Bullard says she has always seen the world in a different way than others.
Now, the former DeSoto High School honor student is using that vision to improve the lives of women who have looked one of the most frightening ordeals straight in the face. Now a tattoo artist, Bullard is using her talents to put art where the surgery took place, putting beauty in place of scars.
“After graduating from college in 2017 with my BSN, I worked as an operating
room registered nurse at the Dallas Department of Veterans affairs. I worked with a
plastic surgeon who helped veteran breast cancer patients with breast implants and
mastectomies,” Bullard recalled. “Seeing the breast cancer patients’ emotional state while going through chemo, surgery, and learning to cope with their new bodies motivated me to pursue certification in paramedical tattooing.”
So, she enrolled in a course to learn about the anatomy of the body after breast cancer
surgery, as well as how to apply the 3D nipple to match the skin based on race and
ethnicity. Following her training, she honed her abilities and began working with breast
cancer survivors to help them regain confidence and overcome insecurities.
A 2012 DeSoto graduate, Bullard has always been a leader and forward thinker. She was in the science club and captain of the varsity soccer team. Now, she is the owner of Inked by Malaya and has been a licensed tattoo artist for almost a year, working to change lives with each impression.
“After women have mastectomies, some women feel that they are no longer a full
woman. It really hurts me that these beautiful women feel they are not whole,” she said. “When I apply the 3-D areola/nipple to the skin, it gives the impression that they
have a real areola/nipple. With the application of the 3D areola/nipple I hope to
boost their confidence in themselves and show them that they are and always
will be beautiful even after everything they went through.”
Bullard has a personal connection to mastectomies, not herself, but others she’s known. This includes her elementary school teacher and her mother’s best friend, both of whom had breast cancer.
Making A Difference, Embracing What Makes Individual Beauty
“It’s such a common cancer, and I honestly want to try to make a difference through my services,” she said. “Honestly, the world demands that you be perfect, poised, and have no flaws when you’re a woman through all that we see, feel and touch in society. The fact of the matter is that we are all different, but the differences are what makes us beautiful. Because if we were all the same, we would never know what real beauty was.”
“What I do is add a small piece, whether it’s a 3d areola for breast cancer survivors or ombre eyebrows for all women to help build the confidence that they already have inside of them. This makes me feel so good when I see their face light up after the procedure, because for so long they thought that their difference wouldn’t be accepted in society.”
Vivian Kemp is one of those ladies whose face lit up following Bullard’s work on her. She had her left breast removed in March of 2020, followed by more surgery in June of that year, and nipple reconstruction on the other breast in July 2021. Bullard created a new areola around the nipple that matched the right breast.
“She created an illusion of a bigger nipple. This one shrunk,” Kemp said. “And she got the color on the areola to match.
“When I look in the mirror, I feel better. I’m very satisfied.”
Bullard is taking her skills outside the U.S. as well. She has partnered with a plastic surgeon in Nassau, Bahamas where she provides 3d areola/nipples for breast cancer survivors and ombre eyebrows for women across that country.
“I absolutely love what I do, and I hope to make many women happy and build their confidence through my work,” she said.