SUDBURY -- A local tattoo artist, competing to be a magazine cover girl, is hoping to shed a spotlight on the industry as a whole.

Rose Cardinal, who owns ‘ Studio Cardinal ‘ on the Kingsway in Sudbury, is competing to be the next cover girl of ‘ Inked ‘ magazine, a popular industry-wide publication.

“It’s really out of my comfort zone! I don’t really do this kind of thing. But I had a lot of nudges from my clients, people who really care about me and said you know what you’ve got to do this, just try, just try.”

The contest began earlier this month. Contestants are placed in groups of approximately 40 women. She says the support has been overwhelming.

“I’m a bit blown away. It’s really cool to see how many people have stood behind me and they are voting every day and they have timers in their phone,” said Cardinal.

“My mom’s at Tim Hortons telling everybody ‘hey vote for my daughter, do this!’ I have people stopping by the shop who I’ve never met or seen before who are saying ‘I voted for you! I voted for you.”

With four more rounds to go, Cardinal is focussing on the bigger picture. She’s hoping to use the newfound spotlight to shed light on an industry that she says has evolved, just in the time that she’s been in it.

“When I actually went to ask for an apprenticeship I was turned down because I’m a woman, in 2009,” she recalled. “They told me that nope we’re not going to hire a woman because women are drama. So look elsewhere, so it took a while before I was able to move forward in tattooing but it kind of added fuel to my fire to be honest,” said Cardinal.

Now as the owner of her own studio, Cardinal says she strives to create and foster a workplace culture that is welcoming and free of any sort of sexism. Cardinal says her most visible tattoos are on her sleeves. While she acknowledges everyone has their own reasons, she says for her tattoos have to tell a story.

“I really care about the symbolism behind tattoos but I’ve also cared about that in my artwork. For me, when I choose to decorate my body I choose things that have meaning. I really have told my life story on my body.”

Cardinal calls her studio a tattoo artist collective, meaning all of the artists operate in an atmosphere of shared ideas. Joel Marin says while he used to acknowledge a stigma around having a tattoo, he says that too has faded over time.

“We tattoo everybody,” said Marin. “We tattoo everybody from the criminal in jail to the judge that put him there, the cop who arrested him and everybody in between. Every walk of life, people are really seeing it as more of an art form than a degenerate thing.”

Cardinal didn’t see a future as a tattoo artist when she was younger. Initially, she had enrolled in teacher’s college. After treating herself to her first tattoo, she said she had an epiphany of sorts.

“Sitting with the artist, going through the process as a client and it just kind of opened something in my head and I was like ‘okay, why am I not doing this?’”

Luckily for her, she says she came from a supportive family who always pushed her to achieve her goals. She says that these days she feels this is in large part thanks to Sudbury’s atmosphere.

“Living in a blue collar town, you have parents who want to push you do things and be greater all the time. My dad was a miner and my dad used to say women are starting to get in this industry and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can do whatever you want to do,” said Cardinal.

In addition to being the magazine’s next cover girl, the prize winner will also take home $25,000. While winning would be great, she says this process has been about so much more for her. She’s hoping to spread awareness.

“I think it’d be really cool to see a cover girl on Inked magazine who’s not completely covered in makeup, who is a little bit more natural, who is really showing the tattoos and talking about the industry not just from a model perspective but from a tattoo perspective, from a business owner perspective,” said Cardinal.