Matthew Whelen, known to many as King Body Art, proudly boasts a body adorned with tattoos covering over 90 percent of his canvas.
His remarkable journey as Britain’s most tattooed man has been marked not only by intricate ink but also by encounters with discrimination and challenges related to his unique identity.
At 42, Matthew worked at a call center when an unsettling incident unfolded. He claimed that a former manager made an extraordinary decision during an “office reshuffle” that left him hidden from company higher-ups.
“I got shuffled around from one office to another when working in a call center,” Matthew revealed. He believed that the drastic measures, relocating him from one end of the office to another, responded to his heavily tattooed appearance. His striking body art seemed to trigger what he described as “ultimate restrictions” imposed upon him.
“The managers were coming up, so they decided to move around in the office. The person they got to move was me,” he said, reflecting on the experience of being singled out due to his unique appearance.
Yet, workplace woes were not the only instances Matthew encountered discrimination stemming from his choices. He disclosed a previous encounter with HSBC, a central bank that refused to let him open a bank account due to his unconventional name.
2008 Matthew legally changed his name to “King Of Inkland King Body Art The Extreme Ink-it.” While reflecting his passion for body art, this distinctive moniker led to complications with the bank. HSBC would not allow him to switch providers to their bank because his bills’ names did not align with the ones on his passport.
Matthew expressed frustration, saying, “I’ve had a few issues because it’s unique, quite whacky, but it’s my legal name.” He argued that HSBC’s refusal was tantamount to discrimination against his identity.
“I am trying to switch to HSBC from TSB, and they’ve rejected me. They are discriminating against me because of my identity,” he stated. He highlighted the disparity between his experience and that of others who, dissatisfied with their bank’s service, could easily switch providers without such obstacles.
In 2013, Matthew faced another bureaucratic hurdle when officials denied him a passport, citing his unusual name as a policy violation. Undeterred, he embarked on a successful legal challenge against the government, securing a visa in 2014.
Matthew’s journey into the world of body art began at the tender age of nine when he first became fascinated by the artistry of tattoos. His journey from that early fascination culminated in his first tattoo at 16, setting the stage for a lifelong passion for self-expression through ink.
Despite his challenges and discrimination, Matthew Whelen remains steadfast in embracing his unique identity, marked by his extraordinary body art and the name representing his deep connection to tattoo culture. His story serves as a testament to the power of self-expression and the resilience of those who dare to stand out in a world that sometimes struggles to understand the beauty of individuality.