#DeafSuccess: Gayle Sanchez, Tattoo Artist

Sep 30, 2020

Tattoo artist Gayle Sanchez followed her heart and now has her dream job. In her #DeafSuccess story, Sanchez shares how family encouraged her to overcome self-doubt and train to be a #tattooartist, how she handles customers and tools of her trade as a #deaf person, and how motivation and passion got her to where she is today — overcoming obstacles, winning awards, and pursuing her dreams.

Full Video Description: https://tinyurl.com/y4w3bynu

Video Description:

Text insert with video footage of Gayle preparing to use a tattoo machine gun in a tattoo parlor appears: Gayle Sanchez, Tattoo Artist. A woman with black hair in a tattoo parlor signs.


I became a tattoo artist thanks to the encouragement of my cousin. He knew that growing up, I was always drawing, creating all kinds of art. But I had never tried my hand at tattooing. One day he suggested that I consider becoming a tattoo artist.

I initially wrote off his suggestion because I thought it would require me to hear the machine. I assumed deaf people couldn’t do this job because you had to hear the machine noise in order to know the gun speed settings. I made a lot of those kinds of assumptions, but guess what?  I was wrong. I rely on feeling the vibrations of the machine to change the settings.

Video Description:

Gayle is sitting, working on her tattoo machine gun and then on a man’s arm using a tattoo machine gun.


When I went to a tattoo school, it was very difficult. I would sit as close to the teacher as possible, listening with my hearing aids, writing notes. I regularly went in for tutoring, which was better than nothing and helped fill in the gaps so that I wasn’t missing any information. I really enjoy tattooing because I learn something new every day.

Video Description:

A tattoo of a Ganesha in color on a leg, a tattoo of a black woman’s head with eyes closed and a black crown outline above it and text reading, “Black Girl Magic,” a tattoo of a woman’s head in black and white with the flowers on her hair in color on an arm, a tattoo of a smiling woman, a tattoo of hands holding a crystal ball in black and white, a tattoo of a body hiding behind sunflowers with a water can pouring out water on an arm, a tattoo of roman numerals with two fishes facing each other on opposite sides, a tattoo of Frida Kahlo in black and white, a tattoo of a  female warrior wearing a bird helmet, standing on a cliff in black and white on an arm, a tattoo of a sunflower in black and white on an arm, and a tattoo of text reading “Love” with three red heart symbols next to it.

Gayle is dipping her tattoo machine gun into a small black tattoo ink cup next to white, black, orange, red, and yellow tattoo ink cups on the table. Gayle is following the outline of a purple stencil using her tattoo machine gun on a leg.


Very often, hearing people are thrown off by my being deaf.  They are out of their comfort zone, so I put them at ease, saying, “Aww, c’mon, I don’t bite!” I will talk and sign at the same time when I’m with a hearing client. They get flustered and apologize for not knowing how to sign. But I explain that they don’t have to sign, but for me, it’s my language, tied to my identity and I feel most comfortable using it.

Video Description:

Gayle signs.


I experienced lots of obstacles along my way. I would go to tattoo conventions and be looked down on just because I’m a woman. The vast majority of tattoo artists are men. There are very few female tattoo artists.

Video Description:

Gayle smiles, holding a plaque reading “Miss Deaf Tattoo Worldwife, -Black-, IDTC 2014 London.

Gayle smiles, holding a framed illustration, with a woman showing her tattoo of a bird on the back.

Gayle smiles, holding a plaque reading “Best Deaf Female Tattooist, Black 2017.”


I have won three times in three different countries. That made me feel great because it showcased the importance of motivation and passion. It could apply to anything you choose to do or any profession. You will become a winner if you follow your heart. It’s all about your mentality.

Video Description:

NDC Logo appears above text, black lettering on a white background: nationaldeafcenter.org

“This video was developed under a jointly-funded grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) #HD326D160001. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the federal government.”

Next to it, three logos appear. The first reads “IDEAs that Work” with an arrow drawing a circle from “IDEAs” to “Work” and the words “U.S. Office of Special Education Programs”. The second logo shows a red-and-blue star with text next to it that reads “TA&D”. The third logo shows a blue circle around a tree. In the blue circle are the words “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.”

Subtitles available in English and Spanish | Subtítulos disponibles en español y inglés

Watch more Deaf Success stories: https://tinyurl.com/y3gkhtjw

Learn more about how family support can encourage independence and self-determination for deaf youth: https://www.nationaldeafcenter.org/re…

Questions? Email us: [email protected]

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© National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes
Video licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International

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Topic(s): #DeafSuccess
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