Danielle Colby - Gang Of One
Ex-roller derby queen, burlesque dancer, and co-star of the History Channel's breakout hit reality show, "American Pickers," Danielle Colby loves to color outside the lines.
The pride of Davenport, IA, Colby's ink pays homage to family and serves as a reminder to keep moving toward the light. She also wears the symbol of the "gang" she founded, and remains the organization's only member.

REBEL INK: You have an impressive resume: roller derby, burlesque, inked-up chick. Are you comfortable if we chose to label you a "bad-ass?"
Danielle Colby: [Laughs.] I think that's fair. Please do put me in the category of bad-ass. I'm 36. I've earned that. Stick me in that box. I'm okay with it.

Let's jump into the ink. Please talk about your chest and collar work.
Initially, I started the collar with the basic cheetah print with some other things in it. When I was in roller derby, my sister, Annie, got very sick during one bout -she had a stroke. At that point, I changed the design. My tattoo artist actually decided what it was going to look like, because he does my sister's tattoos and it's a piece in honor of her. I think the leopard or the cheetah part is more about my spirit animal - I tend to be more of a cat in terms of spirit animal. So that's how that started out, but it really just ended up being a tribute to my sister and my relationship with her.

Who did that work?
His name is (Adam) Blue, and he works at a shop in Clinton, Iowa, which is a tiny, little a town that I grew up in. It's called Sleeve Weasels Tattoo.

What about the work on your forearm?
The piece on my forearm is an antique etymology sketch of a moth; my friend, James, actually inspired that tattoo. He's a really positive person, and an absolute sweetheart and he sent me this picture one day of this moth that he felt kind of represented me a bit. I fell in love with it. I put it right there so I could always see it as a reminder to stay in the light. I am essentially a person who can get in my own head and get kind of dark sometimes.

Who did that?
The artist was a girl named Chewy (Chelsea Soto) and she works with O'Tool Design. She did my knuckles, too.

The story behind the work on your hands is quite interesting. Can you share it with our readers?

Yeah, both of my hands are done. My kids did my...I have a little heart on my right hand, and a little circle on my left hand; my kids tattooed those on me. I have my friends tattoo me. My friend, Billy Hill, tattooed the top of both of my hands - the human heart with the mom banner. The heritage tattoo on my left hand, that was cool actually. I like the story behind that one. My dad is a fourth-generation photographer, so I took our family photo logo and put that on my left hand. That was my great grandparents' logo. It's very close to what they had; we changed it up a little bit, just a camera with a little logo that says "Colby" above it.

Then, on my right wrist, I have my gang tattoo; I started a gang 'cause that's what is cool to do. It's just me really, as a gang, but I started it, and hopefully someday it will catch on. It's called LeClaire Hardcore. To be in it, you have to live in LeClaire. And you have to get the tattoo [laughs]. It hasn't caught on just yet.

And then I have a mustache on my left wrist for my Burlesque le' Moustache troupe. On my upper back and my shoulders, I have a tattoo that says, "Irish Blood, English Heart." From the Morrissey Song - because I'm super-gay like that. I really like Morrissey a lot.

And then I have the tats on my lower back, and those really mean a lot to me. My first tattoo was an LBT tramp stamp tribal butterfly. I kind of decided to do everything wrong on my first tattoo - throw caution to the wind and screw it up real good from the get.

How did you get involved in burlesque?

I had done roller derby for about three years and my roller derby life had pretty much reached its limit. The roller derby shelf life for a girl is between three and five years and, at three years, I was like, "You know what? I've beat myself up enough. I've proved that I can hurt people, and that's not really where I want to go with the rest of my life." So I just decided to focus on a softer side of myself, which is burlesque. I've been doing dance my whole life. My parents put me in dance when I was about seven-years-old. I grew up a Jehovah's Witness. I really couldn't do that much else, but I was allowed to take dance classes. Ballet tap and jazz, I took those all through my childhood to earlier teenage years. When I was about 16, I kind of stepped away from it. So that's how it all started, I missed the unity of roller derby - the sisterhood of roller derby - so I decided to kind of keep that feeling going with burlesque. So I started a troupe out here. We didn't really have any troupes out here. When I started, we didn't have any teachers, no troupes, nothing. It was extremely taboo for the area I lived in. I just decided, "Let's do it." It was something I wanted to do for years and years and years, and I figured better now than never.

What other creative outlets have you explored?
Yeah, I still design clothing and jewelry. I spend pretty much every night without fail sitting down mostly with my daughter and making jewelry. I actually have a clothing line - like a real "big-girl" clothing line - coming out, called 4 Miles 2 Memphis. It's my DIY clothing line. I design everything and I send it off to production. I have a store. It will all be carried out of my store and a couple of other places, but nothing is set in stone yet. My store is called 4 Miles 2 Memphis. There's all kinds of really fun, funky stuff in there. My husband is also a designer, so he designs all of our t-shirts and all of that kind of stuff.

What can we look forward to in the new season of "American Pickers?"
Oh, man. It seems like with this group there are always all these twists and turns. I think the interesting thing about our show is that our show is about our audience. I'm hoping that, in the near future, we can kind of bring it full circle in terms of the items we pick and who they come from and who, in turn, they would then go to. I would like to see that happen; we've been talking a lot about that, so hopefully that will go in that direction. Other than that, we're just pickers; there aren't really a whole lot of twists and turns and surprises other than the fact that we get to meet some really interesting people. I like the fact that we showcase those interesting people. You know, I mean I'm a pretty kick-ass girl, Mike's a pretty kick-ass guy, and Frank's pretty cool, but obviously, the most interesting part of the show is the people we meet. I think that that's the winning recipe; we're just going to keep it that way.

Photography by Ama Lea
Article by Razor Leary

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