Woman goes viral for refusing to cover tattoos in corporate head shots

Detail of a customer getting a tattoo during the reopening of Slingin' Ink Tattoo Parlor on June 22, 2020 in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
POINT PLEASANT, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 22: Detail of a customer getting a tattoo during the reopening of Slingin' Ink Tattoo Parlor on June 22, 2020 in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Photo credit Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Tattoos have remained a controversial topic in the corporate workplace over the last few decades, as some employees opt to cover their ink up and hide them from co-workers that may find it unprofessional.

Jessica Leonard, a partner at the private equity firm Evolution Capital Partners, broke the mold and showcased her full sleeves of arm tattoos in a recent company headshot that has gone viral on LinkedIn.

Leonard planned to take two photos, one wearing a jacket for the corporate website and the other for her personal LinkedIn without the jacket to show off her tattoos.

According to her post on LinkedIn, when she asked her managing partner for his permission, he replied, “Let’s roll with the tattoos in both! Loud and proud!”

Leonard told ABC News about her viral post and what it meant to her to have public support from her company.

"'Loud and proud' is what he said," Leonard said. "I read the text message aloud and I was literally brought to tears. And then my husband got a little emotional about it too. It was such a shocking response to have that kind of inclusion from someone that you work for, and just overall acceptance of who I am. I felt so moved."

Leonard went on to say that she is proud of her tattoos, and enjoys discussing the meaning behind them. Some of her tattoos are fun and includes Harry Potter-inspired art, while others are more personal. One is in memory of her nephew who passed away from brain cancer at 4-years-old.

She then mentioned the reactions she was used to from others in her viral post.

"I was honestly shocked. I had grown accustomed to wearing long sleeves in the heat of summer, to tugging on my suit coat sleeves in every meeting, to pulling my hair around my ear so no one would get a glimpse of the small tattoo behind my ear, to avoiding getting any leg or ankle tattoos for fear of never being able to wear a skirt again in a business setting. Very often, I simply felt that I needed to be careful about when I was being too freely me."

Since her post, Leonard has received tons of positive feedback from others, and has inspired some to feel ready to get tattoos.

"I actually had a father reach out to me who is in public accounting," Leonard said. "He asked me very pointed advice about advising his daughter on getting tattoos -- maybe in places that could be easily covered -- because, as a father and as a professional, he was guiding her in that way. After seeing my post, he said he would consider having another perspective."

Leonard hopes her story can help people be more comfortable about their appearances, and to find a work environment that treats you as an individual even if you have visible tattoos.

"I think everyone needs to go where they feel comfortable in their skin," she said. "They shouldn't feel like they work in an environment where it's hindering them as an individual. There are a lot of places you can work where you're not going to feel that."