By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

A self-proclaimed “small town girl” from the Columbia Valley is in the running to become the next cover model for Inked magazine, one of the top tattoo publications on the planet. 

Submitted photo

Wilmer resident Emily Blackmore had been doing some tattoo modelling on Instagram and other social media platforms for a little while, more for kicks than anything else, when out of the blue Inked magazine contacted her in early January, suggesting she apply for their Next Inked Cover Girl competition.

Blackmore was flattered and delighted at the suggestion: in the past two decades, no shortage of famous faces have been featured on Inked’s cover and in its pages. And to boot, the winner of the contest gets a $25,000 cash prize (in addition to the potentially life-altering exposure). With more than 400 entrants from around the world in the contest, Blackmore, by her admission, “didn’t really expect much.” Still, she thought, it would be fun, why not give it a go?

That was back on Jan. 8. Now more than a month later, Blackmore is almost halfway through the contest, having successfully made it through three of the contest’s seven tiers. Not only is she making it through each tier, she’d doing so with flying colours, and has actually managed to finish on top of her group in voting at each stage. 

Initially the contestants were divided into 15 groups of 30 women. In the first tier of the competition, each group was reduced to 15 contestants through public online voting. In the second tier, each group was reduced to 10 contestants, and in the third tier (which is currently underway and which lasts until 8 p.m. MST on Thursday, Feb. 11), each group will be reduced to five contestants. If Blackmore continues her strong showing, she could eventually emerge as the group winner. She will proceed to the quarterfinal stage, then the semifinals stage, and then the finals (which will run from Mar. 5 to Mar. 11). 

“It’s been quite a ride for a small-town girl from Wilmer with three kids,” Blackmore told the Pioneer. “I’m still in shock, but I’m just going to keep working on it. It’s not easy, you have to keep doing new photoshoots all the time and stay on top of social media. All of which takes a lot of time, and as a mom of three, I don’t really have much spare time, but I’m doing the best I can.”

Blackmore has been heartened by consistently finishing top of her group in voting, and at the outpouring of support from Columbia Valley residents during her contest run. 

“People I barely know and even people I don’t know at all have been incredibly supportive. It’s very humbling. I am very grateful and very thankful to everybody who has helped me. Thank you. It’s been amazing,” she said. 

Submitted photo

Blackmore was born and raised here in the Columbia Valley, graduating from David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) in 2003. She left the valley for 14 years thereafter, travelling all over the world, hitch-hiking through Mexico, taking public transport across Southeast Asia and, on a lark, turning was supposed to be a layover of a few hours into an extended stay in Korea. She always loved the outdoors and dirt biking. A few years ago, she came back to the valley, giving her three kids (ages 12, seven and four) a chance at the same upbringing she had. When not busy with her kids, tattoo modelling, the contest, or dirt biking, you’ll find Blackmore hard at work at the Valley Fitness Centre and Fuze.

How many tattoos does Blackmore have? Pose the questions to her, and she has to pause for bit to think. “Around 40,” she finally says: across her arms, legs, chest, back and even one behind each ear. “Every single one has a story behind it. There’s nothing random. It’s very purposeful.”

To say tattoos are something special to Blackmore is an understatement. She was extremely nervous before getting her first one, but it proved transformative for her.

“At DTSS, I got teased a lot. When I got that first tattoo, it really changed my attitude about my own self, about how I physically am,” said Blackmore. “I became a lot more body-positive about myself.”

So she kept going: What started as a first tattoo eventually grew to dozens, with the episodes and intimacies of her life etched in ink across the canvas of her body; art that tells the chapters of her story in a way that is visually beautiful to anybody who sees it, but whose meaning only she can tell you.

“The funny thing is I hate getting tattoos. I still get so nervous about the pain. I hate it, and it sucks, but I tough it out,” she said.

Her favourite tattoo? That would be the one that represents her kids, stretching across her hand and arm. It’s a lotus flower with three dragonflies emerging from the petals, two boys and one girl (just like her kids).

“It’s pretty and it’s my kids,” said Blackmore. “And it’s still healing, so I think of it often.”

The first tattoo is still quite a special one too: a Swiss cross (Blackmore has Swiss heritage) with the word ‘family’ below.

Blackmore has gotten several of her tattoos right here in the Columbia Valley, and some of them in places far afield, such as the traditional bamboo tattoos she got in Thailand. They’re behind her ears: one says ‘love much’, the other ‘laugh often’. Traditional bamboo tattoos involve the artist hammering a really sharp piece of bamboo into ink and then using a hammer to tap that sharp bamboo into the skin of the person getting the tattoo.

“It’s a lot more painful than a normal tattoo. It really hurts,” said Blackmore.

What will Blackmore do if she wins the $25,000? She’s quick to joke that, if that were to happen, once she stops freaking out about winning, she’ll get ahead on paying bills, make sure her kids are in their favourite after-school activities, donate back to the local tattoo community, and if there’s any money left over after all that, maybe she’ll get another tattoo or two.

“It still feels surreal,” she said. “I was a bit hesitant at first about the contest. I was self-conscious. But people have been so supportive, I can’t believe it. Almost overnight, I have hundreds more followers on Instagram and they’re all pulling for me, and voting for me.”

As the Pioneer went to press, Blackmore was sitting first in her group for the third tier of voting. Voting wraps up the same day this edition of the Pioneer hits newsstands. Readers who scoop up their copy of the Pioneer the day it comes out can help Blackmore by voting online at: 

Each person gets one free online vote each day, and to help Blackmore even more, people can purchase extra online votes. Inked magazine donates part of the proceeds from these purchased votes to the MusiCares Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping struggling musicians in times of financial, medical and personal crisis. Each person gets one free online vote each day, and to help Blackmore even more, people can purchase extra online votes. Inked magazine donates part of the proceeds from these purchased votes to the MusiCares Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping struggling musicians in times of financial, medical and personal crisis.