The illustrated woman: Vail nurse picked for national tattoo modeling competition |

The illustrated woman: Vail nurse picked for national tattoo modeling competition

Winner will be decided by public vote on June 3rd.

Photo by Chris Dillmann

Tattoos are more than skin deep. There is a personal story connected to each one. In Wendy Greene’s case, her stories are about to gain much more attention.

The Eagle-based nurse has received national recognition for what lies beneath her scrubs, and she has been handpicked as one of 30 contestants for Inked Magazine’s 2019 Cover Girl search.

From firefighter to nurse: Not all glam and glory

Greene was a Wyoming Hotshot and did aerial observations for Idaho Smokejumpers well into her late 20s before entering nursing school in 2013.

That’s the short version of it. The years between extinguishing wildfires and nursing patients are where some of Greene’s darkest moments reside.

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She developed alcoholism throughout her later days of firefighting, something that hit her hardest after leaving the profession, begetting a stint in rehab.

“I got to a place where I just couldn’t do it anymore,” Greene said. “I just had to change my life. So, I got sober.”

Many recovering addicts choose activities that can distract from destructive habits. For Greene, this meant hitting the gym – and hitting it hard.

Greene’s physical shape drastically improved with her change of lifestyle. But all habits, good or bad, require moderation.

Greene was turned onto the prospect of bodybuilding. With figure competitions came an obsession with appearance. And with that obsession, came a whole new battle for Greene.

Engulfed in a “ball of narcissistic eating-disorder madness,” Greene had new hurdles to overcome. Luckily, she has a loving family who helped her through one of her toughest trials yet. With their support, Greene put bodybuilding competitions, and her drinking, behind.

“The only people who are still going to believe in you after you’ve burned a bunch of bridges, and even to them you’ve got to prove you’re a decent human being,” Greene said.

Once Greene was healthy again, she engaged in advocacy work for struggling alcoholics. She also commemorated her recovery with her first tattoo: a little Wyoming bucking horse on her rib, as a tribute to her family and upbringing.

“A lot of people don’t know that the silhouette is a real horse named Steamboat/ He’s a famously hard-to-ride bronco and is in the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame. You could say I’m a little country and a whole lot of rock & roll,” Greene wrote on her contestant profile page.

Photo by Chris Dillmann

Coming to Colorado

Having grown up in neighboring Wyoming, Greene was no stranger to the Centennial State by the time she moved here. A rare opportunity to work as a registered nurse in a region renowned for its orthopedic surgeons made the perfect opportunity for Greene to start anew.

Greene worked with the Steadman Group “because they have a reputation for being the best at what they do, and I’m attracted to that because being among the best makes me better,” Greene said.

With years of valuable nursing experience, Greene sees her venture in tattoo modeling as an exciting new chapter to her life.

Motivated to support rad people

Along with being featured on the magazine’s cover, the contest winner will win $25,000. While that money could, in theory, be used for more tattoos and to fund her upcoming venture to drifting school (yes, as in race car drifting, and yes, both are still happening), Greene has plans of a much more selfless nature.

“I’d like the money, but I don’t need it,” Greene said.

A friend of Greene’s recently lost her mother to a long battle with pancreatic cancer, and helping her friend handle certain expenses is just one of the many charitable causes which Greene would like to support with her hypothetical winnings.

“I will do whatever I can to support rad people,” Greene said.

“I feel like it’s kind of the Vail way to help each other.”

No regrets

Photo by Chris Dillmann

One of the most prevalent stigmas surrounding tattoos is whether that person will have regrets down the road.

$7,000, 60 hours under the needle and a near-decade later, Greene has no regrets. Though, she will admit that not every tattoo is perfect; humans make mistakes, and tattoo artists are undeniably human. She’s even adopted an optimistic approach to one of her less-than-perfect tattoos.

“The moon on my shoulder is slightly green, and I thought about changing the shade, but then I thought about all the things the color green represents, and it gave me a more positive outlook,” she said.

With that angle, what seems like an obvious mistake could very well have been deliberate. Greene’s appreciation for artist intuition is a big part of her fascination with tattoos.

“A good artist can see what’s inside you and lay that on your skin. Tattoos reveal a lot about who you are and what you’ve experienced.”

To check out Greene’s profile and cast your vote today, visit  

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