A man known as ‘Burns the Dragon’ has spent £11,000 on cosmetic procedures trying to look like the mythical creature.
Joshua Burns, 30, a fire-breathing performer, has had procedures to carve scales into his arms and tattoo his eyeballs, among other things.
Determined to become the world’s most modified person, Burns started his transformation when he was just 19 - getting his tongue split in two.
Since then, the performance artist and reptile seller from Vancouver, Canada, has had his earlobes cropped and ears shaped to appear pointed, dyed his tongue purple and inserted silicone ‘horns’ into his forehead.
He also has thousands of pounds worth of tattoos – the most intricate of which took 51 hours to complete.
“I want to be 100% covered as a dragon, and beat all the world records out there for the most modifications and tattoos. But I also want to look aesthetically pleasing,” Burns said.
“I’m liking where I’m at currently but every time I get another tattoo or another modification, I feel more confident and happier – and it helps with my career.”
“Obsessed” with reptiles since he was a child, Burns began working at carnivals as a teenager, eventually moving on to become a juggler and street performer.
By his late teens, sporting a Mohawk haircut and several piercings, he already had an alternative look – which his parents hoped would be a phase.
But soon after Burns left home aged 18, he got his first tattoo – a dragon heart design on his chest. Then, he made a friend in the juggling community who had their tongue split.
“I saw it and immediately thought, ‘I want that’ because reptiles have split tongues too," he said. "I didn’t see any downside to having it. I already had all these piercings, so it wasn’t that far-fetched for me.
“I absolutely loved it when it was finished. I felt like I was becoming the person I was meant to be.”
Between the ages of 21 and 26, Burns got at least one body modification procedure and large tattoo a year, including having his eyeballs inked, which cost him $1000 CAD (£580).
In 2017, he even had scarification done, which involved using a scalpel to cut out sections of his skin and form a scale design.
“I didn’t have any anaesthetic – it was about three times as painful as a tattoo. I livestreamed it so I had to keep it together,” he joked.
“I’ve also had my eyeballs tattooed. They injected the purple dye in a little spot, and then it spread around my eyeballs. I needed ten shots in total to get it right. I have a different relationship to pain than most people because of my work, so it wasn’t too bad for me. It is hard to explain, but it felt like an eyelash stuck in my eye.”
Burns added that this was the modification he was the most nervous about as if anything did go wrong, he risked losing his eyesight.
“So far, it has been absolutely fine though – I need reading glasses now but I don’t think that has anything to do with the tattoos,” he said.
However, not all Burns' procedures have gone to plan. “When I had my ear cropped, I wanted a jagged effect, like a dragon,” he explained.
“But when it healed, the points rounded out, which wasn’t quite what I was going for. I might get them tattooed to look more pointed at some point. It’s hard to know how the human body is going to react.”
Used to strangers pointing and staring, he said: “I don’t take it personally – I made the choice to look this way, so it’s only natural people would be curious. If people make nasty comments, I don’t really care about the views of anyone who doesn’t respect me. What is important to me is that I’m happy.”
Burns would like to continue adding to his vast tattoo collection, which currently includes wings on his back and scales on his forearms. Pandemic restrictions permitting, he hopes to travel to Ottawa-Gatineau Capital City Ink Fest – a tattoo convention in the Canadian capital – for a 70-hour session.
He added: “I don’t think I’ll ever stop getting body modifications – new ones come out all the time, so I don’t want to limit myself. But I want them to look good too.
“People in the body modification community are awesome. Some assume we might steal from them because of how we look – but actually we’re probably the most likely to help an old lady cross the road. We aren’t bad people. In fact, we’re some of the most genuine people you’ll meet, because we aren’t afraid to express our true selves.”
Additional reporting by PA.