Inside life of worlds most tattooed man – swallowing swords to homeless addict
The name Gregory McLaren might not ring any bells for you but seeing a picture of him will leave you with no doubt that he is the world’s most tattooed man.
He currently holds a Guinness World Record to prove it and while his birth name is Gregory, he is more commonly known as Lucky Diamond Rich.
His tattoo coverage extends a mind boggling 200% and he's spent 1,000 hours having his body modified by different artists.
READ MORE: ‘I covered 200% of my body in tattoos – a stranger thought I was the devil and lost it’
The New Zealand born bloke now spends his time inking others in Australia.
And when he’s not doing that he is a support worker at an alcohol and drug recovery centre in Victoria.
His role there gives you a glimpse into his past struggles and here we take a closer look at how Rich became who he is today.
As mentioned, he was born in New Zealand with Aussie Aboriginal heritage and once he became a teenager he joined a travelling circus.
This was a result of having a dysfunctional family in Brisbane and he thought the circus would keep him away from crime.
His interest in body art peaked early and he got a juggling club inked on his hip aged 16.
Remembering, he said: "I got it on my hip 'cos I didn't want my mum to see it. And I just went one tattoo at a time from there."
The youngster entertained crowds by juggling chainsaws, riding unicycles and swallowing swords. He slowly added to his tattoo collection, back then calling them “postcards”, representing different places he had visited.
Speaking to the Guardian, he added: “I was instantly attracted to tattoos. Any money I would get from performing, I would invest it back into getting tattooed.
“I already felt different from a young age, so to look different too? I never second-guessed it.”
And as for changing his name from Gregory McLaren to Lucky Diamond Rich, he explained: “I’m lucky by nature, rough diamonds are the most precious and my spirit has become rich from learning about how to be a good human.”
But his luck did not last forever.
Travelling the world with the circus for 30 years, where he earned “ridiculous” money, led to heavy partying and nights out where he began experimenting with cocaine and even heroin.
This eventually sparked his downfall and in 2017 he found himself homeless and living in a storage facility.
By then he was a crystal meth addict, describing it as the drug that “brought me to my knees”.
Speaking with the Guardian, he added: “I was making ridiculous amounts of money. Anyone would think that I would be the happiest man on the planet, but I was quite sad. Successful but empty.
“I started losing my mind. I thought there was a whole bunch of stuff going on that wasn’t… I was always getting in trouble with the police. Basically, for the first time in my life, I felt probably as crazy as I looked. I was looking at death, institutionalisation or jail.”
A pal of Rich who worked in a rehab centre then offered him a lifeline after a bed became available.
Instead of buying more drugs, he purchased a train ticket to New South Wales and he has been clean ever since. And rather than going back to performing, where temptations would have been too strong, he started a gig with a construction company.
He now enjoys showing off his body art that also includes piercings, chest implants, stretched earlobes and silver tooth veneers.
His tattoo designs have been overlaid with a 100% coating in blank ink (including his eyelids and gums).
And as for how people react to seeing him in person, he said: “Everyone’s different with how they react to me. But it’s like the weather: I can’t change it so I just have to accept it.
“Under this kin, I’m no different to anyone else, I’m just heavily tattooed… What other people think of me is none of my business. I’m comfortable in my own skin.”
Rich also boasts “the biggest tattoo on the planet” covering him head to foot to compliment his black body suit.
He now appears in the new Guinness World Records 2023 book after displacing Britain’s Tom Leppard in 2006, who had 99.5% of his skin inked.
And the walking work of art believes his time as the record holder has been easier than his predecessors because of how the stigma of tattoos has eased over the years.
However, not everyone responds to him kindly.
Speaking on the I’ve Got News For You podcast, he recalled one bonkers encounter while he was in the US.
He said: “I was in New York shopping in Times Square, and this Christian fella – no offence to Christians – this guy thought I was the devil, and he lost it.
“I was in there buying shoes with my girlfriend at the time, and he just absolutely lost it.
“The security came and they got rid of him. Whatever people think of me is none of my business, and I don’t need praise either or adulation.
“It’s ironic that I had to tattoo my entire body, to be the world record holder, to be comfortable in my own skin. That’s my journey, it is what it is.”
Rich considers his Guinness World Record as playing a big part in saving his life. And he now dedicates his time helping other Aboriginal men with their addiction battles.
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