A fire-breathing performer who has had £11,000 of procedures to look like a dragon – including carving scales into his arms and tattooing his eyeballs – is determined to become the most modified person in the world.
Now 30, Joshua Burns, who goes by his surname, began his journey aged 19 when he had his tongue cosmetically split in two.
Since then, the performance artist and reptile seller, of 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 an eye-watering 51 hours to complete – and wants to get his penis and gums inked, too.
And his girlfriend, Tristan Risk, 40, is completely supportive of his plans to push his transformation even further.
Burns said: “I want to be 100 per cent 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.”
He added: “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 he left home aged 18, he got his first tattoo – a dragon heart design on his chest.
Then, when he made a friend in the juggling community who had their tongue split, he was fascinated.
He said: “I saw it and immediately thought, ‘I want that’ because reptiles have split tongues too. I didn’t see any downside to having it.”
He continued: “I already had all these piercings, so it wasn’t that far-fetched for me.”
So, in 2009, aged 19, Burns was introduced to a body modification artist – who has done the majority of his procedures – paying $500CAD (£283) to have his tongue split.
“I absolutely loved it when it was finished,” he said. “I felt like I was becoming the person I was meant to be.”
Soon after, Burns and his fellow forked-tongue friend travelled around the USA in a campervan and landed a gig at a “freakshow-themed drag show” – which inspired him to learn more jaw-dropping tricks.
Now, his performances involve him breathing fire, walking on glass, putting nails up his nose and suspending himself from metal hooks that pierce through his skin.
And as his act has become more extreme, so has his appearance.
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 the 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.
He added: “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.”
He added: “I was most nervous about getting this done, because if anything did go wrong, I was risking my 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.”
However, not all procedures have gone to plan.
He continued: “When I had my ear cropped, I wanted a jagged effect, like a dragon.
“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.”
On another occasion, Burns lost one of his silicone horns when his broken glass act went awry in 2015.
He explained: “At the end of my act, I’d put my face in the glass and ask a gentleman weighing around 200 pounds (14st) to stand on my head.
“It was a new glass kit and my face slipped slightly, cutting open my horn, which then popped out.
“I had to get it stitched up and couldn’t get it put back in for 18 months, which was really upsetting. I was a unicorn rather than a dragon.”
Unsurprisingly, Burns’ look gathers attention when he is out and about.
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.
In 2020, he set up a YouTube channel, Burns the Dragon TV, where he talks about his procedures and interviews other body modification enthusiasts.
In August last year, he even got a chip implanted in his hand costing $300 CAD (£170) which, if scanned by someone’s phone, takes them to his page.
“It can store 500MB of data on there, Bitcoin currency, and you can even use them to unlock doors,” he explained.
He continued: “It works using the same technology as the chips in contactless cards. It’s the future.”
Next, 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.
One day, he even wants to tattoo his genitals and get silicone ‘scale’ implants in his arms, which he thinks will allow him to charge more for his performances.
He concluded: “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.”
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He went on to say: “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.”
And one of Burns’ biggest supporters is his girlfriend Tristan – known by her stage name Little Miss Risk – who he met backstage at a performance six years ago, and now shares a home, four six-foot snakes and a lizard with.
Though at one time, she had “one of the smallest waists in Canada” – 16.5ins -due to corsetry training, the only body modification procedure she has had is a chip in her hand too.
However, she is 100 per cent behind her boyfriend’s plans.
She said: “I’ve always had a thing for dragons, so I love it.
“Burns’ modifications have kind of become invisible to me because I’m so used to them.”
She added: “It always strikes me as unusual when people stare if the two of us go out somewhere, and then I have to remind myself. People are just curious, I get that.
“Everyone should have the right to express themselves and make themselves look on the outside the way they feel on the inside.
“As long as they aren’t hurting anyone else, they should do what makes them happy.”