by Nick Fierro
Nicole Angemi is one tough mother, end of story.
Wait, scratch that, its actually just the beginning of the story. This South Jersey mom of three has reached celebrity status for her gruesomely informative and unapologetic accounts of the field of human pathology, or (double-checks Wikipedia) the causes and effects of disease or injury. Basically, if it can go wrong with you, shes the one to hold it up to the light and explain why, how, if and when it could happen to you. This pathologist assistant from Camden County, New Jersey, doesnt skip a single gag-inducing detail, and as any of her 2 million followers can tell you, it is virtually impossible to look away.
Through her Instagram account (@Mrs_Angemi), Angemi tries to capture the grisly wonder of the human machine when its at its worst. Often decayed, ruptured, inflamed, cancerous and broken, she shines a light on the comforting notion that we are indestructible and shows us that we are all, completely and totallynot.
I feel like when people look at my page they want to know whats going on. They want the same answers I do, Angemi says as she analyzes her own macabre magnetism. I always think to myself, What led to this? How did this happen? Is this gonna happen to me? How can I prevent this from happening to me? I try not to post pictures unless I have real answers.
The whole thing is super organic, she continues. I just do what I want to do. I sort of base it around what I hate about other peoples accounts. People follow my page mostly because theyre interested in pathology and what Im showing. Its not really about me, its about me teaching.
Those real answers that Angemi is in search of often come with an exorbitant price. This is not the first incarnation of her Instagram account, as she has been booted from the platform a number of times for violating the strict community guidelines.
Theres a lot of censorship on Instagram, she explains. Theres a lot of pathology that I cant show because I cant show boobs, I cant show a penis, I cant show a vagina or a buttholethat is super juicy pathology to me. Its like, Oh, did you get cancer on your penis and have to get it amputated? I cant show that on Instagram.
This small and mildly unsettling setback has only inspired Angemi to seek out other avenues of education for her eager fans, resulting in the resounding success of The Gross Rooma members-only peek behind the curtain to the world of a human dissector available through her website TheDuraMater.com, an in-depth, uncensored and extensive look at some of historys most shocking and often misunderstood misfortunes. From Kurt Cobain to Princess Diana, Angemi engages in a pathological dissection of historys most horrendous anomalies.
I dont have any limitations there, Angemi explains, reflecting on the freedom afforded to her through her members-only Gross Room. I can write five pages worth of text, put as many pictures as I want, I can do whatever. Every week I do a celebrity or a high-profile case. Right now Im doing this one on a woman named Dawn Branchaeu, [who] was killed by an orca whale while working at Seaworld. What I do is, I get ahold of her autopsy reports and then dissect the autopsy. I try to rewrite it in my own words to explain, and then I show pictures of what it looked like at her autopsy.
The Gross Room isnt gore for the sake of gore. Angemi has a genuine admiration and curiosity for the inner workings of the body and all of the maladies that can complicate it. She seems to view anything that can go wrong physiologically as an opportunity to learn, and she has found an audience with like-minded rubberneckers who want to stare at the car crash a little longer, hoping to unearth something new and strange.
Photo by Maria Aponte
Nicole is our favorite type of personan expert in her field, an aficionado of the bizarre, and a true iconoclast that just happens to be tattooed knuckles to neck, toes to temples, a decision that has lent itself to a host of hurdles along her journey.
I got my first tattoo when I was 15 and started working on my sleeves when I was 18 or 19, Angemi recalls. I knew I was going to be working in a lab, so I started with the intention of going right below the elbow, but even my mom was like, Whats the point? If you wear a short-sleeve shirt you cant cover it anyway. When I got hired at the hospital, I had full sleeves. Everyone knew, but I wore a lab coat all the time. When I got my hands done I took off for a while because I was going to a conference for pathology. I was able to not wear gloves for two weeks so I got them done right before I went away.
Ive had some issues in my career over tattoos, she continues. I worked in Philly for 13 years, but then as soon as I worked in the suburbs, youd think theyd never seen a tattoo in their life. A lot of hospitals have really strict rules about them and people dont want to risk affecting their job. I had to wear gloves when I went to the cafeteria. Its like, do you think itll look better if I go into the cafeteria right now wearing gloves? People are going to think I have a disease. I dont have anything offensive tattooed on me. Its just hearts and butterflies. It ended up working out because eventually I went to another location at the same hospital which was a little more low key.
Angemi has successfully staked her claim as the internets premier pathologist. Her body of work incorporates not only her devotion to pathology and the inner workings of the human machine, but her devotion to the artwork that she has covered herself in, decorating the vessel that she is fully aware will one day expire and decay. I was very scared of death as a child and teenager, just constantly worried about it, she shares. I think it was good for me to learn about it because it makes it less scary. Which begs the question at this point, after everything that shes seen, does she find anything unsettling?
Maggots are really a thing for me, she says. The very first autopsy I cut by myself was a person who was extremely decomposed, but that didnt bother me so much. When I work in the hospital, I work on amputated legs that have maggots on them and it makes my skin crawl. I feel like with dead people, you just expect them to be gross, but that leg just came off of a person that was alive. I cant deal with maggots on living people. I just feel like I want to go home and take a shower.
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