Debate Over Tattoo "Reality" TV Shows
03:35 PM

In last week's post on Erin Chance's Kat Von D portrait tattoo, I linked the online casting calls for the next season of LA Ink and a new show, NY Ink. I had also sent a tongue-in-cheek email around to tattoo artist friends here in NYC asking if they'll be trying out to be the new tattoo TV sensations. Turns out, well, a bunch of them are.

We've all heard the arguments against the shows. In almost every interview I've done with artists for Inked and Skin & Ink recently, there's a general lament that no reality exists in the way tattooing is portrayed in mainstream media. No great story need be behind your desire to get tattooed. No sleeve is completed within 48 minutes. And skate ramps in tattoo studios are generally frowned upon.

It's rare to hear of any desire to be a part of the shows, particularly from long-time tattooers, so I was surprised when my friend Michelle Myles of DareDevil and Fun City tattoo studios -- who's profiled in the video above -- sent me a text telling me to read her latest post on Devil City Press. Turns out that Michelle along with co-owner Brad "You Kids Get Off My Lawn" Fink, resident artist Big Steve, and pretty shop boy Reid Waters have put themselves in the running for NY Ink's casting. Here's what Michelle has to say:

Anyone who's been involved with tattooing pre-Miami Ink didn't get tattooed to be a part of a trend. I started getting tattooed because it was anything but trendy or even acceptable. Tattooing was a fringe subculture we worked our way into, and it certainly wasn't seen as a valid career choice. It breaks my heart to see tattooing get sold out to the media and popular culture. TV producers aren't on our side. The tattoo industry doesn't have a say in the way it's portrayed in the media. Overall it depresses me to see our industry be represented by such vapid host. We can only hope for the best with what gets spewed out.

Now there's a call for characters for  New York Ink, the latest incarnation of TLC's tattoo reality series. My response to the casting call?...... Sign me up. I don't really think I'm someone they would pick. I don't drink, I'm in a stable relationship, I run a solid shop, I'm not very emotional and I'm not a huge jerk who yells at people. There's two ways to respond to change. You can be bitter and mourn for what once was. Or you can step up and try to be a part of the change. We can't control how they portray us but you can control how you portray yourself.   I like seeing artist I respect on TV (Chris, Kim, Hanna...). At the same time I don't like seeing assholes represent my profession. Now to make matters worse they're rolling  into our neck of the woods. I'm hoping they don't pick a bunch of losers for this one. This one's New York. This one's ours. I'm not embarrassed to say I want to be a part of representing my community.
Yes, I would love my DareDevil friends repping me. [They are also freakin funny and would make for good TV aside from their strong portfolios.] Where my concern lies is whether one can really control how "you portray yourself" in the quick edits, scenes taken out of context and the faux drama that will be created. Will legal contracts bind the artists into doing something they wouldn't? Will we see Brad Fink in a kicky little pin-up outfit?

Despite my concern, I'm rooting for them because I don't want my NYC tattoo world turned over to scratchers and "professional tattoo models" for the masses to mock. If there will be any mocking, hopefully, it will come from me teasing my friends over the long stories we'll endure waiting to see how their tattoos turn out.

Have your say in who will be on the show by voting on  Here are the Daredevil profiles: Michelle Myles, Brad Fink, Big Steve Pedone, and Reid Waters.

I also voted for another dear friend and fabulous artist Lea Vendetta.

I completely understand that the only way to change something like this is from the inside, but there is no way in hell that they will allow a TV "reality" show to show the true, happy and drama-free environment of most quality tattoo shops.

It's all in the editing. Phil Kyle refused to bow down to the drama in London Ink and although he let his tattooing do the talking, he was vastly upstaged by the bullshit drama of Louis and Dan. Didn't they get rid of Hannah and Kim for the same reason?

I hope I'm wrong and Michelle gets some sort of credibility back in the TV tattoo shows, just like Tattoo Wars

The inherent problem with reality TV is that it has to sell and drama is what sells. The Ink shows are great in that they are exposing the general consumer to a (for the most part) higher level of tattooing besides just walking in and picking some flash off the wall. So good shops are benefiting from a better level of educated client. Unfortunately for the shows to continue they need drama and hence all the editing and conflict. If a show does come to NYC we would like to hope that the staff picked can bring back the true nature of the business but i am not holding my breathe that this is possible after the footage makes it to the editing room.

Let me begin by saying FUCK YEAH. It's great that a killer, respectable shop wants to participate in paving the road to change in how our industry is repped. It is extremely noble of Daredevil to throw their hat into the ring.

Yet, it doesn't matter how legit, sucka-free and chock full o' badassery a shop might be. Once the editors and producers go to work on the footage, they can manipulate any story out of it that they want... Solid, monogamous and drama-free tattooer? The next thing you know, you are a junkie-drunkard, with a bad temper, who has a horrible personal life and can't maintain a shop to save their life... They CAN and WILL change how you portray yourself. It's what these people get paid to do. If motivated to do so, I am sure they could make Mother Teresa look like Courtney Love.

Don't get me wrong, I really do respect what the good folks at Daredevil are trying to do. If they want to take the chance of swaying tattoo reality TV, then, by all means, I am down. A great shop, with great ethics, sick work and a good environment SHOULD be what is represented on those shows... but as noted above by my fellow commentators, most folks couldn't care less about the actual tattooing. They want the drama (and to a slightly lesser degree, new tattoo ideas to pilfer and give to their kitchen-magician friends to butcher). We, as collectors and purveyors of this sacred art, are the ones who love the art and the skill... John Q. Public doesn't. True skill and talent as the main focus doesn't sell (as referenced with Tattoo Wars above).

I also fear that if a reputable shop, such as Daredevil, gets picked, then they will be overrun by dildos and morons who want trite garbage, right now, for cheap... I don't know about you, but I would rather have my shop get noticed for its skill and quality, rather than because it was "that place" on "that show" where they did those "sick tats, brah." I know that's not the motivation for trying to be the shop on the show, but that's what they will become known for.

Good luck Daredevil... may you carry the banner of good taste and integrity, and bow before no producer or Hollywood schmuck... Don't give up the ship!


A bunch of posts disappeared, I assume it had to do with the spam bot attack Marisa mentioned...


great post justin

Reality TV tattooists + bad plastic surgery page 3 girls (I don't know what theycall them in the US, sorry)= Jodie Marsh tattoo apprentice

It's worth watching for her tantrums about being told she will have to clean before she is let near tattooing equipment.

I believe she alone makes a mockery of the whole tattoo industry and her apprenticeships went thus...
tattoo fake skin x 1
tattoo yourself x 1
tattoo a friend x 1
tattoo a bleedin great shield design on your own dad and make it look appalling x 1

And yet she plans to open her own studio within 6 months to a year.

Avoid farcical and misleading programes like this and life will generally be better

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