Enter the world of the “Black Ink Crew” and meet the girls and guys that run this black-owned and operated tattoo shop on 113th and Lennox, right in the heart of NYC’s Harlem. The employees are a tight, but totally dysfunctional “family.” For many of them, this shop is the key to turning their lives around, and for some of them, it’s their first legitimate job off the streets. Black Ink is more than just a tattoo shop to the people who work there.
The shop is also a magnet for hip-hop stars and athletes, but the real flavor comes from the quite colorful characters that walk into the shop on a daily basis. Inside the doors of Black Ink, you never know what you are going to get. From the sexy new girl on the block, Dutchess, to the party animal of the group, Puma, the characters are crazy, sexy and, most of all, loveable. This hour-long docu-series follows the lives of Ceasar, Dutchess, Alex, Sassy, Puma, and O’ Sh!t, as they work, live, party, and hang out in Harlem. “Black Ink Crew” explores the friendships, crushes, rivalries and craziness that comes when a group of friends become family. “Black Ink Crew” airs every Monday, at 9 PM ET/PT on VH1. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with some of the “Black Ink Crew” to discuss their future, how business has been for them, and even their valentine’s day. Read the full interview below:
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): How did you guys celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Dutchess: “It started when I made Ceaser Valentine’s Day breakfast, and after he came home from work…he got me these amazing earrings that I have in my ear now.”
Ceaser: “It started out kind of shaky, but I got it together, and ended up doing something romantic, I wanted to do something old school, so I had the peddles, the romantic dinner, you know, something light.”
Sassy: “I celebrated it with a bunch of friends and a couple of my girls went out for a little, and after that everybody just came back to my place for a night recap.”
Oh Sh*t: “I kept it simple, and came into work and did some tattoos, but I made sure that every female who came in got a single long stemmed rose.”
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): How do you guys manage to keep a professional and personal relationship in and outside of work?
Dutchess: “For me, I’m a business woman. I don’t really let anything get in the way of my money.”
Ceaser: “This isn’t a fortune 500, we can have a relationship and still work together. Sometimes, Dutchess tries to beat me up, but it’s all good (laughs)."
Oh Sh*t: “At the end of the day we’ve all known each other for so long, and we’re like a family and we have our ups and downs, and we all have that person in our family that gets on our nerves, but we have to deal with them accordingly.”
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): How has business been since the show aired?
Dutchess: “Everything has sped up in sixty seconds since the show aired. I must say that, I’m becoming a popular tattoo artist, and I have the least amount of experience. This has allowed me to develop my craft and continue to push myself.”
Ceaser: “Getting money like crazy! (laughs)"
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): What is it like to see yourselves on TV, and did you ever think that this would be a reality?
Sassy: “It’s a little weird sometimes…I don’t really watch TV that much…Overall, I’m pretty happy with how I come across on TV, but I just realized how much of a cheesy smile I have (laughs)."
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): What do you think is the biggest misconception of people who have tattoos?
Oh Sh*t: “That we’re either drug addicts, knuckleheads, or trouble…but the thing is, is that we’re all good people. Whether it’s being a father, brother, sister, or whatever, we’re good people at the end of the day with art on our bodies.”
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): What is the most typical tattoo that a person asks for?
Dutchess: “A lot of the females who come in, want butterflies, flowers, names. We also get religious tattoos, that’s the general kind for those who don’t really want to be creative."
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): What is the most creative tattoo that you’ve done?
Dutchess: “To be honest, ever since I’ve started working at Black Ink, the creativity really started flowing. At the other tattoo shop that I worked at, they had tattoos on a wall and the customer would pick a picture off the wall. Here at Black Ink we’re a custom tattoo shop, you have your consultation with the artist, give them your idea, and we develop a concept based on your idea. That then gives them a creative advantage as opposed to someone just picking a picture off a wall. You actually have a piece of artwork that only you will have.”
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): In three adjectives, how would you describe the Black Ink Crew?
Dutchess: “Dysfunctional, creative, and exciting!”
Ceaser: “Ceaser, Ceaser, and Ceaser (laughs)!”
Oh Sh*t: “Goal-oriented, hardworking, and family.”
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): What can viewers and fans expect as the season continues?
Dutchess: “You have to just watch, because each one of us as an individual, all of our lives are so complex, and it’s too much to simply put in words, so we encourage everyone to support and continue to watch as everything unfolds.”
Examiner (Anthony Bowles): Lastly, what are you individual goals as we’re getting into 2013?
Dutchess: “I never thought I’d be a tattoo artist, so this is kind of weird to me…I have a Master’s Degree in business, so I thought I’d be in corporate America. My goal now is to continue to explore every and anything that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m taking art classes, so that way I can become an even better tattoo artist.”
Sassy: “My goal is to keep growing, I love the woman I’ve become, and I just want to continue to throw positive energy out there. I want to show women that it’s not all about guys, money, or clothes, but instead showing them that there is a different way to go and to be.”
Oh Sh*t: “To become a better person, a better artist, and to provide for my kids. At the end of the day, I’m very family-oriented and I have to make sure my kids are going to be okay.”
Stay up with the “Black Ink Crew” and tune in every Monday, at 9 PM ET/PT on VH1.