Meet Megan Massacre – tattoo artist on NY Ink, and life-saver to some unfortunate tattoo victims on America’s Worst Tattoos. We spoke to the fiesty tattooed lass to get her to spill the beans about being a female tattoo artist, and perhaps an encounter with the SWAT team while getting a tattoo-virgin inked!
How did you get into tattooing?
It was actually kind of spontaneous. I had thought about tattooing when I was about 14 years old, and I went to a tattoo studio and said “I want to learn how to tattoo, so what do I do”. They said that I have to pay them $4000, and at that age, $4000 was like a million bucks, and I thought “Forget it! My dreams are crushed, and that will never happen”.
So I pretty much forgot about it but I was still working with art. I was 18, in college and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I had a random job selling furniture just to get myself to college. So one day, a co-worker of mine said she wanted me to give her a ride to a tattoo shop after work because she wanted to get a job as a piercer there. So, I gave her a ride and I was hanging out at the tattoo shop while she was doing her thing. I guess she told the owner of the shop that I could draw really well. So, after they were done doing their thing, they came out and one of them asked “Your friend says you can draw really well. Would you be willing to draw me a picture”.
He was impressed and asked me to draw more things, so I ended up spending the day sketching, and then he asked if I’ve ever tattooed before. I said I’ve never done it but always wanted to when I was younger, and then he offered to let me do one immediately. And I was terrified but it was so awesome that I would love to do one! So he got a whole tattoo station set up for me, and he walked me through my first tattoo ever that night. He was so impressed with the outcome and asked if I wanted to learn to tattoo. I said yes, and the very next day, I quit my job and I’ve been tattooing ever since.
Would you say that fixing tattoos and creating new tattoos are different skills altogether?
Fixing bad tattoos are a lot harder than doing new tattoos because new tattoos, you have no constraints, but with a cover-up, it really depends on what you’re covering up. Some cover-ups are really easy if the tattoo is really old, and that makes it really easy to cover-up because over time, your tattoos get wider and blurry and that becomes easier.
But with a fresh tattoo that was done well, it can be very hard to cover-up. Sometimes people get a tattoo and then a couple of weeks later decide they don’t want it anymore, and if they want to get it covered up that year, it’s really really hard.
What was the weirdest or craziest tattoo experience you’ve had as a tattoo artist?
Crazy and weird kinda goes along together with the territory of tattooing, and we tattoo people from all walks of life. There are people who get their tattoos when they’re on drugs, and I didn’t even know it, so I think they’re fine and they end up getting into seizures, where they would literally push their chair back 3 feet.
Once I was tattooing at 3am in the very first shop I worked at. I was tattooing this 18 year old kid, and it was his first tattoo and all of a sudden we hear a loud crash at the door, and the SWAT team came in the shop and held their guns up at everybody in the store, including the customer, and he peed his pants because he was so scared because had no idea what was going on.
It turns out that that night, there was a big robbery down the street and we didn’t even know. It also turned out that robber had parked his van in our parking lot, so they assumed that he was with us and accused us for harboring him.
After they realized that we had nothing to do with the robber, they made us stay in to do a stake-out, staying in the shop for the next 10 hours.
What are the challenges of being a woman in the tattooing industry?
Tattooing has come so far with time and it’s becoming more mainstream and accepted. But when I started like 9 to 10 years ago, it was very uncommon for a woman to tattoo, so when I said I wanted to tattoo, everyone thought I was weird. After I got my tattoos, and I would get publicly harassed by people, especially older women.
But over the years, that stopped happening, and when I was at an airport about 5 years ago, a woman came up to me and said “Come here, let me look at you”, and I was thinking “Oh god, here we go again” and she just said “Your tattoos are beautiful”, and that was the first time I’ve ever had an older person they actually liked my tattoos That was when I realized that the world was changing, and a lot of it had to do with tattoo television shows. Miami Ink was the first tattoo TV show to air, and it became very popular. There was a female tattoo artist on the show too who is now really popular. People are beginning to look at women in the tattoo industry not as attractive anymore, but as sex symbols.
I would say now that women in the tattoo industry have it easier than men did, since we’re considered attractive.
What did you look forward to when it came to filming America’s Worst Tattoos?
My favorite part about it was just how fun it was. Doing cover-ups is not a fun thing for tattoo artists. It’s a very stressful and difficult thing, but the people we got on the show are such good sports about it. They knew their tattoos were terrible and they really wanted somebody to help them. And realizing how sad they were about their tattoos and actually going in there to fix them and seeing how happy and excited they were. I once helped out this girl who was so embarrassed to wear her bikini out in public because of how horrible her tattoo was, and after I made it beautiful, not only is she not embarrassed but she is also confident. And that can actually change a person’s life.
Catch Megan Massacre on America’s Worst Tattoos which premieres with two back-to-back episodes on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 11:00 p.m.