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Q&A: Kat Von D of 'LA Ink'
We chat with the lovely tattoo artist about leaving "Miami Ink" and how she ended up with her own show

By Dave Lake

Kat Von D is one of the sexiest women on television, not to mention one of the most tattooed. She became inked onto our psyche as the lone woman artist on TLC's tattoo reality show "Miami Ink" with her lifelike black-and-gray portraits and rocker-chick persona. But when personality clashes forced Kat to leave Miami, she returned home to Los Angeles to open a new shop and launch a new show, "LA Ink." We caught up with Kat in between tattoos to get the lowdown on her new series, airing now on TLC.

MSN: Did the opportunity to do a new show come about after you left "Miami Ink" or did you leave because producers offered you a spin-off?

Kat Von D: Talk about the new show had been going on for months before I left "Miami Ink." I think it was one of the reasons that the friction between Ami [James, co-owner of Miami Ink] and I grew. I've always believed that supporting and being happy for the success of your friends will make you a better person. As unfortunate as it is to have to go through the kind of "breakup" I did with Ami, I'm grateful for it, and will definitely try my hardest to use those life lessons when it comes to being a new business owner, and make "LA Ink" a great show.

The dynamics between my new team of tattooers on "LA Ink" is completely different from Miami. We are a tattoo family, constantly learning from each other, not just artistically, but on a personal level. I am completely proud and honored to associate myself with a group of A-list tattooers!

How is the vibe inside your new shop different from the vibe of "Miami Ink"?

The vibe of the inside of my new tattoo shop is like the East Coast vs. the West Coast. Los Angeles has a lot to offer when it comes to diversity, so it'll be rad to see all walks of life getting tattooed with all types of styles, many of which the world hasn't seen yet.

The one thing that will be quite obvious about the new tattoo shop is that it is very rock 'n' roll. The walls aren't plastered by the typical tattoo art that you'd find in a biker shop. You're gonna be able to see a lot of my own personal collection of rock 'n' roll memorabilia. The walls are covered with guitars, drumsticks, photographs, posters, skateboards and everything in between, mostly autographed and signed by the celebrities, rockers and athletes we tattoo.

Finding a perfect balance between modern and rock 'n' roll while still maintaining our femininity was achieved, I think, when I decided to put in a full-sized, red, crystal chandelier in the entrance, along with a skateboard ramp, photo booth, and even a stripper pole! Lightning bolts are the repeating theme throughout the shop, complete with a red, yellow and pink color scheme. To me, it looks like a high-end Hard Rock Cafe meets the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset. Music and tattooing go hand in hand, so why not?

Do the people that we see on the show walk in off the street to get tattooed, or does the show use a casting director to find clients?

There is a casting process to be on the show, but that's just to make sure that the clientele, for filming purposes, feel comfortable in front of the camera, and that all artists are happy accepting the artwork requested. There's a lot going on behind the scenes, but production definitely does their best to try and make everything as close to reality as possible. Anyone 18 years or older can apply to get tattooed on the show at But if that doesn't pan out, my shop is a real, up-and-running shop that is open to the walk-in public every day after filming.

Von Dutch or Lars Von Trier?

Von Dutch, but not the silly clothing company, the actual notorious 1950s pinstriper. He was punk rock, and constantly pushed the envelope. I think if he were alive today, he'd shake his head in disapproval over what the clothing line has become. It has nothing to do with car culture, let alone anything I believe he stood for. But hey, I'm happy for anyone who makes it happen.

What were the last three records you bought?

The latest Mars Volta record was definitely playing on repeat in my car for a long while. Each time it would progressively get better and better, as well as the new Eagles of Death Metal record. Eagles of Death Metal are just all about good-time party music and rockin' and rollin'. And it doesn't hurt that I recently got to see them play with the Queens of the Stone Age! Aside from that, Georgia-based metal band Mastodon's newest record I just can't stop listening to.

Funny enough, most of the bands mentioned above have gotten tattooed on "LA Ink," along with a pretty healthy list of others that I think people will look forward to seeing. In the next few months, we'll be tattooing bands such as HIM, Slayer, Foo Fighters, My Chemical Romance, Deftones, and so many more. Who doesn't wanna watch members of their fave rock bands get tattooed, and hear why they chose the design they chose?

Since you've tattooed in two cities that are sunny most of the year, is there anything customers should do to keep their tattoos looking vibrant? Isn't the sun bad for tattoos?

Sun is definitely one of the worst things for your tattoos, causing faster fading and skin damage. The best thing is to protect them from constant visits to the beach. Just wear some damn sunblock! SPF 30 or higher on your new tattoos.

What's the best thing about being a reality TV star? What's the worst thing?

I think the opportunity to represent not only independent and self-created women but the tattoo community in general is one of the biggest payoffs. Even my own parents didn't realize how much tattoos help people, whether it's a memorial for a loved one that's passed, or celebrating the birth of a child. Life gives you so many reasons to celebrate these landmarks in time, so why not get a tattoo to represent?

On the other hand, everyone is watching every little line you do, criticizing and overanalyzing everything you say. I feel a huge responsibility on my shoulders when it comes to putting myself out there, and try my hardest to be a good person that will, in the long run, help people understand the tattoo lifestyle and be less judgmental.

Has anyone ever not liked a tattoo you put on them?

I haven't let anyone down as far as I know. Giving it 110 percent every time makes it so that each tattoo looks better than the one before. It's hard work, but worth it when you're putting your name and credibility on each tattoo.

Who handles pain better, men or women?

Well, they say the woman's body is designed to handle pain much better than a man's, due to childbirth, but in all honesty, all tattoos hurt! No matter what!

"LA Ink" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TLC. Check out the official site for more info.