Talking tattoos and nerdy with NY Ink’s Megan Massacre

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NY Ink returns and America’s Worst Tattoos premieres on TLC this Thursday, April 4th. We had the chance to chat with Megan Massacre about her starring in both shows, not wanting to be a Suicide Girl, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, and Harry Potter tattoos.

John “Spartan” Nguyen: Oh hey, Megan. How’s it going?

Megan Massacre: Good. How are you?

John: Doing great. I’m going to have to fess up that I haven’t seen any episodes Of NY Ink, but I have seen some episodes of Miami Ink so I can kind of get the gist of how the show goes.

Megan: Yeah. It’s the same format.

John: As for your other show, I love the concept for America’s Worst Tattoos where you turn something that people regret into something great.

Megan: Yeah. Yeah, that’s the benefit.

John: Do you have a memorable cover-up tattoo work?

Megan: I’ve done a lot of cover-ups over my career. I’ve been tattooing for like nine years. I’m trying to think of like what’s the kicker. I think the biggest kicker for cover-ups is usually when it’s somebody’s name that somebody else wants to get covered up. Usually it’s either misspelled or it’s an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend’s name, something like that. They’re always like the kickers, because those are the ones that people want to get rid of and right away.

John: I bet you get a lot of those.

Megan: Yeah. I really do. It’s a funny thing in a tattoo shop. It’s like I knew that two people come in and they’re like, “Oh, we’re going to get each other’s names.” And we usually interview them first like, “Okay, well how long have you been together?” You better have been married for 20 years or we’re probably not going to do it. Because usually with people, when they get that done, within six months they’re coming back to have it covered up.

John: Oh my god.

Megan: Yeah. It’s like a curse.

John: So now you know whenever someone tries to ask for it you’re like, “No! No! You guys are stupid.”

Megan: Yeah. I tell people “no” all the time. I’m like, “You don’t want that. Trust me.”

John: You’re not just a tattoo artist. You also DJ and model. You’re just like everything.

Megan: I do a lot of things. I like to say that.

John: So why are you so awesome?

Megan: I don’t know. I’m rather a humble person, so I’d never really like to say like, “Wow. I am awesome.” But I like to do a lot of things because you only get one lifetime, and basically there is a lot of things I would love to accomplish. You know a lot of the things that I have done, such as modeling, tattooing and DJing, weren’t things that I necessarily set out to do. They were more opportunities that were presented to me. And I never have been one to say no to an opportunity, and so I took it and I just happened to excel at those things and… Yeah, I love it. I have a lot of fun doing all the things that I do. That’s why I do them.

John: How did you get started into DJing?

Megan: Well, I’ve always really been into music and obviously I kept really busy with tattooing and modeling for a long time and couldn’t really find the time to pursue that. But when I met my current boyfriend—he wasn’t my boyfriend at the time—we were just friends. He is a drummer in a band called Combichrist and he DJ-ed when he was off-tour. When we first became friends this was about the time the first season of NY Ink came out, and I had been asked to appear at parties and such.

I’ve never been the kind of person who really wants to go to a party for an hour, hang out and do nothing and then leave. It’s like I feel kind of down. But if I’m there working, I want to be doing something or helping create the party or the atmosphere. Like I said, I always loved music so I’m like, “Well, there’s always a DJ. Why not learn how to DJ?” So at the time, Joey—my friend—taught me how to DJ and yeah, it’s the thing that we started doing together and about three months later it just so happened we ended up dating and it’s just kind of like a really cool thing that we do together. It’s like a DJ duo. It’s like a really cool way for us to travel and spend time together and also work and make money. It’s a lot of fun. To me music is like another art form and like I said, I’ve always wanted to get into it and never really had the opportunity.

John: You’re in two different shows. Is that a lot to handle?

Megan: Yeah, this is the first time I’ve been doing NY Ink for like about the past two to two-and-a-half years and then about the past six months. And over that time period, we’ve been shooting for America’s Worst Tattoos. This is the first time I’ve done two, so I will say it’s pretty exhausting but it’s a lot of fun too and exciting.

John: And you were also recently on the cover of Inked Magazine?

Megan: Yeah. I’m on it right now—this current month—I think. Actually, I think it’s the April issue but it always comes out a month early. But yeah, so I’m on there right now. I love this cover. The first cover I did with them I wasn’t too stoked on, but this one I like.

John: What’s wrong with the first cover?

Megan: You know what it was? It was just… It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with it. A lot of people liked it, but I guess as a model, you’re always super critical of every photo ever taken of you and I’ve always been really particular about my eyebrows. That might sound really crazy, but I shaved them off and just drew them on for like ten years. So at that time that’s what I did, and when they did my makeup it looked like I had no eyebrows and I was just mortified.

John: Oh wow.

Megan: Everybody else thought it was awesome. It was just a personal pet peeve. But since then I have grown my eyebrows back and they’re on this cover and I’m very happy with them.

John: “Megan likes the cover because her eyebrows are there.”

Megan: Yeah. No, but I mean the photos are really colorful and instead of a typical modeling shoot—an average modeling shoot—they’re always fun but they’re always very posy. There’s a specific thing the magazine is looking for. It’s a little more strict. Whereas this time, this was more of a personality issue, so they have pictures of me laughing and dancing around. I was playing with balloons and eating candy. It was really relaxed, really fun and they really captured, I think, my personality.

John: Awesome. So that’s more like what you’re already doing anyway.

Megan: Yeah. Exactly.

John: We recently talked to one of the founders for Suicide Girls, and the whole tattoo/alternative model thing is big now. I was wondering what your thoughts on that is?Are you happy with where it’s at now?

Megan: It’s really interesting how it’s grown. Like when I first started tattooing it was a little over nine years ago and actually, I’m pretty sure Suicide Girls came out a couple years after that or not long after that. I remember it was around the time I first started modeling, and they started asking my friends. Some of my good friends were like some of the very first Suicide Girls, which I don’t think they probably would want to talk about because I think there is like a big lawsuit now.

But I remember it was when I first started modeling, and I believe they asked me to be one of those models. I said no because as a tattoo artist and not just a model I was like, “You know, I really just don’t want it to become a stereotype that just because you’re a tattooed model means that you do alternative porn,” you know what I mean?

It just shouldn’t be that way; I mean not that I mind. Some of my really good friends are Suicide Girls, but that was just like one of my first, initial thoughts. And it’s really interesting because around that same time was when tattoo television came out. It had made it more mainstream—it made a lot of people more comfortable with tattooing who never would have given it a second thought. It made it an art form instead of just something that bikers or gang members would get.

And I think that that just attracted so many people more to the industry—not just getting tattoos but also people wanting to become tattoo artists. And one really interesting thing that has happened over the past couple of years is that people that are actual artists, like people that have gone to college or artisan school that like fine art, like oil painters and sculptors are now taking an interest in tattooing. So you’ve seen tattooing go from the traditional like two-dimensional tattoos to these three-dimensional, extremely detailed, realistic, almost photo-realistic works of art. And if it wasn’t for tattooing becoming mainstream, I don’t think that these artists would have ever taken that kind of interest in tattooing, and tattooing wouldn’t be at the level it is today. Also it’s kind of funny, touching base on what I said about the Suicide Girls thing—now there are tons of alt models, you know?

John: Yeah.

Megan: When I started there wasn’t very many. It wasn’t really a thing. Like people just laughed at it and they were like, “Alt model? What’s that?” And now everybody’s an alt model. All these girls, all over the place. They dye their hair a crazy color. They get a couple tattoos and they’re like, “I’m an alt model.” I kind of laugh about it because I’m like, “Man, I never thought it would be popular.” It’s cool though. I’m so happy that so many people take interest that… There definitely is quite a stereotype where I walk into a bar or anywhere out in public and I can’t tell you how many people are like, “Oh, are you a Suicide Girl?” and it’s like, “No, just because I’m a girl and I have tattoos doesn’t mean that that’s what I do.”

So it did grow into this stereotype that I was afraid it would grow into. And one thing that really kind of like bums me out – it’s not that I think bad about it – but I kind of just wish it wasn’t like this. A lot of girls now, instead of saying “alt model,” they’ll say “tattoo model,” which I’m like, “No. It’s an alt model.” An alternative model is somebody who is not a typical model, a typical model being a runway model, being six-foot tall and 100 pounds. You know what I mean? Where the tattoo is very natural. An alternative model is anything but that. A tattoo model, to me—and maybe that’ll become a more definitive term—but recently people have started throwing that around and these girls are like very overtly sexual. It’s like they think that they got to get giant boob jobs and be scantily clad in every picture and like super ultra sexy in order to be a tattooed model.

I have a lot of young girl fans. They come into my shop, which is on the show NY Ink and they say, “Oh, I want to be like you when I grow up.” Number one, I never thought I’d have little kids looking up to me. I’m talking like anybody… like eight-year-old kids, 10 year old kids, 12 year old kids.

John: Oh yeah. That’s pretty young.

Megan: If you would have told me that nine years ago that little kids would say that to me, I would have told you you were lying. And when I see these little girls saying “I want to be an alt model,” the last thing I want to portray to them is that I’m like, “Okay, well go get boob job. Go get some lip induction,” you know what I mean? “And take nude photos of yourself.” Like that is not what I want to put across to these little kids.

John: Yeah, it’s like the whole thing where you can’t really say, “Oh, to be an alt model you’ve got to just like show skin, be sexy…”

Megan: It’s a stereotype. So I’m kind of hoping by not jumping on that bandwagon, by not doing those things, that I can kind of like influence at least some girls and show them that in order to be in that alternative model, tattoo model culture—whatever the hell you want to call it—that you don’t have to… It doesn’t have to be that way. Granted, there’s not a lot of… There’s no money in alternative modeling unless you take your clothes off. Like that’s just a fact.

Tattooing does not exactly hand you out tons of money. For people to be on the covers, you know? But one thing that’s really interesting that I see is starting to become more popular is actual real brands—big brands, clothing brands and stuff—showing interest in hiring tattooed models. They’re not quite comfortable with it yet but it’s coming. Some companies were looking at tattooed models and they loved the shoot but they said, “Okay, we’re just not quite ready to use tattooed models yet.” You know? But it shows that they’re interested. It shows it could happen and there is a lot of high fashion designers that have also been using tattooed models.

Actually male tattooed models are super popular with high fashion designers right now. Not females but males. So it just shows that the industries are starting to change and within our lifetimes I think we will see tattooed models being used in mainstream ad campaigns and… You know I would love to see it go there so that girls especially… Guys too but girls especially, if you’re a tattooed model, you can go the mainstream way. You can go in a way that you can make a living off of it and that you don’t have to exploit your body to do so.

I have a lot to say about a lot.

John: Yeah, of course. Like especially when you’re working in the business and you see these changes. You put your heart into it and… you kind of want to see where it goes.

What’s your favorite nerdy tattoo that you have worked on?

Megan: I recently did a really cool Harry Potter tattoo on one of my best friends, actually. And I mean I don’t think Harry Potter is nerdy but when I posted the tattoo people were like, “What a nerdy tattoo. A Harry Potter nerd.” So I mean I guess that would probably be one of my favorites. It was really cool. It was the Death Eater symbol. It’s like what all the Death Eaters, like the evil people in the movies had tattooed on their arm. So instead of going like the good way she went the bad way and I did like my own version of that symbol on her.

John: I hear you’re a gamer?

Megan: Yeah, I’m actually a huge video gamer.

John: Sweet.

Megan: Yeah. I haven’t had as much time to play in the past two years, since obviously I’ve been filming two TV shows. You know unfortunately, my gaming has had to take a little bit of a vacation. I think the last game that I played was Skyrim.

John: Oh, yeah, Skyrim.

Megan: I’m really looking forward to the new Fable game coming out. I’m more into RPGs

John: RPG? Yeah.

Megan: I like Final Fantasy. I like all the Fable games. I love Skyrim. And then I did play MMOs for a couple of years. I played WOW for probably about four or five years before I started with TV. I had to give up WOW for TV, to be honest.

John: Wow.

Megan: I was an intense player. I played at least four hours a day and like 14 hours a day on the weekends for like four years. I’m a huge nerd. I still love it and if I had the time I still would. I actually am really sad because all my gaming buddies still text me and they’re like, “Oh, you should really get on here and you should be able to come play again” and it’s always so hard. I played it so much that I got my mom to start playing it. She is like a badass.

John: And you’re like, “Sorry I can’t join you guys. I’m on the show. Watch me.”

Megan: Yeah, exactly. I’m like, “I’m going to be on TV so I can’t play.” I mean I used to play so seriously that before TV, when I was doing tattoos, like in between my tattoos I would go on my laptop in the back room and my guild members would text me and be, “Hey, can you help with this raid?” and I would jump on really quick and help them with stuff. It was a 24 hours a day thing.

John: And that’s what we need to see in future episodes of NY Ink—just you having a gaming session.

Megan: Playing WOW in the background?

John: Yes.

Megan: Sorry guys. I’ve got a raid to do. Catch you later.

John “Spartan” Nguyen

John “Spartan” Nguyen is the editor-in-chief at Nerd Reactor and is based in Orange County, CA. He is a graphic designer and illustrator.

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