In 1691 explorer William Dampier returned to England with a slave he had brought from New Guinea. The man’s name was Prince Giolo, and what was incredible about him was how his entire body, with the exception of head, hands, and feet, was covered in tattoos. He became known as the “Painted Prince” and was a case of mystery as well as curiosity for those who heard of him.
Tattoos were not unheard of in the Western world, but they were frowned upon due to a passage in Leviticus: "'Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.”
However, during the era of the Second World War, artist Paul Rogers started the Iron Factory, where he would tattoo soldiers and sailors with eagles and other mythic creatures. Then, he began to include American flags, bleeding hearts, and women’s names. However, it was only okay if you were in the military. If that wasn’t the case, tattooed people would be seen as pariahs, particularly in the fifties.
As time went by, the art of ink became more and more popular until it turned into a regular part of everyday life. Now, what does this have to do with famous people? Well, while we admit we like the designs on our favorite celebrities, it should be said that the recognition really should go to the artist’s ability to create that work of art on their skin. So, here are the geniuses behind your favorite actor or musician’s ink.
Jonathan Valena a.k.a. JonBoy
JonBoy has tattooed over 20 thousand people in his lifetime. During an interview with the New York Times he confessed that his most meaningful work of ink was the one he did for Kendall Jenner in 2015. From then on, several celebrities have gone to him for tattoos. These include other members of the Kardashian family, Justin Bieber, and Chloë Grace Moretz.
Thousands follow JonBoy’s Instagram where he posts works he’s done. He specializes in small details, as well as cursive lettering. If you ever find yourself in New York with a couple thousand dollars to spend, you can make an appointment with this artist.
Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy has decorated the skin of Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, among other Pop stars. Tattoo magazines claim he is one of the top ink artists in recent years. Vogue Magazine said he is “the most famous tattoo artist in the world.”
On his Instagram you can observe all kinds of tats: classic designs, black and white, and even watercolor landscapes.
Kat Von D
She’s tattooed Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Demi Lovato. She’s also the creator of the United States’ tattoo Mecca, High Voltage Tattoo. She’s become a household name by starring on two reality shows based on the art of ink: Miami Ink and LA Ink. She’s also the mind behind a successful makeup brand.
Kat Von D was born in Mexico but grew up in Los Angeles. You can check out all her work on her page.
When your dream is to get a cute dreamy piece of ink, Lauren Winzer is who you need to call. This Aussie's designs are sweet little tats anyone with a fluffy heart would want. From a doodle person to a dinosaur wearing hat, her pastel palette is a great way of proving tattoos are no longer just for sailors and marines.
Lauren’s most famous client is none other than Miley Cyrus, check out her work here.
If you’re into a more in-your-face style or like designs with a lot of shadow play, Kevin Paul is the one for the job. He specializes in classic skull and rose imagery, as well as portraits. On his Instagram you can look at thousand of illustrations to inspire you; later you can ask him to do your next tattoo. Kevin’s based in the UK, so if you want to be part of his clientele list, which includes Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran, Travis Barker, among others, perhaps you’ll have to get your plane ticket ready.
Whether tattoos require a special meaning or just a beautiful design, the truth is that they’re part of the mainstream world. Celebrities get just as addicted as we do to becoming the canvas of our favorite artist or several others.
Translated by María Suárez