At Tattoo Cultr, we believe a 100% in the multi-faceted growth of the Indian tattoo scene, but there are aspects of it we can’t really make head and tail of. One of them is the concept of a ‘celebrity tattoo artist’. Who the fuck (pardon my language) is a celeb tattoo artist? Like, what makes someone a celeb tattoo artist? What does it even mean? What qualifies anyone to be a celeb tattooer? What benefits are there to being tattooed by a celeb artist? Does it mean they only tattoo you if you’re a celeb too? Or, does it mean you can allegedly sexually harass your clients and still be doing seminars?
If you guys are carrying on reading, let me tell you beforehand that I don’t have any of these answers, but I do have lots of questions. On 19th August, I came across a post on Instagram wherein a tattoo equipment supplier announced a seminar for budding artists with “celebrity tattoo artists”. 10,000/- only per seat. Wow! Kya Dhanda hai, bhai! What will this celebrity tattoo artist teach in one day for 10 grands that will change the lives of the attendees?
My first guess as to why they call themselves celebrity tattoo artists is that they tattoo celebrities of media and entertainment in India. But then, if that’s the case, I would suggest never get tattooed by a celeb tattooer because celebs in India have the shittiest tattoos on them. Show me one Indian celebrity with good tattoos on them, and I will show you a hundred with absolute crap on their bodies. So, tattooing celebs clearly shouldn’t be a marker to determine a celeb tattoo artist, right?
I think this was a great point by senior artist from Nepal, John Ma about the ‘rockstar mentality’ being pushed alongside the idea of tattooing. In India, as sad as it sounds, that is an absolute reality. It seems the idea of being a tattoo artist is promoted as this popular profession for dumbwits. After all, anybody can become a tattoo artist in today’s date. But for this machinery to keep churning out tattoo noobs, they need to have these sort of father figures for the clueless ones to look up to. And, that’s where our celebrity tattoo artists come into the picture.
It’s actually quite easy to spot a celebrity tattoo artist in India. They are the ones who seem to be more invested in the business of churning out a factory of tattoo artists, rather than enhancing the tattoo culture in the country with good, long lasting tattoos. On influential people (since they are such celebs). They surely do one thing like general celebrities though, i.e. spending on media coverage to stay relevant among people. This bit, they do meticulously well. From Breast cancer awareness week to Raksha Bandhan, their studios either have free tattoo giveaways or some other marketing gimmick to catch the limelight.
As an outsider to this scene who doesn’t really care about whether their tattoo artist is a celebrity or not, most of my tattooed friends are generally like Kaun hai yeh, bhai? Oh, my silly buddies, how do you not know of our celeb tattoo artists? They are the ones pioneering the Indian tattoo revolution. They are the ones starting tattoo conventions for every city in India, even though none of these last beyond 3-4 years of running. Why don’t they last though? (that’s another article for later) They are the ones revolutionizing the Indian tattoo scene through foam reveal tattoo videos on TikTok. Sometimes, they don’t even wear gloves in those videos. Recently, there was a tattoo convention in Gujarat where they announced a list of visiting celebrity tattoo artists. Whom does that benefit?
This is like bureaucratic hierarchy establishment. First, you start selling tattoo kits for cheaper than how much a text tattoo would cost. Now, the people who simply bought the kits need to make use of that investment. So, they need to look up to teachers and mentors in the scene. Sponsor a bunch of established tattoo artists, and turn them into celebs within the scene. This way, they maintain hierarchy, and ensure they remain relevant enough to milk this cow (tattoo scene) till it dries up.
Nobody really cares whether as a tattoo artist you are a celebrity or not. Nobody. They care if you got skills, or not. They care if you gonna bust a sick ass tat out, no matter how much you charge. They expect you to be professionals, not paparazzi-hugged frenzy boys.