Everybody loves a good tattoo. For thousands of years, people have wanted all kinds of things immortalized on their bodies. Pictures and names of loved ones are popular with the sentimental crowd. Others prefer to get tribal symbols or animal portraits to show their allegiances. Some people even like having their names spelled in different languages, though that rarely ends well.
Like any other popular niche, tattoos have found their place in the reality television market. TLC launched Miami Ink in 2005 and it was an undeniable success, spawning a great number of spin offs and resulting in a huge boost in the popularity of tattoos.
The show’s initial cast, led by the soft spoken Ami James, have since gone on to achieve tattoo stardom. Kat Von D in particular has stayed in the headlines for reasons both good and bad. People from around the world flock to Love Hate Tattoo Studio in Miami to have their dreams inked on them forever. No show is without its share of secrets, though, and to this day the original cast continue to get themselves involved in scandals.
Today, we’re looking at 15 Secrets From Behind The Scenes Of Miami Ink.
15. Their customer service is terrible
A cursory glance at the reviews of Love Hate Tattoo Studio review list on Google boasts a pretty solid response. They’re currently sitting pretty at 4.1 stars. (Of a possible 5.) Take a closer look however, and the waters get a little murkier. Obviously, one major complaint is the price. The store is open about their 200$ minimum charge. Since they are TV tested, that’s to be expected.
Some reviews dug deeper though. One woman recounts a story of having an extremely emotional tattoo request, only to be turned away with a simple “no.” Another review said the staff displayed “crappy service and a don’t need your business attitude.”
The cast has been vocal about which types of tattoos they don’t like doing, but in-person explanations for customers still wouldn’t go amiss.
14. Ami James gets panic attacks
Since becoming successful on Miami Ink, Ami James has done a lot. In 2009, he even became the executive producer on a travel show. Titled World Wide Tribe, the show was set to explore tattoo culture around the world. The show never made it to air, and one possible reason is that Ami James is terrified of flying.
The initial filming itinerary for the show included a whopping 17 flights. One of those flights was schedule to fly over Mount Everest. In preparation, he took three anti anxiety pills. The flight was delayed, he fell asleep in the airport, and he missed it.
Unfortunately for Ami, his success means he still has to travel a lot. At least he gets to do it off camera, though.
13. Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck were sued for harassment
In early 2014, a former PA on the show Ink Master filed a lawsuit against Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck, two tattoo artists from Love Hate Tattoo Studio who were also on Miami Ink. She accused the pair of harassment and unlawful retaliation. Original Media, Viacom, and Spike were also named in the suit.
Nicoletta Robinson claimed that Nunez and Peck acted inappropriately toward her and other set workers from the show. She says at one point, the guys told her she could “go home and suck d**k.” According to Robinson, the pair also tickled her without consent and made homophobic slurs toward another judge. She also alleges that when she complained, she was quickly replaced and never called back.
12. They’ve dissed a bunch of celebrity tattoos
In June of 2016, Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck teamed up with GQ and released a YouTube video. In that video, the critiqued a number of celebrity tattoos. To be fair, Nunez rarely makes a mean comment throughout the video. Peck, however, is a different story.
On Chris Brown’s arm tattoo, he said “I’m almost 100% certain that Chris Brown can afford a better tattoo than this.” Nunez merely offered that Brown wore a “nice watch” in the photo. About Justin Bieber’s body art, Peck said “the one thing we know about Justin Bieber is that in all senses he has the worst taste imaginable.”
On the other hand, the two seemed to genuinely like Zac Efron’s YOLO tattoo.
11. The truth behind Kat Von D’s firing
Depending on who you believe, there were several factors that led to Kat Von D’s departure from Miami Ink. By several accounts, she was homesick. Her alleged alcoholism may also have played a role – more on that later. Then there’s the fact that she was quickly offered her own spin off with L.A. Ink.
Whatever you believe, the fact remains that she and Ami James butted heads often during the show’s first two seasons. In the second season finale, James finally told her that it was time to go. In an episode that was definitely a ratings smash, cuts between confessionals and the tension filled scene made for an extremely emotional moment.
If it was a stunt, this next bit of information comes as a real curve ball…
10. Network tried to cover up Kat’s antisemitism
After Kat Von D was fired from Miami Ink, she was understandably upset. Depending on who you believe, she took a step that was less understandable. The fiery tattoo artist may or may not have passed an anti-semitic note on to her former boss.
The note was a picture of Kat with an anti-semitic message scrawled on it. It also featured a burning star of David and a swastika. A hand-writing expert said that there was a 99% chance the note was authentic. Of course, Von D had already signed on to do her LA Ink spin off, and TLC wasn’t about to let that money go down the drain. When James took the picture to his bosses, they did nothing with it.
James was understandably miffed.
9. Love Hate Tattoo Studio was opened to compete with the show
Miami Ink was undoubtedly a popular show and has spawned a number of spin-offs. During its initial run, though, Ami James and Chris Nunez became tired of playing by the network television playbook. Toward the end of the show’s third season, the pair wanted out. At the time, James even said ” I never want to work with Discovery again.”
The only problem was that TLC owned the rights to the name “Miami Ink.” So the pair opened up Love Hate Tattoo Studio right next door. The show ended shortly after.
While Nunez is no longer a partner, the Love Hate brand continues to grow. Meanwhile, the original location of the Miami Ink shop has since become an outlet for the clothing brand DeVille.
8. NY Ink’s cast is different because they wanted more drama
The feud between Ami James and Discovery eventually ended. Before long, James had entered talks with the network for a new show. So it was that NY Ink saw James returning to TLC. This time, James had a much better understanding of how reality television works.
To that end, he only brought one original member of the Miami Ink cast with him. According to James, the fact that everyone on the the original show was already friends meant that there wasn’t enough drama for the cameras. The new cast purposely featured people who were almost guaranteed not to gel. James said they weren’t afraid to expose personal details, making the new show a free for all of drama and fighting.
7. Kat Von D canceled a promotionl tour over Jesse James
Kat Von D was in a relationship with Jesse James. Kat Von D even had James’ face tattooed on her body. The moment was filmed and broadcast on Kat Von D’s show, LA Ink. Kat Von D later broke up with Jesse James. All of these statements are true.
Mere moments before she was set to begin filming an interview on LA Today, a clip from that episode was played. Kat Von D was so upset that she stormed off the set and canceled the rest of her promotional tour for LA Ink. She was quoted as saying “lack of compassion n respect for eachother never fails to dissappoint me. (sic)”
What’s strange is that according to host Jeff Michaels, Kat was made fully aware that the clip would be played and that the relationship would be a topic of conversation.
6. Kat Von D’s addiction
All of this brings us to perhaps the most stirring piece of Kat Von D’s personal history. The tattoo artist is currently going on 11 years of sobriety, but during the first two seasons of Miami Ink (and presumably even before it began airing) she was a full-fledged alcoholic.
Her former husband Oliver Peck has revealed that she also used to be involved in other self-destructive behavior. According to him, she wanted to liposuction and was abusing weight loss drugs. It got to the point where she was throwing up every day.
Kat told Rosie O’Donnell in 2012 that she quit cold turkey because it was beginning to get in the way of her work. She’s said that now she hangs out with people who are more on her frequency.
5. XOJane went after Ami James for sexism
During the first episode of NY Ink, online magazine xoJane picked up on a problematic moment. Upon meeting fellow tattoo artist Megan Massacre, Chris Torres declares that she’s too cute to be a tattoo artist. James spoke up a little bit, but not enough to really quell anything.
One writer at xoJane took issue with the whole event and wrote a scathing piece about it. She reached out to a female tattoo artist who informed her that, unfortunately, this type of behavior is all too common within that realm. Ami responded to her with a statement basically stating it’s not his job to discipline other grown men. The writer (pen name “Emily”) wrote another scathing piece.
Megan Massacre and Chris Torres eventually ended up dating. Whether or not there was any real misconduct here is obviously up for debate.
4. Ami gave himself his first tattoo when he was 13
The scars of youth are often permanent. Sometimes, they guide you on the path to adulthood. Ami James has always been a fan of tattoos. He even performed his first professional tattoo before he was 18. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that he received his first professional tattoo at just 15 years old.
Two years before that, he performed a different type of tattooing on himself. It’s called an Indian Ink tattoo, and it’s something you can do yourself as well. (We’re not recommending it. We’re simply stating a fact.) Basically, the process involves a sewing needle, some Indian Ink, a box of matches and a cotton swab. Interestingly, xoJane also did a piece on this particular procedure.
3. Chris Nunez’s DUI
Chris Nunez has not had the best relationship with the law. The same year he was sued for harassment, he was also arrested or driving under the influence.
In September of 2014, Nunez was pulled over in Florida for running a stop sign. TMZ reported that it was unclear which substance or substances he had taken. He was brought to jail, but released several hours later on bail. In his mugshot, Nunez is seen to be smiling and apparently unconcerned.
Ami James has told interviewers he is used to people with tattoos being stereotyped. He says that at the beginning of his career, he was detained often at air ports. Bigindustry names like Nunez are probably one of the reasons these stereotypes are perpetuated.
2. Ami doesn’t like Jewish tattoos
To be clear, Ami James is Jewish. Not only that, but he is a veteran of the Israeli armed forces. He has said that he refuses to do racial tattoos. He also refuses to do anything that promotes hate, such as swastikas. According to him, he believes these to bring bad karma.
What’s surprising is that he also refuses to do any sort of Jewish tattoo. He says it’s a slap in the face to the religion. His views on the entire thing are actually quite confusing. He identifies as Jewish, yet doesn’t identify as religious. Tattoos are something the religion traditionally frowns upon, yet James is covered in them.
Why he wouldn’t even want to ink a positive Jewish symbol on someone, you would have to ask him.
1. Yoji had a cameo in Japanese horror movie Suicide Club
Yojiro Harada is a tattoo artist, musician… and actor? Harada has only made one film appearance, but it’s an interesting one – in the Japanese horror film Suicide Club. You can’t be blamed for never having heard of it, as it’s not exactly considered digestible for western audiences.
The film’s subject matter is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It deals with a whole lot of people killing themselves at the same time, and the police trying to figure out what’s going on. Yoji cameos as a comedian. He doesn’t kill himself, but a friend of his does.
Since then, Yoji’s activities have been considerably more positive. He continues to grow as a tattoo artist, as well as performing with his punk rock band Bid Deal.
Can you think of any other dark secrets from behind the scenes of Miami Ink that we might have missed? Let us know in the comments!