Ink Master: Angels exclusive: Ryan Ashley Malarkey previews new series, talks judging style

Ink Master AngelsWhile Ink Master season 9 may have come to an end, the fun isn’t over! Ink Master Angels is going to be premiering on Spike (October 3rd at 10:00) for a ten episode run , where we are going to see Kelly Doty, Nikki Simpson, Gia Rose and Ink Master season 8 winner Ryan Ashley Malarkey traveling the country to find some of the best that America has to offer in the tattooing world.

While you’re waiting for Ink Master: Angels to kick off, we have an exclusive interview with Ryan Ashley Malarkey to help get you up to speed on what this new show is going to be all about. This interview was a lot of fun to be a part of, especially since Ryan is just such a genuine person to talk to. She had a lot of insight, not only into Ink Master Angels, but also the tattooing industry and how much it’s changed over the years.

CarterMatt: The friendships that developed between you, Kelly, Gia and Nikki was really fun to watch on Ink Master, because we’ve seen alliances over the years, but seeing a strong group of women come together and not only forge an alliance, but also a friendship was something we’ve never seen on the show before. On Ink Master Angels are we going to get a chance to see those friendships cultivated further?

Ryan Ashley Malarkey – I think that one of the best parts about Angels is that the dynamic between the four of us is real. We’re silly, we’re giddy, and we laugh together about things, but we’re all accomplished artists and entrepreneurs. There’s another side of our friendship — we debate and go back and forth and share our different opinions. We discuss things and try to see all sides and all perspectives. Not only are we friends, but we respect each other very much. We learn from each other and have these really awesome and in-depth conversations onscreen and off-screen.

The combination of the four of us together is interesting. Even though we’re such good friends, we have really different opinions on a lot of things. We’re constantly learning from each other and changing the way we feel about tattoos or situations based on the respect we have for each other. It’s a really once-in-a-lifetime dynamic that the four of us have.

The Ink Master franchise has spawned a few different spin offs like Ink Master Redemption and Tattoo Nightmares, but this is the first all female Ink Master spin off with a 10 episode run! How did this idea all come together?

We’re lucky in a sense because it was time – It was time for strong women to take over. I don’t think it was ‘you know what? We need a show with four girls. Who can we pick?’. I really think Ink Master: Angels happened because the of the chemistry between the four of us. When we would get together it would be really dynamic. Our amazing production team saw that immediately and realize that the best things happen when the chemistry is real.

It’s time for women in our industry — in the sense that there isn’t an all-female show. Why not? We work just as hard, we bust our butts, and I’m just really proud that the four of us are so accomplished and so well-rounded. Three of the four of us are business owners in addition to being tattooers. We are really proud to represent all of the hard-working tattooers, specifically all of the hard-working women who are working double-time just to be treated equally.

Ink Master had you on a set while Ink Master Angels has you traveling on the road. What were some of the big differences for you working in those two environments?

Oh, it’s like night and day. The differences are too many to even go over.

Here’s what it is — the cool thing about Ink Master is that all of us had to live in the loft together, and there’s a boys’ loft and a girls’ loft. So the four of us slept in beds next to each other, literally like summer camp, for months. That in itself was amazing in that we got to know each other really well, so we cherished the time we were in there together and we never felt squished or stuck. We really enjoyed being together. Now, moving into Angels, we get to go on another adventure together after developing that friendship. We’re not going into it blind and not knowing anyone or each other or the crew. A lot of the crew are familiar faces from Ink Master so you have a sense of family with Ink Master: Angels. We’re like a traveling circus! It’s comforting that you can walk down a hallway and see a familiar face and give them a high-five. Even though we’re in a different city every few days you feel like you’re with your family.

So you’re going to be seeing different artists competing on Ink Master Angels: What are some of the qualities that you are looking at for when it comes to choosing competing artists?

We’ve learned so much while competing on Ink Master, and we all went in — some more than others — feeling like ‘this is what I like to do, this is my style, and this is what I think is important.’ The judges on Ink Master really drill it into your heads what makes for a great tattoo. Putting your personal taste in tattoos aside, you just need to judge based on fundamentals.

So, as we’re traveling the country we’re seeing artists that are so diverse. We really have to take what we learned from Ink Master and pull it forward. We judge these tattoos based on fundamentals and the core principles of tattooing, but I think the difference between us and the Ink Master judges is that Oliver and Nunez are coming from a very different place and a different generation of tattooing than the girls and I. We are coming from this generation, where we understand what the fundamentals of tattooing are and respect them, but have a different perspective visually on what modern-day tattooing is. We’re giving the judging criteria a little bit of a new spin.

After being judged for your tattoos on Ink Master what was it like to be on the opposite side with this show where you are the one in control?

It was humbling. You would think being on the other side of it you’d be excited about having the power to choose, but it’s a heavy burden playing god in that sense. Because we all competed and we all understand the feeling of having your heart in the pit of your stomach, just being ripped apart and not knowing if you’re going to make it or not. I think when we’re judging these artists we have definitely an immediate amount of respect. We know what it was like on that side of it.

We’re not judging them trying to rip them apart or breaking them down. We’re doing the opposite — we’re say ‘hey, we see how hard you work and the potential in you.’ Even if you make it, even if you don’t, we’re making it clear to these artists that we’ve got a lot of respect for them for putting themselves and their artwork on the line on such a visible platform. It’s a hard thing to do.

As we’re judging these tattoos, we don’t feel great ripping somebody apart, because we’ve been there. I think that’s something that is a little different from Ink Master since Oliver and Nunez started [that show] from the very beginning with all of their years of experience [without being judged]. This competition is very different from the real world. The tattoo industry itself doesn’t really provide any Hunger Games-esque experience like this. It brings out the best in people and the worst in people. Understanding what’s on the contestant-side really gives us a different perspective.

When you heard that the winners of the Ink Master Angels challenges would be competing against the angel of their choice did you think you would be picked every time because they would want to try to beat an Ink Master winner?

I thought either that or the opposite. I thought either they’d pick me every single time because they’re all going to have something to prove, or I thought that if they want to win a spot on Ink Master maybe they wouldn’t pick me. Maybe they’d try to pick the person who left first or the person who did the opposite style. You have so many theories in your head and you can predict how things are going to, but just like with Ink Master things go in so many different directions. You can never predict what strategies people are going to come up with.

We were all really surprised in a lot of these different cities as to who some of these artists picked.

Is this a one-time experience, or something that you would like to do again in the future?

I think that for myself and for the majority of the cast and the crew I can say it was one of the best experiences of our lives so far. It was absolutely amazing every day to have the opportunity to meet so many talented artists and to literally get the show on the road. It was insane and I’d be honored and humbled if we got to do it again. Hopefully it happens — fingers crossed.

What surprised you about this experience that you weren’t expecting going into it?

Maybe the different approaches that different artists took to challenges and the decisions that they decided to make. I remember on Ink Master there were so many moments where Oliver and Nunez would put palm to forehead and be like ‘why would you do that’ or ‘it’s so obvious what the right thing was!’ Then, over the summer [filming the show] I was like ‘oh, why didn’t you do it like this. Why!!’. It makes you realize that everyone has a different thought process and everyone works differently. Being on the judging side of it made me more well-rounded. I don’t think that I was prepared to learn as much as I actually learned this summer. It was a pleasant surprise.


We want to give a special thanks to Ryan for her time and talking with us about the upcoming season. It was a thrill to talk to her and we couldn’t be more excited to check this show out.

Are you going to be tuning in to watch Ink Master Angels? Leave us a comment in the comments section below and tell us if you are looking forward to watching. If you are looking for more scoop on Ink Master Angels head on over to the link here and check out more of our coverage including some of our interviews with the other angels. Also, if you want to get all the latest scoop on Ink Master or Ink Master: Angels be sure to join our CarterMatt Facebook group (at the link here) to stay up to date. (Photo: Spike)

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