Ink Master: Angels interview: Nikki Simpson on season 2, judging, new cities

Nikki Simpson, Ryan Ashley, Kelly DotyInk Master: Angels is currently airing new episodes on the Paramount Network Tuesday nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, and if you haven’t caught the premiere episode yet you’re going to want to check that out! The series is a mixture of both old and new from season 1, and we would say overall it does a really great job of finding its voice while also showing great new tattoo artists who could someday be a part of Ink Master proper.

Nikki Simpson (pictured top left) is one of the Ink Master veterans-turned-Angels who is traveling the country alongside Ryan Ashley Malarkey and Kelly Doty looking for some of the best talent, and she had quite a bit to say to us about what makes this season stand out, what she thinks of the talent, and also how she feels about some of the Ink Master: Angels alum from season 1 faring so well on Ink Master proper. Take a look below.

CarterMatt – Did you approach season 2 differently than you did season 1?

Nikki Simpson – Absolutely. I think it was a collaborative effort between me and the production company and the girls that we wanted to show who we are rather than being just hosts without a real personality. We were just getting our reigns the first round; the second time, we were like ‘they had us back and we clearly have the audience. Let’s show them who we are.’

We’re just having fun, being ourselves, being conversational with the artists, and getting to know them on a person-to-person level. I think that makes for a really enjoyable experience, and I think it makes the artists a lot more comfortable with us. Also, we wanted to be a lot more upfront about our judging. People work so hard to be on Ink Master that we’re not going to let subpar tattoos fly. You’re not going to get anywhere on Ink Master unless you are doing a great tattoo and we’re here to let them know that.

Do you think that the artists were more receptive to that this time around, given that they knew the show and were more comfortable?

It depends on the artist. As an artist we’re deeply self-critical human beings where our egos are as fragile as a piece of paper — you can easily cut through it with just one comment. If you are an artist that can put their ego aside and learn that the only way to get better is by listening to people pointing out the ways you can get better, you’re going to be better. But, some people don’t want to hear that s–t and they don’t want America to hear that, either. On both ends, I don’t blame them.

Is it great seeing artists from Angels season 1 like Daniel Silva and Deanna Smith doing well on Ink Master proper?

Oh yeah. I mean, if we’re getting beat we don’t want to be beat by people who are lasting just a minute on Ink Master. Unfortunately, it happened a couple of times, but there are some good days and bad days for tattooers.

We’re really proud to see Daniel and Deanna go so far and I really think that they had the right preparation and they were the most receptive to our criticism that we’ve ever seen. I think that really got them ahead in the competition.

It seems like one of the changes for season 2 is that you know which Angel is competing for the face-off earlier. Do you like having that extra lead-up to prepare?

It’s not necessarily about the lead-up, but sometimes you would see the same Angel get called up a million times and you’re like ‘f–k man, I wanna tattoo!’ I think it’s a good thing that we’re designating which Angel they’re competing against because when you’re on Ink Master, you don’t get that choice. You just have to tattoo against whoever you have to tattoo against. You just have to be prepared and since honestly, we’re telling them in the first elimination tattoo who it’s going to be, they can prepare to compete against [any] of us. They know our strengths and they should know our weaknesses. I think it’s fair and square for the artists and it should be fair and square for us.

How did you feel about the crop of talent over the course of season 2?

You win some and you lose some. We met some incredible artists who we never expected would get on our show ever, just because I would think ‘d–n, I wouldn’t think you would need us,’ but then they come on and you’re like ‘wow, well thank you for whooping our a–.’ You never know how a tattoo is going to go just because when you have the spotlight on you, you could freeze up. It’s a little bit of both.

I was talking to Ryan about this [recently] — you three travel so much for this show that I imagine that there have to be points where you wake up and don’t remember what city you are in. Does that happen?

Absolutely. Almost every day. We would have so many things happen that we wouldn’t really have a point of reference as to where we were. We would often be like ‘hey, do you remember that thing that happened a couple of weeks ago?’ and then be like ‘where were we?’ … It gets a little exhausting. It’s like that one moment in This Is Spinal Tap where they have to go out on stage and they have to greet the crowd and they’re like ‘hello, Cleveland!’ and they’re not in Cleveland. I get so disoriented.

When you visited some of these cities, did they meet some of your expectations?

The most fun thing about traveling for me is that when I’m going to these cities I’m breaking the stereotype of everything that I thought that city was; or, they’re exactly what that stereotype was. Some flyover Midwestern cities we thought were going to suck, and some of them were actually absolutely incredible. Then, some of them felt like we were in a time capsule back to 1991 and we wanted to wear washed-out denim and poof our hair up.

How has your friendship evolved with Ryan and Kelly since the start of the show?

We met each other without any understanding of who we are as people on Ink Master, and when you go through something so difficult as a group you bond because you have that thing in common. It was the only support system we had. Then, when we went out for season 1 it was so jarring and crazy to experience. We were kind of just running blind and looking at each other to see if we were doing it right along the way.

I think this time we had seen everything that we’d done, where we’d looked back and wanted to get better. We’re also very honest with each other and were going back to forth about how to make this the best experience possible. We knew the good of it and the bad of it and wanted to make this the best process possible. We wanted to enjoy it so that it was worth the sacrifice and the traveling and all of the crazy s–t. They’re the best support systems I’ve ever had when it comes to friends. We go through things so strange that no other friend will understand about you.

Are you already starting to think about a potential season 3?

It’s something that you should always prepare for in case because it’s a huge part of your life that you have to prepare for it. You have to prepare financially, mentally, with your personal life and all this stuff. It’s in the back of my head but I don’t have any plans or expectations. If we do get a season 3 it just shows that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing something right.

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