Strikingly tattooed from head to toe, California girl Kat Von D has built an empire out of individuality and brought new meaning to the concept of beauty. Born Katherine Von Drachenberg, the impassioned 26-year-old tattoo artist has become a household name by teaming up with cable network TLC, which airs her reality TV series L.A. Ink, and Sephora, the backer for eponymous makeup line. Now, the young entrepreneur is releasing her first book, High Voltage Tattoo.
“It’s basically an outline of my life as an artist from the age of six to now,” she says of High Voltage Tattoo. “My mom saved all my artwork and stuff, so it’s a very photo-driven book, but there’s some writing in there, too.”
In addition to chronicling her career, High Voltage Tattoo features detailed explanations of Kat’s body work as well as stories about the her celebrity friends, including Slayer’s Kerry King, Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Margaret Cho, Jackass’ Bam Margera and David Letterman. The foreword was also written by boyfriend and bassist Nikki Sixx.
On the brink of her book release, Kat talks to the Aquarian about her two true loves—music and tattooing—and what comes with being the most widely recognizable tattoo artist in the world today.
At what point did you fall in love with music? Were you ever in a band?
I was never in a band, but I’ve always loved music. I started playing classical piano when I was six years old. My grandmother was a pianist so my brother sister and I were classically trained, and I still play. Once I got obsessed with Beethoven, it really kind of sprung an interest in music [for me]. I think, without Beethoven you wouldn’t have metal.
With all that’s going on in your life, how much time do you actually have for tattooing?
I tattoo everyday. I’m actually going to therapy about it because I need to take a day off. I don’t know if bad workaholic-ism is a problem, but yeah, today I’ll tattoo. Some days I get to do more tattoos than other days, depending on if I have interviews or photo shoots or if we’re filming, but for the most part I tattoo from noon to about 10 p.m.
You’re one of the most recognizable tattoo artists out there, but you also represent Latinas and strong, independent women. Do you feel a sense of responsibility to be good or do great things given your high profile status?
I do feel a responsibility, especially being on television. Everything I do and say affects somebody in one way or another. I just celebrated my first year being sober and now the last thing on my list of vices to get rid of or to work on is to quit smoking. You won’t see me smoking on the last season. Kids think that that’s cool and I don’t want to do that. I hate smoking, and it’s one of those things that’s been the hardest to quit. I think it’s good to lead by example. For me, I feel responsibility like you said, not just to the tattoo industry, but women in general, Latinas, the Latino community and artists. Everything you say makes a difference. I just don’t want to be that guy, you know?