She's got some new ink! Fans who tuned in to Nicki Minaj's Instagram Live last week were in for a treat — they got to watch the queen of rap get her second tattoo, courtesy of tattoo artist and Black Ink Crew: Chicago star Ryan Henry. Now, Ryan has exclusively revealed all of the details about what it was like to have the honor of tattooing Nicki to Life & Style, and he even teased what fans can expect to see once Nicki shows her new tattoo to the world.
"We purposely didn’t show people what it was because it had something to do with her new up and coming album and also with her documentary," Ryan revealed to Life & Style. "For now, she wanted to keep it private and I respect and understood that. We left it as a teaser for her fans to think and wonder what her tattoo might be since her last tattoo was 12 years ago."
Even though Nicki only has one tattoo, it's a very iconic piece and it a very big part of Nicki's overall look. On her upper left arm, Nicki has a string of Chinese characters that translates to "God is always with you." It's so symbolic to Nicki's brand that she even rapped about it in her hit song "Chun-Li" with the lines "B—-h, it's King Kong, this is King Kong / Chinese ink on, Siamese links on."
So how did Ryan get the opportunity to be the second tattoo artist to ink Nicki's skin? Ryan said the way he connected with Nicki is all thanks to his hit VH1 reality TV show, social media, and this new age of accessibility.
"With the level of me and my show, Black Ink Crew: Chicago, it’s a blessing to have so many people supporting it," Ryan said. "We found out last year through social media that Nicki was a supporter of the show and myself. So from that people would notice Nicki was following me and some other cast members from the show and she would comment from time to time and like pictures."
Ryan had gotten in contact with Nicki during a trip to LA and while he was there, he reached out to Nicki's people to send her a package of his girlfriend Rachel's nail polish line Pear Nova and while they were messaging, Nicki inquired about getting a new tattoo. And like the true boss b—-h that she is, Nicki knew exactly what design she wanted to get.
"Being the creative that she is, she had the idea for what she wanted to do in mind. And with her being a supporter of mine and what I do, she even knew that the way that I do art is that I freehand everything. So I don’t take stencil paper and take [flash] off the wall or print it up, I draw directly onto the skin, which a lot of people don’t know that that’s a form of art," Ryan explained.
But Ryan said Nicki was a little skeptical about letting Ryan draw her second tattoo ever directly onto her skin and while the creative process of designing a tattoo for any other client would take about 10-15 minutes, he really did something different for her. They both sat down as Ryan drew a few ideas up first and, since Nicki is a perfectionist when it comes to her own art, she felt comfortable being picky about her tattoo design.
"It wasn’t going to be the easiest process tattooing Nicki Minaj, but after some strenuous conversations about what would be perfect for her, we came up with it and got it a few hours later," Ryan said.
From the sneak peek that Ryan and Nicki gave fans during the Live, it seems like Nicki got a pink or red ink tattoo, which is very different from the traditional black ink that artists normally use. "Yeah, just as everybody knows, if they know Nicki, between Nicki having looks, from her hair colors to the extravagant way that she dresses, the tattoo won’t be directly just black ink," Ryan confirmed. "It’s not just a regular black ink tattoo piece."
Ryan also confirmed that Nicki's new tattoo is placed right at the bend of her wrist, which is a difficult place to get a tattoo for many reasons. "As I would do with most of my clients, I prepped her to let her know what this area would be like," Ryan said about inner wrist tattoos. "You know, if we go a little bit lower, we’re going to different skin levels that the ink on the skin might be fading over time cause you move your wrists over a thousand times a day so it’s a little difficult, you tattoo the skin differently because it’s thinner, there’s more nerve endings there, you have to protect the veins — all these things that we as artists have to take precaution to. And she understood it, it is a difficult place. I’ve tattooed some of the biggest people in the world and I’ve seen some of the biggest men fold getting a small tattoo on their wrist. I know how it feels and it does hurt and Nicki wasn’t shy about letting me know or Instagram Live how it felt."
While the placement of Nicki's tattoo was a challenge, Ryan also faced another challenge of tattooing Nicki on a busy day in her career. That day, she announced a tour, she released a new song, and she was also filming a music video. She flew Ryan out specifically to have him there so she could get tattooed in between commmitments, and Ryan had to follow order whenever she needed to take a break.
But thankfully, during a break from tattooing, Ryan was able to put some numbing cream on the area for Nicki so that she wouldn't have a more painful experience once he started to tattoo her again. He said that the cream helped Nicki out a little bit and they were able to finish the piece that day — which is all thanks to Ryan's intense preparation.
"I’ve been tattooing almost 10 years now and I've probably been in almost every setting from the south side of Chicago in the hood to me having different shops and studios, " Ryan explaiend. He said that with a premium client such as Nicki Minaj, she can't just walk into his tattoo shop 9Mag, so he knew he would have to go to her.
"Us as artists, we know how to prepare sanitation-wise and set up-wise in order to make it comfortable for ourselves and the clientele," Ryan continued. "I was prepared, but it’s still Nicki. I’ve done 10,000 tattoos before, but I can’t mess up on this one because I'm tattooing the queen."
Fans are dying to see Nicki's new tattoo, but they'll have to wait a little bit longer — and Ryan even teased that fans might get to watch the behind-the-scenes version during an upcoming episdoe of Black Ink Crew: Chicago. "I’ll say this — people will have to stay tuned," Ryan said. "The show follows my life and everything that goes with it and you know, this is just another step in what we do in life and the world gets to see that. They’ll most likely get to see it."
Be sure to catch Ryan on Black Ink Crew: Chicago, airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on VH1.