Kelly Doty, one of the finalists in last season’s “Ink Masters,” has seen her life rapidly changing the past year. Her appearance at the 19th annual Tattoo Arts Convention in Philadelphia is no accident. She’s been at this since middle school, and soon, she’ll be celebrating one year of owning her tattoo shop in Salem, Massachusetts. Along the way, she’s learned that when women come together, their power is even more significant and pronounced.
One of the remarkable things about the most recent season of “Ink Masters” was the predominant presence of female tattoo artists. The show has long been dominated by their male counterparts, but Season 8 saw Doty competing alongside the likes of Nikki Simpson, Philadelphia native Gia Rose and winner Ryan Ashley Malarkey (all of whom will be in attendance at the convention). Malarkey’s victory was historic, as she was the first woman to win “Ink Masters.” Doty was right there at the top with Malarkey, qualifying as a finalist. The victory for Malarkey can be seen as a collective win for all female tattoo artists.
Doty spoke highly of the women competing on the show. “There were so many people that were really good human beings and really good artists. I was expecting it to be more cutthroat but it wasn't,” Doty says. “I got to work with them and found out that they’re awesome people who are like-minded and have the same goals. Women don't have to tear each other down in order to achieve.”
Having a sisterhood form between contestants brought out the best in Doty and the others. They didn’t have to tear each other down, but there are other fights where Doty and women like her will have to tear something down. “I've been fortunate that I've had a vast majority of positive experiences,” Doty says. “At the same time, I can't deny that I've had experiences where the fact that I was a woman came before my talent.”
Doty gives the following advice to aspiring female artists of any kind: “Be ready to work your butt off. If you do it right, that’s going to be what life is like for the rest of your career. Become obsessed and have a romantic relationship with [your art]. Be prepared to work twice as much as men.”
The Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention’s roster features many other female tattoo artists, including “Ink Masters” alums Ashley Velazquez, Duffy Fortner, Katie McGowan, Marisa LaRen, Alli Baker and more. The convention arrives Feb. 10-12 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Find out more at villainarts.com.