Happy Birthday to our beloved Kat Von D, who turns the big 3-0 today! It’s hard to believe the Mexican-Argentinean tattoo artist and reality TV star has only really been in the national spotlight for about eight years. But her meteoric rise to fame and acclaim shouldn’t come as a surprise! After all, she’s one talented artista with personality and tattoos for days! Here’s a look at the 10 things you may not know about the one-time Latina cover star.
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My Name is…
She may be recognized under her registered trademark Kat Von D, but the tattoo artist, model and television personality’s birth name is actually Katherine von Drachenberg.
Von D—the daughter of missionary parents from Argentina—was born in Nuevo León, Mexico and moved with her family to the Los Angeles area at age 4.
Let the Music Play
Von D, a classically trained pianist, credit hers paternal grandmother for her love of music and art. She’d later embrace her punk rock side by listening to acts like the Ramones and Misfits. Her list of favorites includes The Mars Volta and Selena. For Kat, life is all about music! “It’s influenced every part of my life from how I dress, to how I talk, to how I tattoo,” says Von D. “Probably the tattoos I get most excited about are music influenced.”
Calling it a form of self expression, Von D got her first tattoo when she was 14. “I didn’t do this as an attention seeking act of rebelling,” Von D once told PR.com. “It was more, I actually just like this and I want to get tattooed, and I want it so much that I don’t care if other people treat me differently.” She now has too many to count!
I Love LA
Von D, who quit school at 16 to become a tattoo artist, credits Los Angeles’ Latino culture as a major influence on her tattoo style and art. “When I first started tattooing I didn’t even know it was a job,” Von D tells PR.com. “I did it because I loved it. I think that attitude helps keep me grounded.”
Tat’s The Way
IN 2005, Von D got her big break on TLC’s reality TV show Miami Ink when the network asked that a female be added to the all-male mix. “I didn’t understand the premise until the show actually came out,” admits Von D. “It was more based on the story behind each tattoo and the dynamics between the client and the [artist].” She appeared in the first season before a falling out with a colleague at 305 Ink led to her departure.
Von D landed her own TLC series, LA Ink, which chronicled her work at her tattoo shop, High Voltage Tattoo, in Hollywood. During the show’s four seasons, Kat saw her popularity skyrocket. The Eagles of Death Metal named a song after her shop called “High Voltage,” saying "I wrote that for Kat Von D, because that girl's bad ass." And, she’d even land in the Guinness World Records for the most tattoos (400) given by a single person in 24 hours.
New York Times Best Seller
Von D released her first book—High Voltage Tattoo, a compilation of her artworks and tattoos—in January 2009. It reached #6 on The New York Times Best Seller list. She described the book as "… kind of like a picture-driven outline of my career as an artist. So, you see everything from my drawings when I was six to tattoos that have never before been seen." Von D’s second book, The Tattoo Chronicles, an illustrated diary following a year in her life, was released in October 2010.
Makeup, Festivals & Art Galleries, Oh My!
In recent years, Von D has expanded her business empire beyond tattoos. She created and launched a make-up line for Sephora in 2008; and she has released new collections every year. She even expanded the line to include fragrances. She’s also the founder of the MusInk Tattoo Convention and Music Festival, which began in 2008. And in September 2010, Von D opened an art gallery and boutique Wonderland Gallery in the space next door to High Voltage Tattoo.
The Look of Love
Von D married fellow tattoo artist Oliver Peck in 2003, but they were divorced in 2007. She’d go on to date Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx for about two years and have an on-again, off-again relationship West Coast Choppers CEO and reality-show star Jesse James. They’d even get engaged before ending their nearly two-year courtship.