Tucson native Anthony Michaels has arguably become the most in-demand tattoo artist in the Old Pueblo.
After winning the seventh season of the reality show "Ink Master" in late May, Michaels' tattoo appointments filled up through the entire foreseeable future.
Along with bringing more business to his workplace, Metro Tattoo on East Speedway Boulevard, winning "Ink Master" also scored Michaels a $100,000 cash prize, a magazine spread and bragging rights of the "Ink Master" title.
However, Michaels entered the competition solely with the intention of improving his craft and representing Tucson to a national audience.
“Hell no I did not think I was going to win," Michaels said. "I just thought that I’m here to represent my family, I’m here to represent my shop, and I’m here to represent Tucson."
Michaels credited the show's various challenges to helping him come out of his shell and grow as an artist.
“I’m much faster now and I definitely know what direction I want to take with my career,” Michaels said.
Although "Ink Master" reached out to him first, Michaels said the producers had doubts in the beginning about how he would fit in on reality TV. With his mellow demeanor and reserved persona, "Ink Master" was unsure if Michaels could create situational tension on the show, something that reality TV relies on.
“Other contestants would try to start drama with me but I wasn’t going to go in there yelling and making a scene, that’s just not me," Michaels said. "I was there to focus and tattoo."
Although the initial strife of working 12 to 16 hour days was difficult for Michaels, not having his phone and not being able to talk to his family were the biggest challenges.
Despite this strict regiment, Michaels insisted that the show isn't scripted. Instead, the producers ask the contestants to be a more amplified version of themselves and to create situational drama.
But Michaels had always been shy. Growing up he used art and sports as a way to express himself.
“I’ve been an artist my whole life." Michaels said. "I was drawing and painting before I could even speak because I had a speech impediment. So art was just a way for me to relax and relieve stress."
Michaels inspiration to become a tattoo artist initially came from a teacher he had who was tatted up. After seeing his teacher's tattoos, Michaels realized that one day he could draw something that would stay permanently on someone’s body.
“This idea of forever clicked with me," Michaels said. "I have always wanted to impact peoples lives and I just realized that this was a way for me to do that—with my art."
Michaels will continue to work at Metro Tattoo where he's worked for over six years. He also plans on spending more time drawing and painting, in the hopes of showing off Tucson's overlooked art scene while impacting as many people as he can.
“I felt like I was showcasing my city and bringing a little bit of the culture in Tucson to people and letting them know about the significant things that are happening here,” Michaels said.
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