Inked Angels: Where are you originally from?
Léa: Originally I’m from France, but I’ve been in the U.S. for 16 years.
Inked Angels: What brought you to the U.S.?
Léa: My ex-husband. I met him in the south of France and we stayed there for three years, then came here. When I met him, I was really into tattoos. It was in the early 90’s, so it was still very underground. Back then there wasn’t many girls getting tattoos.
Inked Angels: What sparked your interest in tattooing?
Léa: I was always an artsy kid. When I was a little kid, I was always drawing and stuff. When I was a teenager, I was always going to concerts and listening to the new stuff that was out. I’d always draw flyers for my friends bands, they’d ask me to draw them. All my friends were getting tattooed and I was really into it. Then I met my ex-husband who was from the U.S. and he was covered in full sleeves and I thought that was so cool. He suggested we move to the U.S. because there was more stuff going on in the tattoo world. In my town, there was two tattoo shops, the good one and the bad one. The good shop was doing custom work and winning awards and was attending conventions. The bad shop was where the underage kids went or the people with only twenty bucks on them. Now there’s like 50 shops in my town.
Inked Angels: You do modeling, painting and tattooing, do you enjoy one more than the other?
Léa: No, it’s three completely different things and it all depends on the mood I’m in. Modeling is super fun, playing dress up, it’s a girl thing. I love tattooing, it’s amazing to be able to change somebody’s appearance and to make people happy. It’s my contribution to the world. When I’m done with the tattoo, the clients are stoked and it makes me happy. It’s demanding and there is no room for mistakes, you have to be right on, you have to be concentrating and 100%. You can’t really erase it. Painting, you can do whatever. You can erase it, you can go over it, it’s more free painting. But on the other hand, with painting you’re alone. I like tattooing because you’re always hanging out with somebody, they bring their friends, it’s a social thing. Painting, you work by yourself, alone in a room with your painting until it’s done and you show it to everybody. It’s all about pushing it and taking it further. When I first modeled when I was 14 or 15 years old, I was doing some fashion show and doing shoots, then when I was 18 I got my first tattoo and nobody wanted a girl with a tattoo. It was tough to find modeling gigs. Just about 5 years ago when tattooing became popular I got a lot of attention from photographers so I got back into it. I like now how the photographers can use Photoshop and turn the pictures into a work of art. I like using my body that I feel I transformed into a piece of art.
Inked Angels: Do you have any hobbies you enjoy doing in your free time?
Léa: I’m never bored, I’m always doing something. I don’t have much free time between doing modeling, painting and tattooing, but when I do, I enjoy traveling and eating delicious food.
Inked Angels: Do you have a favorite city you like to visit?
Léa: I like a lot of cities for different reasons, but I love Paris. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I love Rome, it’s a beautiful old city. What I love about Rome is that it’s this beautiful old city and it has the Roman ruins in the middle of the city and the Vatican is right there. You’ll be walking down the street and you’ll see a couple of punk rockers and across the street you’ll see some old Nuns. There are reminders all over that you should behave, that religion is here and you shouldn’t get too crazy.
Inked Angels: How was your experience with the Ink Master show?
Léa: Now that I’ve had some time to digest it, and with years of therapy that I’ll have to go through to feel better. No actually, the thing with Ink Master is we did the original show and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We didn’t know who we were going to compete against, who the judges were going to be, we didn’t know who the host was going to be or anything about how the challenges or competitions were going to be set up. The only thing I knew was I was going to be living with 9 or 10 other tattooists and I was told I wasn’t going to have any privacy. It was a great experience, what I really loved was meeting all those other great artists and got to check out their work. I learned so much from them. The challenges and competitions were so hard because of the complete unknown. I was a mess the first day I got there.
Inked Angels: That had to be your first time tattooing a dead pig?
Léa: It was fun, when I got in the locker I was super excited. I always wanted to tattoo a pig. I didn’t do good in that challenge because the wardrobe people picked a summer outfit for me to wear in the locker. I was wearing a little summer dress and shoes in a 55 degree fridge, I wasn’t too happy about that. I had heels and on the concrete floor there was this thick coating of slimy grease. It wasn’t the best place to wear high heels. I just had to sit down and anchor myself on the chair and tattoo whatever part of the pig was just in front of me. The judges were right next to me. The way that it’s filmed is exactly how it happened, but of course the days were longer. It took like 10 hours to get like 30 minutes worth of TV show, everything is condensed. When I first got there, we met everybody, then Dave (Navarro) came out of the building and introduced himself as the host and the other judges. We were all pumped. I was really shocked to see Dave as the host because I really love Dave Navarro.
Inked Angels: How fair did you think the critiques were on the Ink Master show? Did you agree with a lot of what they said?
Léa: Yeah, I mean they were brutal, but they had to because it was television, everyone wants drama on TV. They took everyone on the show that was giving them drama and took that and ran with it. Some people had more drama because they were giving it to them. I did my best not to give them any, I just wanted to do my job and do it the best I could by just presenting the tattooing. The clients were a challenge, I didn’t know it was going to be like that, it was the last thing I thought. They don’t realize you have to take a lot of things into consideration, the size of the design, the amount of time to do it, the details, the placement on the body, the type of skin, there are some many different things to a good tattoo. Anyone can do a good tattoo but to do a great amazing tattoo like a masterpiece there are a lot of areas that have to align. On the show, I ended up with a lot of people that wanted big work in the small amount of time that we had. I could pull it off in that amount of time but I couldn’t do a masterpiece.
Inked Angels: You’re a Jane’s Addiction fan?
Léa: Yeah, I love them. I grew up in the late 80’s and 90’s, and I grew up with their music. For me, Jane’s Addiction were one of the main bands and one of the bands that changed the music world. Everything in the 80’s were all hair metal. ‘Nothing Shocking’ came out in ’87 and it was big, they were the sound of the 90’s for me. I always thought Dave was one of the hottest guys in the world. He’s the incarnation of rock and roll bad boy. He’s so talented and a visionary with what they did with Jane’s Addiction. I couldn’t imagine the music world not having them. Their music was part of the soundtrack of my life.
We appreciate Lea taking the time to do this interview. Please make sure to stop by her website, Léa’s Lounge, for updates on her projects, to check out her tattoo and artwork, to purchase prints from her store and much much more!