Ryan Ashley Malarkey is the Ink Master and Role Model we all hoped for.

When Ryan Ashley Malarkey won Ink Master 8, viewers exclaimed it was about time. The simple fact is women are intrinsic to the tattoo industry and have been contributing for decades. These ladies represent a group whose skill excels in an industry that has long been typically male.

The tattoo industry traces back thousands of years and according to the Smithsonian tattooed individuals could be any class in society. Maori women were denied their heritage during colonialism. It was during the 80’s that Maori society sought to reclaim their culture and women started seeking Tā moko artists to apply their moko kauae (tattoo). Throughout time you can see the history of numerous societies through their art-adorned bodies.

This history of tattoo is NOT one that is strictly male with artists and recipients being of both sexes. It was during tattoos growth that it became a male dominated profession and wrapped in secrecy. Ladies like “Shanghai” Kate Hellenbrand and Kari Barba dove headfirst into the profession during the 70’s and kept pushing forward often exceeding their male peers and opened the gates for women today.

Kate is no fan of Ink Master and will quickly share how she feels but she does believe in the women of this industry and will staunchly stand in their defense. She is also brutally honest and said of Ryan Ashley’s win when someone said “Ink Mistress” she quickly interjected “Why does the title need to change? She’s an Ink Master and that’s what she should be called.”

What the Ink Master Victory Meant

Season eight of Ink Master brought that programs first female victory. Ryan Ashley Malarkey fought tooth and nail to win the competition and show 1.8 million viewers each week what some people had already seen: Female tattoo artists can and do tattoo just as good, or better, than their male counterparts.

Many of the winners of Ink Master carry the mantle well and represent the industry in an incredibly positive light. Ryan has taken this a step, hell a leap, further as she shares with her fans on social media the glitz and glam she’s found in the title. Recently she took to her Instagram to open up about herself: “Seeing this image makes me feel strong, powerful and proud. I'd like to take a second to remind my supporters- especially my young and impressionable fans- that even though this shoot was AMAZING, it wasn't REAL LIFE.”

The Instagram post continues to expose the reality of who Ryan is. She discusses how her hair and skin isn’t perfect and how people should look beyond social media and the glamor portrayed. This post came on the heels of her Inked Magazine photo shoot where she looked beautiful, strong and fierce.

Just a week ago Ryan posted a photo which took guts. The photo was of her with no make-up on and a message about perfection. Ryan posted "It’s so important to embrace all of your imperfections and take a break…" She continues the Instagram post discussing health issues and how they affected her everyday life. She let down her mask for a moment so she could share the reality of being a person vs. the persona of being a REALITY star.

While Ink Master may not be the greatest thing to happen to the industry; it has been good for women tattoo artists. There are still people unwilling to go to a female artist, and they are, without a doubt, missing out on some of the best work out there.

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