I walked into Black Ink in Harlem and found Ceasar totally in his element. There he was sitting at his station, drawing a mock up of what I’m presuming was someone’s tattoo. For months now, people have been trying to get me in the same space as both Ceasar Emanuel and Dutchess Lattimore for an interview and finally the time had come, well partially. The Black Ink Crew is in the middle of shooting season five and on the day of my sit down with Ceasar and Dutchess, she was in the middle of shooting scenes. Everyone was under the impression that by the time I showed up late in the afternoon that the production crew would have wrapped for the day. This interview however continued; I did manage to speak with Dutchess on the phone during one of her breaks. A lot has been said about the power couple of the tattoo world and they are aware of all it. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking you know a persons life in forty-five minutes of reality television. So I wanted to get a better idea of who Ceasar and Dutchess really are, the man and woman whose love blossomed before viewer’s eyes, the couple behind a budding brand of tattoo artist on the brink of building an empire.
KM: You guys have taken tattooing, the popularity of the show and some would say becoming a mogul, are you setting yourself up for that type of status?
Ceasar: I’m trying, you know what’s so difficult about this journey that I’m on, I don’t really have a blueprint. No one in this profession has done the things I’ve done and want to do. So it’s like where do I go from here and I’m writing the blueprint as I go so kids, the next generation who want to get into this profession can have a map of what I did to get here. There will be some stumbles along the way but it was like that for most pioneers but I’m like one of the first to crossover from underground to commercial in the tattooing industry.
Dutchess: We really are trying to do something different, something that hasn’t been done. We are expanding our brand with my shop in North Carolina, ‘Pretty in Ink’ and I’m also putting out a coffee table book with the same name. The book goes beyond the ink and dwells on the stories behind the ink. We are also looking to combine one shop where there is a Pretty in Ink on one side and Black Ink on the other side. We are trying to decide which city we want to go into.
Ceasar: Yeah, one thing that I haven’t seen in this industry is franchising and I want us to be the first to do it. We are looking at expanding to other cities.
KM: What has this journey been like for you guys, since season one until now?
Ceasar: It’s been a long journey because it’s an unpaved road. A lot of people wouldn’t have made it this long but there’s only so much that the viewer gets to see about us. No one is there when Dutchess goes to braids my grandmother’s hair and sees how my grandmother lights up when she walks in the room. It’s very difficult because I know Dutchess and she’s not at all how she’s portrayed on television. So the difficult part for me is the outside criticism.
KM: What has it been like for you guys working as a couple?
Dutchess: It’s a gift and a curse, you see each other too much and sometimes you don’t see each other enough. It just depends on the situation and the circumstance. We agree and sometimes we disagree. It’s a different experience and sometimes people can’t handle it but we have been doing pretty good at it.
KM: Can you give us any inside scoop on what’s ahead in season five?
Ceasar: It’s going to be a crazy season for sure.
Dutchess: It’s going to be completely different from what people expect it to be. There are a lot of new characters and situations and my hope is that people will watch and see the growth in who people really are instead of the characters that they create to portray.
In the spirit of creativity, Ceasar and Dutchess have transformed the way you look at the urban ink industry. The groundbreaking show is so successful that a spinoff series films in the city of Chicago. It’s clear that the power couple of body art is attempting to move away from their checkered and sometimes dramatic past to pave a future more suited for commercial success. There is no yellow brick road to becoming a mogul in the tattooing world but Ceasar and Dutchess are drawing up the blueprint so that those behind them can take their canvas and paint pictures of their own.
‘Black Ink Crew’ returns to VH1 in 2017.