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Celebrity Ink: SVA’s Jenai Chin Talks Tattooing Superstars

From V Magazine: “For our January issue, Mario Testino collaborated with tattoo artist Jenai Chin to bring his punk fantasy to life on the bodies of supermodels Kendall Jenner, Joan Smalls, Lara Stone, and more—an extensive process that took hours to complete. A lifelong New Yorker, Chin has become known for her pin-up-inspired aesthetic, and has worked with everyone from Beyoncé to Taylor Swift. Here, she shares behind-the-scenes moments from the shoot, her most memorable tattoos, and what it really means to get inked.

Walk me through the artwork for the shoot. How did you come up with the tattoos?

Jenai Chin: First, we talked about doing pin-up versions of each of the cover girls, which I love because the style I usually do is traditional style tattoos. So I came up with variations to represent each of the girls. And then, as we moved along in the process, I had an epiphany moment in the shower, and it was like: what I should probably do is for each of the girls that we’re going to feature, have the tattoos that were on them in the shoot, represented in the actual tattoos. Joan [Smalls] got a heartbreaker heart and I put her into that for the tattoo that comes with the issue. Lara [Stone] loved the horseshoe I did on her for the shoot, so she got a horseshoe that says “Lucky You.” I had done a snake on Kendall [Jenner] wrapped up on her leg, so I had her wrapped into one for her tattoo. So each of the girls got a representation of the tattoos they had.

What medium did you use for the illustrations?

JC: These are all tattoo inks and watercolor.

Tell me about the shoot. How long did it take to tattoo each girl? What was the energy like on set?

JC: It was so much fun. I feel like I’m so lucky because it’s something so different from what the girls are traditionally used to, like makeup or body painting. But tattoos aren’t something that a lot of people get in a shoot. I had a lot of drawings that I brought with me. The way I work with it is that I’ll have a drawing; I’ll make a stencil of it and the stencil is made out of the same things that we do for real tattoos, so that goes onto the skin and instead of me using a needle and ink, I just use paint and airbrushing. Depending on what each girl got, the tattoo could have run anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half. Kendall's was very large with a lot of line work..." (For the full interview and an image slideshow, click here)

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