Celeb Tattoo Artist JonBoy on Instagram Fame, Trends, and Inking Kylie and Bieber
If there’s one thing that celebs love more than tattoos, it’s tiny tattoos. Like, really tiny. Think back to Justin Bieber’s cross tattoo on his face (what, you didn’t know? Exactly! That’s how small it is), Kendall Jenner‘s white dot on her finger, or any of Hailey Baldwin‘s 17 (!) mini tats. Yup, Gen Z-ers love their delicate ink.
What do all those tattoos have in common (besides their size, of course)? They were done by New York-based tattoo artist JonBoy. The artist is widely known as the go-to guy for delicate ink in celeb circles, and word is quickly spreading, as his wildly popular Instagram account has over 516,000 followers. Recently, Jon Boy stopped by Yorkdale’s Concept space, and we chatted with him about fame, religion and tattoo trends.
“I’ve been tattooing for 17 years,” says Jon Boy (whose real name is Jonathan Valena). “I did a formal apprenticeship with Kevin Fitzgerald, who’s an old biker guy. Prior to that I was going to school to be a youth pastor. I thought I was going to be preaching behind the pulpits to people and making an impact on youth.” (Side note: clearly he’s still making an impact on the younger generation.) “Now it’s cool being the guy you go to in New York. I feel like I have an eye for aesthetics and making sure it looks timeless, classy, sophisticated, and sexy at the same time.”
FASHION: When did you realize you were on your way to becoming well-known, both in celeb circles and on Instagram?
JB: “Instagram is kind of like my little diary. When I go back and look at pictures and see how everything is in line with how I approach things, I think, ‘Wow, I have a way of seeing things differently.’ For me, placement is key. There’s nothing worse than having an awesome tattoo that’s looking misplaced. I want tattoos to look like they belong there. [They need to] line up with the natural flow of the body”
FASHION: Why do you think tiny tattoos are so popular right now?
JB: “They’re so discreet and sophisticated. They look like little accessories. And they’re quick to get. The tattoo takes 10 to 15 minutes so they’re easy to get. The coolest compliment someone gave me was ‘You made it okay for us to get these little tattoos.’ Up until a couple years ago, and even now, some tattooers would say no to tattoos like that. They try to change your idea. But I can do it. I think a lot of these artists are scared and they don’t know. I was, too. I wasn’t doing those small tattoos. I’d tell people, ‘I don’t want to do white [ink]. I don’t want to do tattoos on the fingers. It’s not going to look right, or it’ll fade on you and you’ll need a touchup.’ It’s a little more high maintenance and yes, they’re harder to do, but I’ve come up with a formulas. There are so many variables in making sure you apply a technically sound tattoo that’ll continue looking like that as it ages. If you’re not using the right needles and the right inks, of course it’s going to look like a big blob. I’ve been doing it long enough to see how tattoos age.”
FASHION:I heard you’re a big fan of Dr. Woo.
JB: “When I was saying no to all these people who wanted small, minimal tattoos, I discovered Dr. Woo and was like, ‘This guy is fucking killing it. He’s so good.’ I’d watch him and be in awe and think, ‘How does he do it?’ and as I watched him I stared doing it. I’ve never met him. I’m almost scared because this guy’s my hero. What if he doesn’t like me? I watched him and he inspired me to figure it out. The tattoo world holds a lot of secrets. We’re very secretive with information because it’s something you have to earn. I’d love to work with him so I could pick his brain.”
FASHION: You let celebs tattoo you after you’re done. What’s your fave celeb-done tattoo?
JB: “Yeah, it’s a cool way of getting their autograph on me. I would say Kylie’s is my favourite. That was fun. It’s a little faded. It was a night where it was Kylie, Jordyn Woods, and Justine Skye and I all hanging out. The first real celebrity tattoo was Hailey’s. It says 3:20. It stands for Ephesians 3:20. ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.’ [It means that] God is able to do above and beyond our expectations and imaginations. It’s dear to me. I live every day knowing I’m living the dream beyond my expectations.”
Browse the photos below to see some of JonBoy’s work.