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Art Cantu on Miss World Inked 2018: A Pageant with Purpose

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PainfulPleasures: What is the history behind the Miss Inked pageant? When did it originate and how has it progressed?

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Art: The history behind our pageant is a pretty simple one. I had just conducted a photo shoot with a tattooed model that began her modeling name with “Miss.” I couldn’t remember the rest of the name, so I hopped on Facebook to search through all the “Miss” fan pages I followed. I basically started from the beginning of the alphabet and ended up at “Miss N.” I happened to notice a profile picture that looked like a tattooed individual with a sash, crown, and flowers. My curiosity took over and I looked further into “Miss New York Inked.” As I dug deeper into what this thing was about, I had figured something out. Texas has never held one of these pageants. I thought to myself that Texas can do one bigger and better, because we are Texas and everything is “Bigger and Better in Texas.”

I posted on Facebook about possibly putting on a pageant and wanted to know who wanted to participate; this was at 3 o’clock in the morning. I got a phone call within seconds of posting that and it was from a very dear friend of mine, Daniel "Junior” Costilla. Junior owns Urban’s Tattoo & Piercing Studios in Arlington, TX. He straight up told me that I needed to remove the post, because it was the best damn idea he’d ever heard. Junior has been a big influence, along with a few others, when it comes to Miss World Inked being what it is. Shoot, it wouldn’t even be around if it wasn’t for him constantly motivating me and helping me believe in myself. So, now we have the ONLY tattooed beauty pageant in the world that does it like we do.

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I did that Facebook search back in January of 2014, which was the same year we had the first ever Miss Texas Inked. We have gone through a few name changes to better accommodate our vision, but still hold the same values. In 2014, Miss Texas Inked was the beginning; we only allowed Texas residents to apply, and had a lot to improve for 2015. When 2015 rolled around, we rebranded to Miss Inked USA to unassociate ourselves from a bad brand and partnership. It was also a way to let the tattoo community know that we accepted submissions from all states. We had a few hiccups with production in 2015, and even announced an incorrect winner due to scorecard mixups. We did announce the correct winner a few days after the event. We received some backlash, but nothing we couldn’t overcome and make sure would never happen again.

Due to the drama of 2015, I decided to hold off on hosting a 2016 Miss Inked USA. I took time for myself to reflect and think if this was worth putting my reputation on the line for. 2016 came and went, and I had come to the realization that Miss Inked USA was something I wanted to go all in on. The 2017 Miss Inked USA was by far the best pageant we have had to date and involved a lot of great finalists, guests, and sponsors. The 2017 pageant allowed international submissions, even while being called Miss Inked USA. I used 2017 as somewhat of a testing year for international submissions — would we get any submissions, and if they were picked, would the applicants actually show up? The test passed with flying colors. Not only did the applicants from out of the country show up, one of them won the entire thing.

That test proved me right in thinking that the world was ready for what we are trying to do. World domination is not just something we think or say; it’s our goal to become the highest standard for tattooed beauty pageants. Here we are in 2018 and and we've rebranded from Miss Inked USA to Miss World Inked. The decision was pretty simple to make and one that just made sense. The progression so far has been shown through attendance, sponsors, guest involvement, and venue location.


The Miss Inked website states, “We believe that the world should see tattooed individuals make differences every day.” To embellish upon this statement, what does the Miss Inked pageant hope to accomplish for the tattooed community and the tattoo industry at large?

We are giving a platform for tattooed females to express themselves through our pageant. This platform will soon be a platform like the Oscars, Golden Globes, Billboard Awards, or MTV Awards. Yes, those are big-named events, but why can’t Miss World Inked be just as big? This platform isn’t just here for the finalists, but also our guests and sponsors — it’s to help get their company names out there as well. In just a few years time, Miss World Inked will start sponsoring our winners to travel around and do guest appearances of all sorts. We are already underway to start the process of sponsoring tattoo artists to travel to different tattoo conventions and represent our brand.


What does the Miss Inked pageant look for in a finalist? Are there any specific qualities you keep an eye out for when reviewing essay and photo submissions?

A finalist must have a great outlook on life, a great personality, and dope artwork. Coverage is always a big question every year. If the quality of the artwork is excellent, but there isn’t much coverage, then it’s a toss up for us. We ask ourselves, “Does this applicant have an equal opportunity to win as the other applicants?” So, it depends on what the other applicants' artwork looks like as well. A finalist with amazing artwork, but an average personality, we’ve seen it many times where that applicant does poorly in our Event Questions portion of the pageant. Our essay and photo submissions give a good idea of who and what these applicants bring to the table. We don’t stop there, though. My staff and I dive a bit deeper by going onto applicants' social media pages (Instagram, Facebook personal and fan pages). We also do Google searches and hashtag searches on each applicant that we feel has an opportunity to become a finalist. Is this a foolproof process? No, but it definitely helps us tremendously.

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What does the Miss Inked pageant look for in an event judge? What does it look for in a tattoo artist judge?

We do extensive searches on our judges that are to be involved in our pageant. We look at their influence throughout the tattoo community. We look at their experience with events such as ours. Sometimes, we just give some of them a shot to see if they can handle the responsibilities our event gives. These elements are for both tattoo artist and event judges.


What does it look for in the finalist who takes the crown?

Each one of our judges are given scorecards for each finalist. Each scorecard has certain criteria that the judges are to be looking at.


What have former Miss Inked finalists and winners gone on to accomplish in the past?

Our winners from 2014 & 2015 are not models and used our event as more of “getting out of our bubble” to prove to themselves and others wrong of the typical stereotype of tattooed individuals. Our 2017 winner, Sam Howlett from London, England, has gone on to become a Sullen Angel and has been published on big-named magazine covers. She’s also been able to shoot even more with very well-known photographers around the world.


What happens during the Miss Inked show? What’s the turnout usually like?

I’ll answer this question like I used to answer a question I got often (How was boot camp? Was it hard?) from friends and strangers about the Marine Corps (served from 2005 to 2009). Buy a ticket and come see what the hype is all about. Come be a part of our movement and a great event that brings the tattoo community together for a great night. Our turnout always depends on the venue and what the capacity amount is. 2014 & 2015 we went a bit too big, but for 2017 we came within 11 tickets to selling out the event. 2018 we are tripling our venue capacity to better accommodate what we will be doing.


This was the first year you planned on holding preliminaries; why was it cancelled?

Preliminaries were canceled due to the venue manager not confirming dates and sending a contract with what we had agreed upon. This put a sour taste in our mouth and we chose to pull out of the agreement. It felt as if the venue only wanted to make money off the event instead of truly believing in what we are trying to accomplish.

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Would you say this event is exclusive to people in the tattooed community, or does it extend a hand to those who know very little about the industry (or who have very little body art themselves)?

This event is for tattooed and non-tattooed individuals equally. We want everyone to enjoy this event and to understand what we do and why.


What are three words you would use to describe the overall vibe of the Miss Inked pageant?

Exciting. Unique. Loving.

Miss World Inked is still open to submissions. Submit your application by April 21, 2018 to be considered as a contestant. Twenty finalists will be announced on May 2, who will then go on to compete in Miss World Inked 2018 on September 15, 2018 in Phoenix, AZ. 

Buy your tickets now on the Miss Inked website, and give them a follow on Facebook to stay tuned to the latest announcements and information.