Dan Lorenzo: You started in the fashion industry. Was there a defining moment where you decided to transition into the tattoo business?
Ryan Ashley Malarkey: As far back as I can remember, I've been an artist. I just wanted a career that allowed me to, you know, realistically do art and make money and have some stability. I always wanted to tattoo. I just didn't think it was realistic for me. I went into fashion, but the whole time I really wanted to tattoo. I thought, "OK, if I don't get into this fashion school, then I'm going to start tattooing. I went to F.I.T. and at the time they only accepted one applicant out of every two hundred. So when I got accepted I was like, "Alright. I'm not going to miss out on this opportunity. Tattooing can wait. I'm going to go to school." It was crazy that I got accepted. I graduated and I thought, "If I don't get a job within the next couple of months, I'm going to take it as a sign and I'm going to start tattooing." Then right as I graduated a job just fell into my lap. I did that for almost five years at that job and it was great, but I felt really unfulfilled. I decided I didn't want to let any more time pass and I took the plunge.
So you weren't tattooing at all when you had that job in the fashion business?
Nope. I did not do any tattooing at all because I had a full time job. I had a great position. I was making a ton of money... but I said, "Fuck it." I left everything. All my benefits, all that stuff to move back home to Pennsylvania just to become a "student" again basically and start an apprenticeship.
Is this the year we'll finally see a female artist win Ink Master?
[laughs] I hope so! I think that it's time. I don't think in any way any of the guys are not deserving just because they're dudes. I hope that the best artist wins, but of course I'm a little biased and I hope the best artist is one of the girls. I think all of the ladies this year work really hard.
It seemed like you were accusing at least one of your male cast members of sexism. Is that true?
It is true and there was this huge uproar on the internet after the show. A lot of the viewers didn't understand why some of us girls thought that there was like... they were aiming for the girls, but the truth of the matter is so much happens behind the scenes that is not on camera and so much is said and done... the viewers forget that when the show's not being taped, we live together. We live in one loft together, so the way that we feel about each other isn't just derived from the 42 minutes that people get to see. We feel that Dave [Robinowitz] was throwing the hard skull picks at the girls, which is fine - we can take it. We weren't pissed about that, we were pissed because he was bullshitting us saying, "I gave the hardest skull pick to Matt." Then he would talk to somebody else and say, "I gave the hardest skull picks to the girls because blah, blah, blah." He was telling every single person a different thing and a different reason, and we just wanted him to be a man and 'fess up, but he couldn't do that. We thought he was very two-faced and... sexist. He kind of grossed me out personally by some of the stupid shit that he said.
OK, sexism still exists, but the reciprocal of that is, I have 2,000 Instagram followers and you have over 200,000. You had well over 100,000 before you were even on Ink Master. Do you think that's because of your art, your looks, or a combination?
[laughs] Well I think that for me personally, I would love to believe that people follow me because of my art, but I'm realistic. I understand people follow me for all kinds of different reasons. Some people follow me because they love my artwork, and those people I appreciate and cherish the most. Some people follow me because they think I'm hot, which is fine. I follow a bunch of hot chicks, they're beautiful to look at and especially people that are creative or artistic, you love beautiful things. I like to be known as multifaceted. I don't want to just be known as "the hot chick" on the show. I try as hard as I can to prove that I have many other layers that are valuable, that are just as interesting and important. My drive and my skill and my vision. A lot of people follow me because I'm engaged to a very popular musician [Josh Balz from the band Motionless In White]. For whatever reason that people follow me, I do the best that I can to provide people with the most beautiful images that I can and I hope that I'm appreciated as a cool artist.
As you were speaking I just got a text from Megan Jean Morris and that got me wondering: Who were your favorite past contestants on Ink Master?
Speaking of Megan Jean, I am a huge fan of Megan Jean. I think that she's creative and talented beyond her years. I think that she's one of the best artists that has ever graced Ink Master and I can't say enough good things about her. There's been a whole slew of artists on Ink Master who are extremely talented. I love Megan Jean, I love Sarah Miller. I really love Jesse Smith. I love... there's a bunch from previous seasons.
I'm getting a little confused with Team Peck vs. Team Nunez. Don't you think that it's kind of hard for them to critique their own team members?
Absolutely. It was really confusing for us as well. We were confused initially by the format just because it was such a curve ball. Nobody expected the "teams" at all and then once we found out we were on teams, we were thrown the curve ball of "OK, you picked your teams according to who you think are going to be the strongest players" and now you have to compete against your own team members until you get to the top five.
Time to get into the fun stuff. You told me you believe in extraterrestrial life. When are we finally going to have contact with visitors from other planets?
[laughs] We've been having contact with visitors from other planets for thousands of years. I think we're contacted every single day and we've been contacted every day since the Dawn of Man and it's just a matter of... mainstream media to finally admit it. I think that the proof is all over the place and people just have a hard time accepting the facts that are in front of them.
So you have no doubt. Everything is on video nowadays. Why is there nothing definitive on video?
[laughs] Because I feel that us as humans, we assume that when you say "alien" or "extraterrestrial" that means flesh and blood little green men, but it's not like that. I feel that extraterrestrial could mean all kinds of different forms. It doesn't need to be a physical form. There are so many different types of beings. In the 5th or 6th dimensions, there could be light beams or spirits and entities that could show us signs. It doesn't need to be a physical little dude waving at us. I think NASA has tons of video evidence.
We'll have to talk more about that in the future. Time for the last question. You're twenty-nine. How do you feel about turning thirty soon?
I don't want to be thirty! Thank God for Botox. Honestly that's probably the best answer for you.
Check Ryan out on Instagram @ryanashleymalarkey