Uptown tattoo artist Amy Zager inks a client in Oxygen's "Best… (Ben Cohen/Oxygen )
"Best Ink" hits close to home for Chicagoans in its third season; the city can boast about contestant Amy Zager, an Uptown tattoo artist, and Pete Wentz, the show's host.
Fall Out Boy bassist Wentz is back for a second season of the show, currently airing at 9 p.m. Wednesdays on Oxygen. Zager is one of the 14 tattoo artists vying to create the best ink and win the tattoo competition in which they must complete a series of art and tattoo challenges judged by Joe Capobianco, Sabina Kelley and Hannah Aitchison.
The winner earns $100,000 and a cover story in Tattoo magazine.
"Obviously I'm not a tattoo artist, so this is the closest I'll be able to be part of that experience," Wentz told RedEye.
"Tattoos and tattoo culture had been something I've been interested in forever," the 34-year-old added, noting the opportunity to host "Best Ink" "made sense" for him. "I've been getting tattoos for about the last, wow, at this point it's almost 20 years--it was semi-illegal for the first couple years of that."
During the Season 3 premiere, the artists were asked to make the seven deadly sins come to life in a flash challenge and represent their clients' past sins with classic tattoo imagery in the ink challenge.
Zager, 26, won the first flash challenge, showing off the painting prowess she honed while earning a BFA in oil painting at the American Academy of Art in 2009.
"It was flippin' amazing," Zager said. "It was the coolest thing." The prize for the challenge was $1,000.
In the second episode, which aired Dec. 11, Zager ended up in the Top 3 again. Zager says she is used to the competitive atmosphere she experienced on the show.
"I was pretty comfortable with it; it's just a group of artists trying to shine. Going through art school I was used to that," she said. "[And] I love being in front of cameras, so it was awesome."
While not on the show, Zager plies her trade at the Tattoo Factory in Uptown. She hopes the show gives her the visibility to build up her client list.
"Tattooing is really the perfect job for me, I feel super at home when I'm tattooing," Zager said, adding that she hopes the show helps continue a progressive view toward tattooing. "We're not all weirdo freaks; all my bills get paid."
Wentz agreed. "I feel like tattoo culture is not pervasive in pop culture or pop art, but at the same time it's never had to bed itself or dress itself to be that way," he said. "Nowadays you meet someone and they have a tattoo or they're thinking about getting tattoos or want to hear about your tattoos."
The experience also has helped Wentz learn more about the art than the designs that appeal to him.
"I could tell between a really good tattoo and a really bad tattoo but the stuff in the middle is a lot harder, it required more of a keen eye," Wentz said. "[I learned] a lot from Joe [Capobianco]."
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