The untold truth of Kat Von D

Kat Von D is a tattoo artist who found fame and fortune staring on the tattoo reality TV show Miami Ink, before leaving for her own LA Ink. Since then she has divided opinion of viewers and other artists alike, and she knows it. But Kat doesn't care, and absolutely lives her life according to her own rules. All the negative responses she gets, especially on social media, just seem to make her more set in her quirky ways.

And just like you might expect from someone who is working on a full bodysuit of tattoos (except on her chest so guys will still look at her face, obviously) a lot of things about her life have been less than normal. From her missionary upbringing in Mexico to her many makeup business controversies to her medical decisions for her child, Kat Von D lives in a different world than you do.

There are worrying connections to neo-Nazis

A good way to completely destroy your reputation and life is to be a rumored anti-Semite. Yet, for some reason, despite concerning evidence, Kat Von D has not been splashed across the headlines as someone who might think Jews are a lesser race. But Forward compiled a bunch of worrying indications.

Some of it is guilt by association. Kat seems to be weirdly cool having relationships with guys who are into Nazi stuff. At one point she was engaged to Jesse James, and during those years he was pictured in a Nazi uniform and performing a Nazi salute. Her current husband, talking to Tttism, admitted to having a swastika tattooed on his throat, but said it "isn't political," whatever that means.

She was also once accused of signing an autograph to her former (Jewish) boss that said, "Burn in hell, Jewbag." TLC supposedly had handwriting experts look into it and concluded there was a 99 percent chance Kat wrote it, but it has never officially been proven. We know for sure the vegan once compared factory farming of animals to the Holocaust on Facebook. And while the life and death of animals in that situation is hardly great, it's still a pretty insensitive comparison. But perhaps worst was when she named a lipstick in her successful makeup range "Selektion," a now-taboo German word that described picking prisoners to die in concentration camps. While the shade was renamed, it's hard to believe that was just a big misunderstanding.

She isn't going to vaccinate her son

Kat Von D famously lives a vegan, hippie kind of lifestyle. And when she got pregnant with her first child, she posted a long Instagram post about the kind of life she was going to give it (via Celebitchy). She said she was being open with the public because of all the unsolicited advice she had been given since announcing she was knocked up. And while that has to be really annoying when it's your baby and your pregnancy, some of her decisions were definitely not standard.

Most of it wasn't bad at all. She announced she planned to stay vegan, which if done right and healthy will have no bad effects on the fetus. Kat said she wanted to have a natural, drug-free home birth, which, you know, owwww, but a totally fine decision as long as there are no complications. And once the child was born she wasn't going to feed him any animal products either; again, totally safe if done correctly. But then she said she wasn't going to vaccinate her son.

People went crazy. Because suddenly it wasn't just her choice and one for her child, but something that could affect the world at large. Herd immunity is important, and children who unable to be vaccinated are put at risk. But she tried to cut off any naysayers by insisting she was educating herself. Hopefully she won't lose her son to measles while she's learning.

She has lots of tattoos for her ex-boyfriends

Most tattoo artists would probably tell you that getting ink for your significant other is never a good idea. Even if you have been married for 50 years you could always get divorced, and putting something permanent on your body for someone you are only dating is monumentally stupid. But Kat Von Dobviously doesn't think so since she seems to have a tattoo for every random guy she has dated.

In fact, according to Inked Magazine, her first of the dozens of tattoos she has now was for her first love. She was only a teenager and got an Old English style "J" for James on her ankle. Head over heels in love, apparently literally, they ran away together. She left him within a few months. The ink, however, remains to this day, despite being faded. He even showed up at her tattoo parlor once years later.

This was the start of getting most of her boyfriend's names on her. She has "Orbi" for Alex Orbison, musician Ray Orbison's son, for example. But her biggest piece was for her ex-husband, Oliver Peck. Describing him as "one of the coolest-looking guys [she'd] ever met," his seemingly interesting profile got pride of place on her thigh. However, unlike every other ex's tattoo, Peck's didn't last. It's the only one she got lasered off, not because she hates him or anything, but because she had other ideas for tattoos in the area and it was too hard to work around.

She once held a world record

For Kat, being a famous tattoo artist wasn't enough: She wanted to be in the record books. And she got her wish, for a little while, anyway.

She pulled it off when she was 25, according to World Record Academy. The rules were simple; to get in the Guinness Book of World Records she had to tattoo the exact same design (in this case an "LA" logo) on as many people as possible in a 24-hour period. She charged $20 per tattoo but it all went to charity. The announcement went out that it was first-come first-serve and way too many people showed up outside her shop. At one point there were over 1,000 waiting, and cops had to come tell some of the crowd to leave. In the end Kat managed to get through 400 people, taking just nine minutes off the whole day. Still, she felt she had to apologize on her blog to all those waiting that she hadn't managed to get to. Despite "only" tattooing 400 people, she got the record.

But don't go looking for her in the book anymore. Inked Magazine says her ex-husband Oliver Peck, also a tattoo artist, specifically set out to beat her record and managed it. Allegedly, she isn't angry about it.

She used to drink before getting inked but has been sober more than a decade

There are a lot of reasons not to drink before getting tattooed. For one, the ink won't hold as well and your tattoo will look faded faster. Then there's the fact that you probably want to be 100 percent sober to make sure you've picked the right design to go on your body for the rest of your life. Kat Von D ignored this basic advice for years because for a long time she had a severe drinking problem.

In Inked Magazine she admits she used to drink before getting all her tattoos, including once when she drank an entire bottle of tequila before inking "Mi Vida Loca" on her back. While she has a hard time getting tattooed sober, she says it's better for the artist when someone isn't puking on themselves.

According to People, by 25 her drinking was actually getting in the way of her job. Being drunk when you go under the needle is one thing; being drunk when you're holding the needle is a whole other thing. She says she promised herself that if alcohol ever hindered her ability to work, she would quit. So one day she woke up and decided to stop. While it's a lot harder than it sounds, amazingly, she did it. But Kat admits she lost a lot of friends who were really drinking buddies. It was worth it, though — in 2017 she celebrated 10 years of sobriety.

Her makeup line has been controversial

Kat is not just a famous tattoo artist and reality star, she also has an extremely successful makeup line. But it seems a lot of people buy it in spite of the controversy surrounding it. Naming a lipstick after a Nazi slur was only the beginning.

According to Allure, in 2017 she introduced a new eyeliner called Basket Case. While people took offense to the name, they were even more upset with her promotional image, which seemed to celebrate the famously violent and eventually deadly relationship between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. When this was pointed out to Kat, she hit back on Instagram, saying lots of great people had messed up lives and they should still be honored.

E! News says in 2015 someone noticed she had a lipstick named Underage Red and it blew up on social media. The implication there is pretty obvious. People were like, hey, maybe don't sideways reference illegal acts with children? But Kat refused to apologize again, admitting that she personally names every item in her range, and claimed it was more about wearing lipstick at too young an age than anything else.

But in 2013, Sephora, which exclusively sells the brand, did have to give in and pull a product because of what it was called. The Globe and Mail reported public backlash was so great over the lipstick Celebutard (a riff on "retard") that they had to take it out of their stores.

She stole her most famous tattoo idea

There is a code when it comes to tattoos. No matter how cool someone else's idea is, you can't just take it. Tattoos are way too personal to randomly be stealing them from each other. But Kat, despite being one of the most famous tattoo artists in the world, totally broke that rule. She's come up with thousands of ideas in her time and has dozens of her own creations on her skin, but her most famous tattoo didn't come from her creative brain.

Kat has a good body and likes showing off her stomach, where she has the word "Hollywood" inked in red lipstick. It's become her trademark. But she owes that fame to a random "cool rocker chick" who came in her shop once, according to an interview with Inked Magazine.

The inspiration comes from a band called the New York Dolls whose logo was their name in lipstick. This customer, who must have had a connection to LA like Kat, wanted the same thing but for her neck of the woods. Instead of giving it to her, Kat took it for herself.  

Of course, she had to get punished for it, so instead of never seeing the rocker girl again like she expected, Kat ran into her at a bar -– with her midriff showing. The woman must have seen the tattoo but kindly didn't say anything. But Kat says she would be more than happy to ink it on her as well, so they could be "twinsies."

Her father was a doctor, but she grew up poor in Mexico

Kat wrote about her early years on Popsugar, and she wants you to know that while her dad was a doctor, she was not from your typical medical family. Most people assume kids with a doctor as a parent probably come from money and live a life of some luxury. It seems this could not be further from the truth for Kat Von D.

Originally from Argentina, Kat's parents got married and moved to Mexico, where she and her two siblings were born. The tiny town of Montemorelos didn't have a hospital so Dr. von Drachenberg started one — no small feat, and something he should be commended for. But the unfortunate result was his family was dirt poor, literally.

His daughter remembers running around barefoot on the packed dirt floors of their little house. It didn't have electricity or even running water for "a long time" and the result was they bathed in buckets. The town itself was a backwater, with more horses on the streets than cars.

She was only 4 when they left Mexico and road-tripped to Loma Linda, California, but her lifestyle still didn't change much. While even a tiny town like that outside Los Angeles probably had access to basic household amenities like fresh water and lights on demand, a marked improvement from Mexico, her family's religion meant they still lived a very stoic existence.

Her family is extremely religious, but she doesn't practice anymore

When Inked Magazine interviewed Kat in her house, it was full of statues of the Virgin Mary and images of Jesus on the cross. But her decor is actually in spite of her extremely religious upbringing and not because of it. Her family were devout Seventh-day Adventists, a strict mix of Christianity and some Jewish traits. This meant, among other things, that having that kind of imagery around was a no-no, considered idolatry. Kat remembers her sister wanting to wear a rosary and being told it wasn't appropriate.

Her family's religion influenced everything about her life. Her father chose to be a doctor in the middle of nowhere because he was also a missionary. Even when they moved to America they picked a town with a large Seventh-day Adventist community, according to Popsugar. Kat says that as a child she didn't do work on Sundays, went to church, followed the Ten Commandments, and even had weird diet requirements, like not eating pork or fish without scales.

Kat says life revolved around religion instead of pop culture. She didn't hear any music other than classical or hymns until she was 6. They didn't have a television, and she only saw MTV for the first time when she was 16 and at a friend's house. Her idea of a famous person was Jesus, but as Kat puts it, she was never going to get to meet him, so the concept of fame was foreign to her.

She's a classically trained pianist

Living in the sticks, not having access to even the most basic technology, meant Kat Von D spent a lot of her childhood entertaining herself. She drew constantly, and her talent was evident from a young age. But that still left her a lot of time to fill up, so she took up the piano at age 5, as she told the Glenn Gould Foundation.

In her case, she had help, since her grandmother was a classically trained pianist. She taught Kat everything she knew and passed on an absolute obsession with Beethoven in particular. Kat says she finally fell in love with the piano after learning to play his Sonata in G. Before that it was a slog. Since everyone in Kat's family played at least two instruments each, she was expected to learn one. So she spent two hours a day, every day, hitting those keys, while watching "normal" kids play outside where she longed to be. But in the end, she says it was absolutely worth it, and she still plays to this day. She even performed at her own wedding reception.

It's something she also encourages other people to take up. For most of her life she didn't have a nice piano, but she notes that you can pick them up for a couple hundred dollars on Craigslist and hire someone to tune it, then off you go. It's got to be easier than picking up a tattoo gun.