What Every Ink Master Season Winner Looks Like Today

It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic ruined a ton of stuff. According to People, that included the Season 13 of "Ink Master," which cancelled the finale in light of government mandates and public health restrictions. It was set to be the biggest finale in the show's history, but even the best-laid plans can go awry.

The three finalists were all given cash prizes, and let's be honest here: That's life-changing money.

Throughout the show's run, winners have typically gotten $100,000, a feature in Inked magazine, and sometimes, some other goodies (via EW). But $100,000? Anyone would be there for that kind of money, and that's the sort of stuff that can kick off fulfilling dreams on a whole new level ... along with, of course, the tattooing cred that goes along with an "Ink Master" win.

So, here's the question: What have the winners been doing since their time on the show, how have things changed for them, and what do they look like today? Let's take a look back at all the winners and see what they're up to — and how they've changed.

Shane O'Neill

Season 1 kicked off in 2012, and taking home the $100,000 prize money was Shane O'Neill, a fixture in the tattooing scene of the Northeast. According to The Cinemaholic, O'Neill owned two shops at the time he appeared on the show. Did things change? Yes, and no.

O'Neill has taken his talents on the road, and in addition to continuing to run his Delaware shop, he's also got gigs going as a guest tattooist at other shops, like Staten Island's Bullseye Tattoo. He doesn't have to travel, though: According to Delaware Online, his work is so in demand that clients will travel for hours to sit in the chair.

He spoke with them in 2022, and talked a little bit about how exhausting it had been: "Every day was like a minimum 18-hour day. There were like three days I didn't get to go to bed at all." It was worth it, though, and here's the thing: When he started off on his career path, "I had no interest in tattooing," he said. "I had a couple tattoos, my friends had tattoos — but no interest."

Fortunately for clients — who have travelled from as far away as London, England — he changed his mind just a few days into a week-long test run at a tattoo shop, years ago. Now, anyone interested in booking an appointment will have to be cool with waiting for up to two and a half years for an opening.

Steven Tefft

Steven Tefft took home the Season 2 win from "Ink Master," and then returned for Season 10's masters face-off. He spoke with 247 Ink Magazine ahead of it, saying "I loved the concept, I thought it was cool. It's the one thing that I think most of us wished we would of had. ... Someone to keep you away from some of the mistakes that you would make."

Tefft has also been candid about how getting to where he wanted to be as a tattoo artist wasn't easy, telling Big Tattoo Planet that he started practicing on some friends, before he realized that it was something he was going to have to take seriously. So, he apprenticed with a local shop while working another job, and when he and his mentor stopped seeing eye-to-eye, he went in his own direction and opened 12 Tattoos in Groton, Connecticut.

Years later, 12 Tattoos is still alive and well, with Tefft's owner status and "Ink Master" cred at the forefront of the site. Tefft says that, while he was glad to be able to show off some old-school skills to the younger artists on the show, he's taken what he learned, folded it into his years of practice, and used that prize money to expand his business, too. The end goal? " ... to give every client an amazing tattoo and an amazing experience, and to change people with the art that we are so fortunate to do."

Joey Hamilton

Season 3 winner Joey Hamilton was an Air Force veteran-turned-tattooist, and he had a little bit of a different take on the grueling nature of the show. He explained to Skillset Magazine: "Three days in, somebody's ... crying and I'm thinking, 'We have a place to sleep, and they're feeding us, and you're tattooing. Why are you crying?'"

Hamilton said that when he left the Air Force after 10 years, he wasn't sure where he was going to go next. He found a mentor in a buddy who had started tattooing about six months before he encouraged Hamilton to pick up the gun, and from there? It was a long road to "Ink Master," but Hamilton says the focus, work ethic, and goal-oriented attitude that he honed in the military helped get him there.

In 2014, he co-founded Las Vegas' Revolt Tattoos, with a first location right off the strip, and other locations having opened a stone's throw away to help accommodate the demand for the studio's work. In addition to his wide-ranging work, his Instagram is filled with photos of his family.

Scott Marshall

Not all stories of the "Ink Master" winners have a happy ending, and in 2015, Variety reported that Season 4 winner Scott Marshall had been found dead in Chicago. The initial reports said that he had died in his sleep of heart-related causes, and a further investigation (via NBC) and autopsy found the cause of death to be a heroin and benzodiazepine overdose. His death was officially ruled accidental.

Marshall had been working at the Roselle Tattoo Company at the time of his death, and his passing was acknowledged by the show in a statement issued by Spike TV: "Spike and entire 'Ink Master' family are stunned and saddened by the news of Scott's passing. He was a great competitor and talented artist. Our deepest condolences go out to the Marshall family and friends." Roselle Tattoo Company posted a brief message on social media, and declined to comment further.

Marshall left behind a wife and three children.

Jason Clay Dunn

By the time Jason Clay Dunn won Season 5, he was already familiar to fans — he was also on Season 3. At the time he appeared on the series, he was working at California's Tattoo Alchemy, and he continued to do so after his appearances and Season 5 victory. According to his Instagram, though, that came to an end in August of 2020.

Dunn thanked all the customers that had made the shop a success, and went on to say that he was "developing a private studio." The idea was that he wanted to concentrate fully on the customer experience, while also having more control over his personal life and free time.

The COVID-19 pandemic, too, played a part in his decision. He posted that his new, smaller studio would be implementing "a new standard for your safety and mine," to include temperature checks and mask protocols. In 2021, he shared a post thanking followers for messages of support following several devastating deaths in his family, and his own health struggles — specifically, with cirrhosis of the liver. As of 2022, there was still a booking form available on his website, new tattoos being shared on his social media, and talk of a new venture selling Native American jewelry.

Dave Kruseman

There are multiple styles of tattooing, and it wasn't until Season 6 that a traditional tattooist took home the $100,000. That was Dave Kruseman, who described what it was like to win in an interview with Carter Matt: "It was the best words I heard all season! I was overwhelmed with pride on so many levels. I was the first artist to win with a true traditional tattoo!"

Kruseman continued working at his own tattoo shop post-show, as, according to what he told the Frederick News Post, life was already pretty good. "Not one day has gone by in the past 20 years that I have ever woken up and not wanted to come to work. I love my job, and to me, that is success."

New work regularly shows up on the social media accounts for Olde Line Tattoo, but it hasn't been all smooth sailing. Their West Coast shop, Olde Line Tattoo West, was one of the casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, and closed in May of 2020 after being open for just two years. The original shop in Maryland is still going strong, though, and for those people in other areas of the country, it's entirely possible to catch him at various tattoo festivals.

Anthony Michaels

Some things can be taught, and some things are just innate gifts. When Anthony Michaels won Season 7 of "Ink Master" with just a few years' worth of professional experience under his belt, it became very clear that innate talent not only counts for a lot, but that he had it. According to his bio on his Twenty Five Twelve Collective — his Tucson, Arizona tattoo shop — he was the winner with the least amount of experience.

When Michaels could finally talk to the world about his "Ink Master" win, it didn't go to his head: According to 9 KGUN Tucson, he had been working at Metro Tattoo when he was on the show, and was immediately right back at work. Not content to rest on his laurels for long, he said, "I am overjoyed and definitely now hungrier than I was before to better my craft and produce better work."

Michaels not only returned to appear as a mentor on another season of "Ink Master," but also became one of the owners of Twenty Five Twelve in 2018. That's according to Marquis Who's Who — who, incidentally, includes him among their lists of top artists in the profession.

Ryan Ashley

When Ryan Ashley was named the winner of Season 8, she was lauded for being the first female winner. According to what she told ScreenRant, though, she wasn't a fan of being identified like that. "I mean, it was definitely cool being the first woman to win, but being a woman never had any importance on my workload, or how hard I strived, or my integrity as a tattooer," she said. "I always just wanted to be treated equally. In no way did I want myself being a woman to separate me from the guys."

As of 2022, she has become one of the resident artists at Elysium Studios in Grand Junction, Colorado (Her husband, Arlo DiCristina, also works there.). Her Instagram is regularly updated with new work — including plenty of the fine jewels and delicate black-and-white work that made her so popular on "Ink Master," along with all her thoughts on being a new mother.

Those jewel tattoos? It's entirely possible that's just a phase, which is what she told ScreenRant: Much like Picasso went through different periods in his artistic journey, she says that she's doing the same — and she knows that this is just one more step in life's journey.

Old Town Ink/ Bubba Irwin and DJ Tambe

Season 9 was a little different, and when it all wrapped up, Bubba Irwin and DJ Tambe took the top spot, and the title of best shop for Old Town Ink. Not long after their win, Carter Matt spoke with Tambe about the show and what it had meant to win. Tambe said that it had definitely put them on the map, growing his client base and pushing his scheduling out quite a bit. They saw it as a unique chance to grow: "We always tried to stay confident during the entire competition. We never wanted to be cocky and lose who we are as people, but we also knew the quality of the work we were doing would get us that title."

They were immediately looking ahead to the future, too — and Nashville, Tennessee. That, Tambe said, was where they were looking for a piece of property to open their new tattoo shop, which ended up being Branded Tattoo Company. Also on the post-show to-do list for both? A well-earned vacation with their families.

In addition to the Nashville shop, Irwin is still co-owner of Arizona's Old Town Ink, which has locations in both Scottsdale and Mesa.

Josh Payne

Josh Payne walked away from Season 10 of "Ink Master" as the winner, and when he spoke to Inked a bit later, a lot had happened. Not only did he return in Season 12 as a coach and a mentor, but he had toured the country's tattoo festivals and continued to hone his craft at Ascend Gallery in Cortland, New York.

When the Ithaca Journal talked to him, as his winning season aired, he made it clear that he was already seeing just what kind of impact the show was going to have: "I have at least 600 emails I haven't even touched yet," he said. But he took away more than just a higher profile: "Getting to spend that many months around artists, being engulfed in art, the amount of stuff you learn is incredible. ... My work is so much stronger than it was prior."

Payne says that his return to "Ink Master" for the Battle of the Sexes idea was absolutely brilliant, but added that he had a bit of an iffy relationship with the idea of men vs. women, saying, "I don't believe that there should be any divide or there is any difference. I think that an artist's hand and an artist's mind is exactly that, it doesn't matter what it's attached to."

As far as his own career since the show goes, his social media directs to Art by Scissorhands and the Alchemist Art Studio in Cortland, New York.

Tony Medellin

It was Nevada native Tony Medellin who took home the win on Season 11 of "Ink Master," and according to what he told the Reno Gazette-Journal, his coworkers from the Lasting Dose Tattoo shop in Reno headed to Vegas' MGM to see him take home the win in person. Downtime? What's that? He was back in the shop just a few days later, but according to what he told Carter Matt, it was a life-changing experience: "Winning 'Ink Master' has not settled in yet, and to be honest, I don't think it ever will. I came in with zero expectations, I was just hoping I would make it to the next round every week."

His social media says that he's still there, but he's also branched out into other art- and design-related businesses as well. That includes Gold English Goods, a clothing company that he describes as being rooted in his experiences in the tattooing world, his involvement in the lowrider culture, and his belief that clothing isn't just something that people wear, but a way to make a statement.

Laura Marie

Season 12's Battle of the Sexes ended with two female artists vying for the win, and in the end, it was Laura Marie who walked away as the winner. When she spoke with Inked, she described the entire season finale as "an out-of-body experience," and one that she chalked up to being so difficult because of her anxiety.

She not only talked about how things had changed for her — more than she thought, starting with the requests she was getting for work — but also about how it hadn't been an easy road. When she was starting out, she had multiple tattoo shops refuse to even give her a chance: " ... they would say, 'It's because you're a woman.'"

Ultimately, that's why the win meant so much: Not only was it a win for her, but it put her in a position where she could be a role model for other women considering breaking into what's typically been a boys' club.

It's a little unclear just what's going on with her tattooing career as of 2022: Her social media still points to her being the artist and co-owner at Atomic Roc Tattoo, but it also notes they're closed for bookings, and the website is no longer in operation. She regularly updates her Instagram with new work, though.

Jimmy Snaz/Angel Rose/Bob Jones

Season 13 of "Ink Master" ended in a pretty anti-climactic way: Instead of a live showdown between the three finalists, there was simply an Instagram post saying that, because of restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the finale had been cancelled and the three finalists would be given a cash prize.

According to Inked, the general consensus from fans was that it was Jimmy Snaz who deserved a solo win, but that wasn't to be. And that's a shame: When he spoke with Carter Matt, he said that he was hoping to make up for his previous appearance and elimination in Season 11. "This is the ultimate example of redemption," he said. "I hope people can take away from it that if you persevere, no matter how many times you get knocked down, you can overcome those obstacles."

So, what's happened to the three joint winners? Snaz is described as "the creative heartbeat of North Street Salem," the Salem, Massachusetts studio where he works. Angel Rose's Instagram links to her work through Olympus Tattoo in Salt Lake City, Utah, but as of 2022, there's also a note that she's closed bookings. Bob Jones' Instagram is regularly updated with new (and often NSFW) pieces, and although he's linked to Esoteric Tattoo, he's booked out for months.