Ink Master Finalist Dani Ryan Breaks the Underdog Mold
When you ask tattooer Dani Ryan what she thinks about being one of the three artists taking part in the Ink Master Season 12 finale, no one seems more surprised about the accomplishment than her.
“It’s unbelievable really,” Ryan says. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it past the first week because of the lack of tattoo experience.”
The Acushnet, Massachusetts native, who tattoos out of 1001 Troubles, only had 2.5 years of tattooing under her belt when she signed on to be part of the Paramount Network reality show.
But Ryan never let the lack of experience bother her. In fact, she used it to her advantage—opening herself up to constructive criticism from the judges and experimenting with different styles during elimination tattoos.
“I definitely thought the pressure would get to me at some point,” she says. “But once I did my first solo tattoo I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I can do this.’”
The First to Make it to the Finale
Ryan’s tattoo record throughout Season 12 wasn’t squeaky clean, she gained confidence as the show went on. Although she came close to going home in a battle against men’s contestant Cam Pohl, Ryan’s technical precision kept her in the competition time and time again.
In the last two episodes, Ryan found her stride by winning tattoo of the day both times and securing the first finale spot of the season.
At one point during filming, Ryan admitted to not having a particular style of tattooing—a comment that was commended by judge Oliver Peck, who respected that she was willing to try anything that was thrown her way. Ryan, who leaned towards black and grey tattoos prior to joining Ink Master, says that the show gave her an appreciation for new styles and techniques.
“I actually think that opening myself up to even more styles on the show has put me even further away from one definitive style,” she says. “I would really love to dive into more American Traditional and New School—and just any color tattooing in general.”
For her finale tattoo, other Season 12 finalists Laura Marie and “Creepy” Jason Lynn assigned Ryan the style of Biomechanical for her master-canvas backpiece. It was a power play by the other two artists who knew Ryan didn’t have experience tattooing a Biomechanical design.
“Once I found out what I had to do, pure panic set in. My second thought was ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of something more crazy for them?’” she says. “Biomech has a bit more freedom than most styles. It is basically a really freaky still-life drawing.”
Viewers will have to wait until the finale to see whether or not Ryan is able to pull off such a challenging ask.
“I did the best research I could and tried to apply the most important aspects of what makes a good Biomech tattoo,” says Ryan. “Hopefully, that shows in the final product.”
Wanting a Win for ‘Team Peach’
She may have started the season as the underdog, but Ryan quickly earned the respect and admiration of the judges, her fellow contestants, and the show’s fans. Her self-deprecating humor and hilarious reactions and interactions made her immediately likeable. Her technical abilities and creativity helped push her to the end.
“Professionally, I did exactly what I set out to do,” says Ryan. “It was really important for me to get my name out there and my shop’s name out there so that the people I work with and who I love very much can also benefit from this experience.”
She adds that being recognized at the level of her peers was also a big personal achievement.
“Acquiring a level of respect from other artists who I truly admire was a huge goal for me,” says Ryan. “If I take the title home or not, getting just a nod of acceptance from my peers is a win in my book.”
Ryan says that whether she wins or loses in the Season 12 finale, she’s excited to share the experience with her fellow female contestant Laura Marie. “I knew in my gut Laura was going to make it to the finale from the beginning,” she says. “She is so insanely talented, and I’m just happy I was able to keep up with her all the way to the top three.”
The two women grew closer as the show went on and didn’t hold back on helping each other through the final few episodes. Despite some wavering allegiances from Laura Marie early in the competition, Ryan says she wouldn’t have wanted to share the experience with anyone else.
“I feel as though the girl’s team has already prevailed having two of us in the finale,” she says. “Now, one of us just has to take it home.”