Women’s Team Comes Out Swinging on First Episode of Ink Master Season 12

Please note: This post contains spoilers about Ink Master Season 12: Episode 1. 

The new season of Ink Master, titled “Battle of the Sexes” debuted on Paramount Network Tuesday night, and the 18 contestants found out almost immediately that they would be breaking into teams based on gender.

Reacting to the Season’s Theme

Some contestants immediately embraced the divide. Artist, Holli Marie, a traditional tattooer who works in Groton, Connecticut seemed amped to go head-to-head with the guys. “Let’s fucking go,” she said. “I’m ready to prove that women are just as much of a threat in the tattoo community as men.”

Other female participants shared the struggles they’ve had to overcome to be taken seriously. “As a lady tattooer, it’s hard. As a woman of color, it’s even harder,” said Elva Stefanie, who works at The Blank Slate in Poughkeepsie, New York and travels frequently for guest spots. “I want to be the first female Ink Master of color.” 

Despite some of the female artists having reservations about the gender-based theme, the new contestants played into the boys vs. girls dynamic as they were hit with their first team challenge—to work together to ink three different tattoos on three different canvases.

Building Up the Drama

While most of the men’s team held their tongues and focused in on the task at hand, contestant Pon DeMan, who quickly became the villain (and we know every season needs one) for his sexist remarks and backhanded comments about the women’s team. 

Throughout the competition, DeMan said he was glad it wasn’t a “baking competition” and invited the women to “clean up” his station after finishing a tattoo. 

Creepy Jason and Pon prepare for the tattoo challenge.

“I’m pretty confident going against the opposite sex,” he said. “I’ve been in the business 19 years. I don’t feel like any of the women are actually a threat. I don’t ever feel like there tattoos are as solid as a man’s tattoo. I’m not going to be worried about my nails or my hair while I’m doing a tat.”

The women’s team wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows during the premiere. Tensions broke out as the artists learned how to work together. Stefanie and fellow artist Laura Marie, from Rochester, New York, quickly butted heads after Laura Marie criticized Stefanie’s linework in one of the team tattoos. 

Female contestants on Ink Master Season 12 learn to work together.

But in the end, the women’s team won the first team challenge with their three ladyhead designs. Judges Oliver Peck, Dave Navarro, and Chris Nunez said that the tattoos from the women’s team showed more illustrative style and more breathability than the men’s tattoos. The win kept all female contestants safe from elimination. 

Sending One Man Packing

With their win, the women’s team had the chance to pick the style and subject of the elimination tattoo. Male artists Creepy Jason, Tito Zambrano, and Tim Lease were put up for elimination by their male peers and battled against each other to stay in the competition. 

The women threw the guys a difficult challenge right from the start—demanding that they tattoo traditional pin-ups.

Despite having plenty of support from his opponents, in the end, Lease was sent home. He worked on a large traditional tattoo of a snake and a woman being burned at a stake—a tattoo that the judges said looked unfinished. 

Artist Jason Lease reacts to the elimination.

Artists to Watch

While it’s still early in the competition, Alexis Kovacs and Cam Pohl quickly stood out as frontrunners and team leaders in the premiere episode. Kovacs, who hails from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, played up her 18 years of experience and worked well with her fellow contestants. 

Pohl, an artist from Lansing Michigan, proved he isn’t just a pretty boy (though, he is quite pretty) and seemed to form positive connections with his fellow teammates and the women’s team—relationships that may prove fruitful as the competition progresses.

While we’re sure a lot of the drama between the male and female teams was orchestrated by producers, we can’t help but celebrate the victory with the ladies this time around. 

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