Von D (short for her given name, Von Drachenberg) gets her fair share of Internet droolers, but she was also included in Maxim magazines' Hot 100 List -- sandwiched in between some of the most Barbie-esque women on the planet.
"That was such a trip because all my life, it was, 'Ew, the weird girl,' " she said. "Now I think people are becoming more and more open to diversity, which is one of the reasons I did the show."
But half the reason to watch "L.A. Ink," now finishing its second season on TLC, is to check out what Von D's wearing. When it comes to fashion, she's fearless -- donning glittery over-the-knee boots and a shredded T-shirt or a leather motorcycle vest with swinging bell-bottom pants as everyday garb.
Influenced by a grab bag of subcultures -- notably '80s heavy metal, punk, glitter-rock and rockabilly -- Von D said her look gets hung out to dry on a regular basis "because it's different and it's outside the box. But I'm not dressed like this to impress anybody. It's not like I'm going to get my feelings hurt."
We recently sat down with the artist at her La Brea Avenue shop, High Voltage, to dish on leather, leggings and why she's not about to leave the house without a full face of makeup.
Is it fair to say your style is steeped in rock music?
Yeah, for sure. Music has influenced everything from my tattooing to how I talk to how I walk, I guess. I was classically trained in piano since I was 6. Then in my teens, my older sister introduced me to Metallica. It was all over. I had a mohawk soon after that. I like everything in the extreme. I'm 5'8, but I wear platforms because I like to be an Amazon. [She's clad in 4-inch Miu Miu platforms and a T-shirt that reads "Argentina," where her parents are from.]
Do you think tattoos, at this point, are socially accepted by most people?
I think the stigma will never go away. Outside of L.A., I've been followed around stores because they think I'm going to steal something. I feel like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." People are scared -- they figure, "Oh, you're tattooed and you're a girl, you're either a hooker or a drug addict." I think our show killed a lot of that. I've tattooed 82-year-olds, pastors and soccer moms. It's pretty awesome.
You always have on great makeup -- and you launched your own line of cosmetics, Kat Von D for Sephora, this past summer. What's your philosophy on makeup?
I never let people see me without makeup. And it's not an insecurity thing. The perk of being a girl is being able to wear makeup and dress up. It's another artistic outlet. And the 45 minutes it takes me to get ready . . . is very therapeutic for me. It's hard to start my day without that. You can tell my mood by my makeup. When I'm depressed, it's really dark. Then I'll do super-dumb happy makeup. Like, I'll do one eye electric blue and one smoky brown, and you won't even figure it out until you're talking to me -- then you're like, "Whoa!"
Red lipstick is a trademark for you -- what's your favorite red to wear?
Mine! I did four lipsticks for Sephora. And I was like, "I'm going to make the four best lipsticks ever." I have every red ever made -- from Cover Girl and Mary Kay to Chanel and MAC and Makeup Forever. I went through all my favorites and said, "If this was mine I'd add more purple, use a different finish."
Where do you like to shop for clothes in L.A.?
I shop everywhere from Maxfield to antique stores. I love Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood, and I love vintage. Golyester has the best selection of mint things and dead stock. I collect 1940s to 1970s platform shoes, and that's where I got a few of my best ones. Lately, I've been in search of the best bell-bottoms. The '70s ones are really high-waisted, but I don't have a [butt], so they just look weird.
Who made that leather zip-up black leather motorcycle vest you always wear?
Agatha Blois from New York. She makes everybody's leather -- from J.Lo to Steven Tyler.
And what about those tight pants printed with the American flag?