I got a tiny tat from celeb tattoo artist Romeo Lacoste
I’ll never forget when I was 19 years old and I asked my manager at Cold Stone Creamery what the tattoo on her boob said.
She proceeded to lift up her breast back to maybe where it was when she was younger, revealing that it said her son’s name. I was kind of scarred for life.
Don’t get me wrong — I love tattoos so I wasn’t going to let that stop me from getting one, but like, it was also a very real sobering moment of realizing that things on my body weren’t going to be where they are forever. So I made up a few rules. Keep in mind these are only my rules, and I’m not saying I judge anyone who doesn’t follow them.
1. Tattoos only on areas that won’t change shape. No lower back tats, or itty bitty butterflies on my hip bones — because chances are, shit is going to stretch TF out and the thought of my manager’s fallen breast was not something I wanted to emulate.
2. Whatever image or word to be tattooed, I would have to want it for at least one full year. Meaning, I’m tryna prevent myself from getting a random Bugs Bunny tattoo or a band that will eventually break up — i.e. “One Direction, Forever” or like “Fourth Harmony” or something that is clearly NOT forever.
3. Only small tattoos. The larger things are, the more chances of age and time warping tf out of them. Plus, that shit also kinda hurts when you get it done — so ouch factor is smaller.
Because I clearly have some kind of rule-making OCD, I started getting the emblems of band members on my forearm —Yes, a place that can never really change, and the smallest size I could get. But also, the bands had to be A) together for longer than ten years and B) Been either nominated for a Grammy/Oscar, C) Have at least one album that I can listen through from top to bottom and D) Have a pretty small logo that can fit nicely on my arm.
But alas, one of my fave bands — Green Day — and their iconic heart hand grenade from the American Idiot era was deemed “too small” for most tattoo artists to take on.
I had searched high and low for someone who would do it — but most tattoo artists hate tattooing limbs (because that’s the one place your skin comes off due to manicures and pedicures and like, life) and most will insist that anything that small would just turn into a blob. That is, until I found the king of the tiny tattoo — Romeo Lacoste.
Just from his Instagram, I could see he was my guy — he could tattoo with the utmost detail, whole objects with realistic shading, smaller than a quarter — and he owns tattoo shop “The California Dream Tattoo”.
Being the nervous ball of joy that I am, I asked why he’s been dubbed the “King” of these tiny art pieces, and he told me: “Many artists lack the skill and experience to execute these very fine line tattoos in such sensitive and easy to fade areas. They’ve always been easy for me — I quickly learned how to do it and make them heal nicely. I can’t reveal my secrets though!”
After a thorough background check — i.e. a thorough investigation of his Instagram — I saw that Romeo has provided many tiny tattoos for some of our fave celebs like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. He got his start on “Best Ink” season 3 which Pete Wentz hosted and also spent mucho time tattooing, whatdoyaknow, bands while on the Vans Warped tour.
We asked him to spill tea on the Bieber sessions.
“The first time I tattooed Justin Bieber,” he said, “we were in his recording studio [and] he was recording for his last album and the music was loud. I couldn’t hear what he was saying and I kept saying ‘huh??’ He kept having to repeat himself. I think he got annoyed for a minute and I think he thought I couldn’t hear well — kind of embarrassing.”
Hearing snafus aside, and after reviewing his work on Ariana Grande, The 1975, RAE SRUMMERD and Mike Posner — I made my appointment to see Romeo feeling good that he wouldn’t totally eff up my arm. He also assured me that the hand grenade would be a “piece of cake” for him.
While Romeo drew up my tattoo and figured out sizing, I played with the “Tattoo Roulette” wheel which is the basis for Romeo’s YouTube channel — which is a game that literally is my actual tattoo nightmare: rando tattoos in rando spots without rules and basically room for things to sag and look cray.
The contestant chooses five tattoos they would actually get, and Romeo chooses five, shall we say, more eccentric tattoos that no one would really want — and they spin the wheel letting fate make the decision. There’s also a portion where the person must throw a dart at a mannequin as to leave the placement of your Pokemon or random-ass-barbell up to your skill level of dart throwing… in other words, this breaks all the rules.
When it was finally time, Romeo started my tattoo and let me know that the reason he could tattoo such small beautiful things.
“Without giving away too much of my secrets, the tiny tattoos are done with a ‘single needle’ which means it’s only one small needle — it’s the smallest needle size you can do, vs. the bigger tattoos sometimes are done with a 5 or a 7 or a 9,” he said. “That with a combination of magical white highlights are what give my tattoos that ‘wow’ factor.”
Roughly thirty minutes later, Romeo was finished with his masterpiece… and I’ll be damned he did a fucking great job far surpassing my expectations. I mean, if he’s good enough for Ari and the Biebs, he’s certainly good enough for me — assuming he lets me follow my crazy ass tattoo rules, which he seemingly seems in support of, “It really just comes down to what’s best for the customer. I talk with each client and figure their goals and what their plans are so I can give them the best possible tattoo that fits them. A lot of people [want] a small tattoo, but I do bigger ones as well — I do really enjoy doing the micro ones.”
In terms of celebs Romeo would totally “fangirl” over?
“I would love to tattoo Drake one day — I think that would be legendary,” he said. “He follows me on Instagram — so we’ll see. I fangirled when that happened…[laughs]”
In the end, it’s like one of those sayings that someone important said: “Your body is a temple.” I feel like it was Prince who said that, but it also could have been like, Buddha.
Either way, treat your body like the expensive museum it is and literally think of where you’d hang each expensive painting you buy in a place it can be appreciated — and then of course, call Romeo to see if he can squeeze you in between celebs.
For More on Romeo Lacoste
Photos At The California Dream Tattoo shop by Michelle Hargreaves
Main Photo by Devin Mitchell