New York City-based tattoo artist, Jonathan “JonBoy” Valena, made his first Canadian appearance at Yorkdale Shopping Centre’s CONCEPT space in Toronto on July 27 and 28.
READ MORE: Why Justin Bieber got a face tattoo
Some of his most well-known work is Jenner’s inner lip tattoo and Bieber’s cross tattoo near his eye.
JonBoy has over half a million Instagram followers and 17 years in the tattooing profession. He’s created a market that turns minimalistic, fine line tattoos into a popular style that many people want inked on their body.
JonBoy held a pop-up shop in Toronto where he spent the afternoon meeting fans and offering a limited number of tattoo sessions through giveaways with Yorkdale.
Fans were able to choose a tattoo from the flash card (below) and get the chance to meet the celebrity tattoo artist during his first ever visit to Toronto.
Many fans began to line up at 6 a.m. on July 27 for a chance to meet the tattooist, who began tattooing and greeting fans at 4 p.m. that afternoon.
JonBoy spoke to Global News on July 28 at the CONCEPT pop-up shop in Toronto, where he described his experience of tattooing Bieber, what his appointment wait list looks like and much more insight into the world of tattooing celebrities.
Global News: How did you get into tattooing?
JonBoy: I feel like tattooing found me because originally I had gone to seminary. I thought I was going to be a youth pastor and I thought I was going to be preaching to the youth and ‘let’s go’ but God had other plans. Seventeen years later, I find myself doing this and I feel like this is my purpose in the world.
Can you explain the process of tattooing a celebrity?
I mean, it’s just like tattooing anyone else. Making sure that they feel comfortable, making sure that you take care of any questions that they have, making sure that you design the perfect tattoo and get the placement right. And execute it with confidence.
So there’s not a difference between tattooing a celebrity and an everyday client?
No, to me there isn’t just because I treat everyone the same. From the nameless to the famous, I’m going to treat you like a celebrity. Sometimes it is nerve-wracking to be like, ‘oh man Hailey [Baldwin]’s picture is on a big billboard or Bella Hadid, so you better make sure that when they’re photographed that that tattoo looks flawless.’
The first celebrity you tattooed was Hailey [Baldwin], how did you feel when you did that?
It was cool, it was an honour. It was her first tattoo and she was 18. I didn’t expect her to continue to get tattooed and what is it, like 53 tattoos later (joking), she’s still getting tattooed. She’s awesome, we know each other from church and she’s a legend. She’s dominating right now, she’s such a bombshell and I’m proud of her.
I have to ask, as a Canadian, how was tattooing Justin Bieber?
Oh man, it was a dream because I’m a fan so I was sitting there like, ‘wow just last night I was [sitting in the] nosebleeds at the Barclay Center and now your face is right here and I’m about to tattoo your face.’ So it was neat. Of course, I was like ‘oh man, I better not mess this up. This is J.B., I cannot ruin this handsome man’s face.’ So I made sure that it was perfect.
How was his pain tolerance?
He was good. If anything he could have sat for hours, that tattoo took like seven minutes or something like that. It was a quick tattoo for him. I mean, it was neat there was something beyond getting that tattoo. It was neat because it was in the middle of his Purpose tour and I saw how tired he was and just drained and I asked him, ‘can we pray before we do this tattoo?’ And we did and he’s just been crushing it. I continue to pray for the guy and it’s so neat seeing him just hanging out with our pastors and choosing the right path. It’s not easy for a guy like that to do the right thing but he’s surrounding himself with good company and good people.
What’s your craziest celebrity tattoo story?
I tattooed Post Malone and he got the word ‘whatever’ on the palm of his hand. As I’m tattooing it, finishing it up, crossing the ‘A,’ I realize that I had just crossed the ‘V’ in ‘whatever.’ I’m like ‘oh man this is embarrassing, this guy’s going to whoop my a**.’ I’m like ‘alright Posty, I’ll see ya later.’ He calls me the next day and he’s like, ‘you’re coming through tonight?’ and I’m like ‘uhhh he’s going to kick my a**.’ I came through and he was like ‘yo man, I really like what you did with that ‘V’, crossing that ‘V.’ You really took your artistic liberty on this tattoo.’ So it was funny, we still laugh about it. I love Post Malone, such a down-to-earth cool dude who loves to drink Budweiser.
How did you develop your signature tattoo style?
I gave it a chance, I gave it a shot. At first was scared of it. At first, I would say that I couldn’t do anything that small or that fine-line detailed and the more that I did it, the more people were getting it. Now with social media playing a huge role in my exposure and my success. The more people see it, the more people are like ‘wow I could see myself doing that.’ The best compliment is when people are like ‘man I would have never thought of getting tattooed until I looked at your page and saw that tattoos can look like that.’ It’s neat being able to do these little micro tattoos. They look like little accessories, so discrete, sophisticated, still sexy and meaningful.
With the popularity of tattoo reality shows like Bondi Ink on Netflix and Black Ink Crew on VH1, would you ever see yourself having your own reality show like that?
I don’t know, I mean, if people find my life interesting enough, I guess. But I’m not here to seek out any kind of fame or anything like that. I’d probably look funny on TV or sound funny on TV. But I’m always open. Wherever life may take me, I’m going to be right there.
What does the wait list look like to get an appointment with you?
I know I’m not taking any new clients. But that’s why I do these pop-ups, to give people an opportunity to be tattooed by me and it’s amazing that people show up. For me, it’s an honour that you would ask me to tattoo you so it’s so hard for me to say no to people. But there’s only so many days in a week so it’s tough to really accommodate everyone.
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]
Watch the interview with Global News’ National Online Entertainment Reporter, Katie Scott, and JonBoy in the video above.