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'Black Ink Crew Chicago' Star Ryan Henry Talks Artistic Expression and Being Inspired

Photo Credit: VH1

Black Ink Crew Chicago's Ryan Henry was always an artist. Since he was a child, Henry would draw whatever his mind could imagine. In fact, before becoming a tattoo artist, the Chicago-native hadn't drawn in years and it was unforeseen circumstances that led Henry to enter the tattoo artistry world. He was laid off during a recession and instead of turning his life back over to the streets, the reality TV star knew it was time to do something else.

Inspired by former cast mate, Van Johnson, Henry decided to use his art after he watched Johnson do tattoos in their neighborhood. "Van inspired me by doing it because he was hustling and I was a hustler," Henry explains. The opening of his 9Mag Tattoo shop was bittersweet. Henry's late sister was also a driving force, which pushed him to reach his potential.

"I ultimately made a promise to my late sister that I was going to do it," Henry says about opening his own shop. "I kept my promise and it has been going ever since."

Black Ink Crew Chicago has been a ratings juggernaut for VH1. Now in its 7th season, the hit show is hoping to continue to make viral and meme-worthy moments, while viewers get an inside look at the cast's personal and professional lives. Although Henry has been doing this for a while now, the art form of tattoos is constantly evolving. "I love the fact that people have become more accepting of the artistic expression," Henry says. The entrepreneur points out that over time tattoos went from being only accepted in the biker world and then the music world. Slowly more communities started opening up to the idea of getting inked. "It's great to have the artistic expression span throughout so many different cultures," Henry says regarding the ever-changing world of being a tattoo artist and the consumers who approach him.

For artists who are inspired by Henry and his art, the star makes it known that anyone can pursue their dream of ownership. According to Henry, the most essential thing someone could do is to "study and research." We have to "think outside of what we have come to know about our culture," he says. Henry understands that the comfort level of what people think should happen is a major reason why failure happens.

And with his failures, Henry is hoping to help the next generation avoid the mistakes that he has endured. The student has now become the teacher as Henry is set to open 9Mag University. For his latest endeavor, Henry will "teach with conviction" and help up-and-coming artists perfect their craft.

Catch Ryan Henry on Season 7 of Black Ink Crew Chicago premiering on August 9.


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