Romeo Lacoste is the world’s first celebrity tattoo artist to get verified on Instagram, the first tattoo artist to pop off on social media as a whole really. Eight years ago when IG first came into fruition, the Montreal, Canada native took advantage and created a brand and image for himself, during an era where tattoo artists were only showing their portfolios and artwork.
Currently boasting over two million followers on Instagram alone, Romeo prides himself in tattooing some of the biggest names in entertainment. He states, “I really was the first to develop a brand tattooing celebrities and being more than just an artist, but also a face and a personality.” From Justin Bieber to Kendrick Lamar to Ariana Grande, he’s been tattooing for over a decade — even starting his own Youtube channel (with over one million subscribers) to cover his love for body art.
Flaunt Mag arrived at Romeo’s tattoo shop in North Hollywood called The California Dream, a place he opened five years ago when he came to the States. Most recently, he tattooed NFL player Odell Beckham Jr. on his hand, a piece inspired by Michelangelo’s iconic painting, The Creation of Adam. Regardless of his high-profile clientele, Romeo is known for the intricate detail in his work, equipped with the ability to be upfront and tell them how it is — without fear of hurting their feelings.
He also jokes of being called “Romeo Baby Hands Lacoste” for his ability to tattoo and take care of whoever it is he’s working on. Read below as he explains his friendship with Juice WRLD, love for tattooing, meeting Drake, and more.
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Montreal, Canada. I’m very proud to be Canadanian but I also feel like LA’s my home. This is where I really started popping off, so I represent both sides. I love Canada though, it’s my hometown. But I also have a huge love for Los Angeles and the West Coast. That’s why I called the tattoo shop The California Dream because it was about me coming to California, not having a whole lot, coming from a poor family, and really making the dream happen in California.
When did you fall in love with tattooing?
I’ve been an artist my whole life. I’m 30 and I’ve been drawing ever since I could first pick up a pencil. So back when I was 6 years old, I used to draw. When I was about 10, I started watching cartoons and drawing Dragon Ball Z. I’ve been drawing cartoons ever since I can remember. Then when I was 17, I decided to get into tattooing. I was inspired by Kat Von D and the whole LA Ink thing, back in those times when that was really popular. I’m like “you know what, that might be the move from me.”
I never really followed the path everyone else follows. I made my own way for everything and that’s why I decided “I’m going to use social media and basically create my own world and my own lane.” I didn’t follow the path everyone else was taking, I’m going to do things my own way.
What do you feel when you’re tattooing?
When I tattoo, I’m in a whole nother world. That’s really the only way to describe it. When you’re in real life, you have to worry about bills, relationships, family problems, whatever it is. Everyones got their own problems, their own issues. But when I tattoo, it’s almost like I get sucked into this whole other dimension where my whole world is this piece and making this piece come to life. All I focus about is that, I literally have nothing else on my mind. It really makes me feel alive. I’m creating something that will last a lifetime on someone else’s body, that’s an awesome feeling knowing that you’re doing a piece of art that can’t be burned or destroyed. When it becomes a life of its own for someone else, it really gives you a satisfying feeling.
Talk about your love for music as well because you’ve done all the big names.
I grew up really in the rock scene, that’s what got me my start. I used to go on the Vans Warped Tour. When I moved to California, I started tattooing and I got more involved in the hip-hop scene. I have a love for all styles. Music really inspires a lot of my art, it inspires a lot of my actions and my motivation. Obviously everyone’s inspired by music, but I got into tattooing a lot of artists and it really introduced me to a lot of new artists too. I did all of Juice WRLD’s tattoos too, he was a really close friend of mine.
How did you know Juice?
He reached out to me on Instagram when he first started popping off. I’ve been tattooing him for two years since he got his first tattoo right around 18 or 19.
What’d he get?
He’s got some writing on his arm. I’ve done pretty much almost everything. He’s got so many tattoos. There’s a lot of pieces that didn’t even come out because he passed away before new photos got taken. I did a big chest piece. I did a piece on his stomach. It’s crazy because being so close to him and really being tied in with him also made me have a new appreciation for his music. When I listen to his music, I listen to it in a whole different light. It sounds different. When he passed away, I started listening to his music and it all started sounding completely different. Because I knew him and the whole situation made things so personal.
It makes me sad because you hear him rapping Percs, etc. There were so many signs….
It’s really crazy too because I work with a lot of artists. It’s one of those things where sometimes you know celebrities and you’re not super public about it. Obviously I did post I tattooed Juice, but him and I were actually really close. We were friends. I’ve gone over. Him and I had a special kind of relationship he didn’t have with other people in the industry. Him and I, we connected on a lot of stuff that he couldn’t bond with a lot of other artists. We were really into video games, we played Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. We were into the old school gaming stuff. He was really into that and he couldn’t talk about that or have that connection with a lot of the other rappers he was friends with. I’d come over, he’d be so excited to show me his new Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and to play with them. We had this sort of more innocent friendship that took him away from a lot of the corruption and things in the industry: music, money, drugs, etc. Him and I had this really cool bond.
It’s crazy, I was actually over at his house the day he died. Right before he went on his flight, I was tattooing him. That whole situation is really intense for me. I’m obviously still dealing with that but back to your question, music plays a huge part in my tattooing. When I’m tattooing artists, this situation wakes me up a little bit. It makes me realize people put their heart and soul into their art and music, and it really affects people.