January 7, 2020

Read the full interview on FlauntMag.com!

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.

Photo courtesy\

What were those conversations you had with him?

Obviously, we talked a lot about tattoos. He really respected my opinion on a lot of stuff. He’s like “hey, what do you think I should do with this or that?” You see a lot of celebrities and they have really crappy tattoos, it’s because maybe they go to an artist and people don’t want to tell people no. Whatever idea these rappers, artists, or celebrities come to them with, no one wants to tell them no even if they’re bad.

Same situation with Kendrick. He’ll come to me, it’s more where he knows that I’m honest. I’m like “yo maybe we should do things a little different, we should do it like that.” They know they’ll get the best possible version of their idea, not just someone who says “yeah I’ll do it exactly how you want” and slap it on. But we talked a lot about tattoos, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc. He was a big nerd honestly. He was pretty open about it but he was super into anime and video games. We talked a lot about dirt biking, things like that.

How did you link with Kendrick?

I ran into his manager or assistant on social media somehow. I don’t remember who reached out first but he’s like “Kendrick really likes your tattoos, he wants to get some writing. Can he come in?” It was so random, he hit me out the blue. He came in that night for a consultation. He literally just showed up when the shop was open, there’s customers in the shop. He’s talking about his idea.

I’m like “when do you want to book it?” He’s like “well if you got time, I’ll do it right now.” He literally got tattooed that night. We’ve been working ever since, I’ve tattooed him 10 times now. When he’s not on tour or recording, there was a time he’d be at the shop every week. He’s really cool too. I’ve offered to go to his house and tattoo there, a lot of celebrities prefer that. But he’ll just come to the shop. Sometimes he’ll come with no security, just him and his girl or a friend or a relative. Show up just like that, it’s super dope.

How did the collab with Odell Beckham Jr. come about?

That’s also a really crazy story. My life feels like a movie. You ever feel like that sometimes? Especially in LA. I literally went to Pinz bowling, Odell was just bowling. I remember I had seen him on TV and been like “it’d be really cool to tattoo Odell.” Literally two weeks later, he goes into Pinz. This random kid I was bowling with who was a friend of someone I tattooed was like “I know him a little bit. Let me talk to him and see if I can introduce you guys.” I thought he was bullshitting. He goes off, he comes back and brings Odell back. He’s like “I heard you do tattoos, I want to get something small. I checked out your IG, let me get your number and let’s link up.” I’m like shit! Literally three days later, he had a party at his house. Had me come over and tattoo him at his house. While I was at this house, Drake shows up and I ended up meeting Drake and his whole OVO entourage. I’ve been working with those guys too.

Have you tattooed Drizzy?

I haven’t tattooed Drake but I’ve pretty much worked with everybody in his circle. It’s just one of those things. Drake followed me on Instagram and likes a lot of my work, which is pretty cool.

How much time is spent prepping vs. actually tattooing?

It’s almost 50/50 really. Usually if I do a one hour tattoo, it’s almost one hour prep. I put a lot of time into preparation. If I do a tattoo, I want to make sure there’s a lot of time and care into it. Make sure it’s on point. I like to be prepared, I don’t like to rush into anything. So many of these artists like to free hand. I’m all about it, but I also like to be over-prepared. For me, I’m known for my execution and how perfect my pieces come out. They’re just executed so flawlessly. I don’t like to leave room for error so I try to be as prepared when I go into it. When I start a tattoo, I already know in my head how it’s going to look finished. Some people go with it and figure it out as they go. For me when I start, it’s already in my head exactly how I have to do it.

How much do you charge?

It really depends. I try to do it more based on the piece. Also I’m more picky. If it’s something I like to do obviously, I’m more flexible. I usually charge around $500 an hour, somewhere around there. A lot of times people come to me with really dope ideas and they’re a little bit tighter on a budget, I don’t really care. I’m like “yo, let’s do it.” I charge a certain rate because I’m in demand but at the end of the day, I want to have fun doing the piece. I care more about the customer getting a dope piece and it being about the art, and it being something I have fun doing.

What are some goals for yourself and the shop?

I’m working on a couple things right now. I’m working this year on expanding The California Bream brand into more than just a tattoo shop. I want to expand to beauty care products, aftercare products, and also a clothing line. I want to turn The California Dream into a brand basically. Also, I opened this studio as a private studio when I started to tattoo. I’m working on growing the name and opening a bigger location. I have a vision in my head for how I want it to look. I want to turn it into an iconic staple location in Los Angeles, take it from a private lowkey spot to more a storefront.

Anything else you want us to know?

RIP Juice, that’s it.

What’s your favorite song by Juice WRLD?

Damn, he’s got so many good songs. I really like “Legends” honestly. A lot of people like that song but when I listen to it now, it reminds me of him singing about himself. It’s about Peep and XXX dying but him also. I got two tattoos for him, the 999 and Legends [shows tattoos on his hand] in the font I used for a lot of his tattoos.

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