Kat Von D (born Katherine von Drachenberg, March 8, 1982), is an American tattoo artist, model, musician, and television personality. She is best known for her work as a tattoo artist on the TLC reality television show LA Ink, which premiered August 7, 2007, in the United States and ran for four seasons.
Kat Von D was born in Montemorelos, Nuevo León, Mexico. Her Seventh-day Adventist Church missionary parents, father René and mother Sylvia or Silvia Galeano, were born in Argentina, of German, Italian and Spanish descent, respectively. Von D has a sister, Karoline and a brother, Michael. She moved with her family to the Los Angeles area at age 4 and grew up in Colton, California. Von D was classically trained in piano beginning at age 6. She particularly appreciates Ludwig van Beethoven.
Kat Von D credits her grandmother, Clara von Drachenberg, as an inspiration for her in music and art, and the Latino culture of Los Angeles as a major influence on her tattoo art and style. She began listening to the Ramones, Misfits, and other punk rock bands at the age of 12. She got her first tattoo at 14 and quit school at 16 to become a tattoo artist.
Von D was asked to work at 305 Ink in Miami when Darren Brass broke his elbow, preventing him from tattooing. She appeared in two seasons of Miami Ink, the reality TV show taped there for the cable network TLC. She had a falling out with Ami James which led to her being asked to leave the shop.
She subsequently acquired her own TLC series, LA Ink, which chronicled her work at her tattoo shop, High Voltage Tattoo, in Hollywood, California. On the show, she gained the Guinness World Record of most tattoos given by a single person in 24 hours, with a total of 400. Accomplished in December 2007, it involved a Von D-designed logo for the city of Los Angeles, with proceeds going to the children’s-blindness charity Vitamin Angels. Her record was subsequently broken by her ex-husband, Oliver Peck on June 13, 2008, followed by others; as of November 2008 the record is held by Hollis Cantrell from Artistic Tattoo in Phoenix, Arizona, with 801. LA Ink ran four seasons, ending September 15, 2011; TLC announced the cancellation on August 18, 2011. Von D has publicly said that the cancellation was because she choose not to continue doing the show.
Her first book, High Voltage Tattoo, compiling her artworks and tattoos, with a foreword by Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx, was released in January 2009 and reached #6 on The New York Times Best Seller list. Von D described the book as “not an autobiography, you know, ’cause I’m too young to do that. But this is just kind of like a picture-driven outline of my career as an artist. So, you see everything from my drawings when I was six to tattoos that have never before been seen.” Her second book, The Tattoo Chronicles, an illustrated diary following a year in her life, was released October 26, 2010, and reached #3 on The New York Times “Hardcover Advice & Misc.” best-seller list.
In 2008, Von D created and launched a make-up line for Sephora. She has released new collections every year and has expanded her line to include fragrances. In 2012, through Sephora, her New American Beauty Art Tour benefitted the Art of Elysium charitable organization.
She is the creator of the MusInk Tattoo Convention and Music Festival, which began in 2008. Musink is an all ages Tattoo, Music, and Art festival located in Southern California.
On September 2, 2010, Von D opened the art gallery and boutique Wonderland Gallery in the space next door to High Voltage Tattoo. She launched the clothing lines KVD Los Angeles and Kat Von D Los Angeles in the US and Canada in fall 2011, with the latter expanding internationally the following year. In 2008, she began her own makeup line, Kat Von D. It has since gained the largest following on social media of any beauty brand.
Kat Von D provided the female vocals to the song “Rosary Blue” on X, a 2012 studio album by the Finnish Gothic Rock band The 69 Eyes. In August 2013, she tweeted that Dave Grohl and producer Danny Lohner had finished two tracks of an album she had talked about recording as early as 2011.
Von D married fellow tattoo artist Oliver Peck in 2003. They separated in August 2007, and finalized their divorce later that year.
In July 2007 Von D decided to quit drinking after it started to threaten her work.
From February 2008 until January 2010, Von D dated Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx. She subsequently began dating motorcycle customizer, West Coast Choppers CEO and reality TV personality Jesse James. On August 19, 2010, Von D confirmed media reports that she and James were dating, tweeting, “I think it’s pretty obvious that we’re dating.” Von D and James became engaged in January 2011. Von D announced that they had split in July 2011. However, in August 2011, Von D and James announced that their engagement was back on. In September 2011, Von D announced that she and James had broken up again.
In September 2012, Von D began dating Canadian music producer Joel Zimmerman, known professionally as Deadmau5, and gave him a star tattoo below his eye to match her own. ] They broke up in November 2012. However, on December 15, 2012, Zimmerman proposed to Von D over Twitter, and she accepted, becoming engaged to him. In June 2013, Von D announced that she and Zimmerman had ended their engagement. Von D cited Zimmerman’s alleged infidelity as the reason.
Von D has tattooed herself with the emblems of the bands HIM, Misfits, Turbonegro, ZZ Top, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Slayer, Mike Got Spiked and “Slutallica”, a modified Metallica logo. She appeared in the music video of HIM’s “Killing Loneliness”, as well as Alkaline Trio’s “Help Me”. Other musical artists that Von D lists among her favorites include The Mars Volta and Selena.
Kat is vegan and promotes a cruelty-free makeup line.
Von D was referred to in the Eagles of Death Metal song “High Voltage”, which was named after her shop and is featured on their third album, Heart On. In an interview, Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes said, “I wrote that for Kat Von D, because that girl’s bad ass.”