• “Black Ink Crew” is a VH1 reality series that follows the drama and daily comings and goings at a Harlem-based African-American tattoo shop.
• Ceaser Emanuel is the owner of the shop, who was born in June 1979 and is of African-American descent.
• Crystana “Dutchess” Latimore is a famous tattoo artist and TV personality, who was in the show during its first five seasons.
• Richard Duncan was a main cast member until season five and JaKeita “Sky” Days was the Haitian and African-American former receptionist of the shop.
• Controversy has surrounded the show, including allegations of child cruelty and animal abuse.

What is “Blank Ink Crew”?

“Blank Ink Crew” – known as “BIC” – is a VH1 reality series that premiered in January 2013, and follows the drama and daily comings and goings at a Harlem-based African-American tattoo shop. Thanks to the success of the initial series, VH1 has released several spin-offs which are set in Compton, Chicago, and other locations.

Cast Members

The protagonist of “BIC” is Ceaser Emanuel, the owner of the shop and other tattoo studios in Orlando, Brooklyn, Houston and Atlanta. The savvy businessman and TV personality was born in June 1979 and is of African-American descent.

Ceaser’s childhood was anything but easy. Following the death of his father from AIDS, he was raised in New York City by his Jamaican single mother, who dropped out of the modelling industry to focus on her family, and with the death of her partner tried her hand at hairstyling, and opened her own salon despite having no prior experience. She also found love again with a man named Kenneth Simpson.

In 1999, Ceaser graduated from the High School of Graphic Communication and Arts, and then enrolled into Katharine Gibbs College, obtaining a graphic arts degree. He unexpectedly became a father, and so turned his back on the gritty streets lifestyle he was accustomed to; after returning to school in 2006, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in visual communication.

Despite a stable career as a graphic designer and art director, Ceaser felt dissatisfied. He was inspired to join a tattoo shop when he saw how much money his friends made doing the same thing. After watching and learning for three months, Ceaser joined Black Ink Tattoo Studio, to make a name for himself in the competitive industry.

After working at Black Ink for several years, Ceaser and the shop’s original owner were the last men standing, as the other tattoo artists had moved on to bigger and better things. Ceaser first appeared on VH1’s radar after taking part in a reality show with the artist Cory Gunz; the network executives persuaded him to star in his own show. By now, Ceaser had taken over the shop, but was on the verge of bankruptcy, so he didn’t need much persuading to agree.

Although Black Ink is synonymous with fights and pretty drama these days, it’s undeniable that Ceaser – and VH1 – have turned the once-faltering tattoo shop into a lifestyle brand. From merchandise to its own magazine, the Black Ink franchise shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Posted by Dutchess Lattimore on Monday, December 4, 2017

Next up is Crystana “Dutchess” Latimore, a famous tattoo artist and TV personality, who was in the show during its first five seasons. Born in February 1984, in Lincolnton, North Carolina, Dutchess was interested in arts from her early childhood, and would often draw on herself, despite her parents’ disapproval.

Just before heading off to Atlanta’s prestigious Spelman University to obtain an art degree, Dutchess was hit with the loss of a beloved family member, and so stayed home to be with her parents and loved ones. She eventually graduated cum laude from North Carolina A&T, obtaining a business management and visual arts degree.

Years of hard work paid off, as Dutchess was able to save up enough money to move to New York City in 2010. Shortly afterwards, she began working at Black Ink, and delved into the world of reality TV. Her fiery attitude and turbulent romantic relationship with Ceaser attracted plenty of attention, and Dutchess made the most of the publicity to open her own tattoo parlor in 2015.

These days, Pretty-N-Ink is a successful tattoo parlor in Charlotte, North Carolina. Prior to becoming a self-made businesswoman, Dutchess dabbled on the catwalk in the modeling world, and snagged a coveted first spot in the 2010 Boston Tattoo Convention Beauty Pageant. Fans of Dutchess and Ceaser were bitterly disappointed when the couple broke up; although she moved on with the NFL player Zack Sanchez, he reportedly dumped her via Snapchat after just a few months of dating.

Third in line is Richard Duncan, who was a main cast member until season five, and made his last appearance in the show in its ninth season. The former Black Ink employee was known for his braggadocious attitude and carelessness; on one occasion, he showed up so late to work that two of his clients had become bored with waiting and gone home. Despite his shortcomings, Richard was extremely talented, and could draw faster than Ceaser.

Richard had a pretty rough time on the show, as his daughter, Lulu, moved with her mother to another state. The tattoo artist was battling plenty of demons, such as his alcohol addiction; things got so bad that Ceaser fired him until he stopped drinking. Things were looking up for the talented TV personality when he left the bottle and was rehired by Ceaser – the latter trusted him so much that he temporarily left him in charge of the shop so he could demonstrate his leadership skills. Unfortunately, Richard was arrested shortly afterwards.

Richard’s womanizing ways have also been a hot topic of discussion, as he was caught out after cheating on his fiancée at the time, Anya, with several ladies. The tattoo artist clearly isn’t thinking about settling down anytime soon, as he remains single and unfocused in life. It’s unclear what he’s up to since Ceaser fired him for the last time.

Paul “Puma” Robinson was a main character from seasons one to four. The PR manager is a committed husband and father, who had a great relationship with Sassy, Richard, and other tattoo artists. Puma felt that Ceaser was too strict with some of the employees, especially with Richard, and disagreed when he decided to fire the latter. These days, Puma has his own company named Art2Ink.

You can’t discuss “Black Ink” without mentioning JaKeita “Sky” Days, the Haitian and African-American former receptionist of the tattoo shop, who was known for her emotional meltdowns and dramatic ways. Straightforward, bold and fearless, Sky worked as a make-up artist before Ceaser employed her. Reality TV changed her life forever as she went from being unknown to becoming a mini-celebrity overnight; Sky took the changes in her stride and has adapted well to being one of the small screen’s most recognizable villains.

Sky had two children during her adolescent years whom she gave up for adoption. In a particularly memorable episode that aired in early 2020, she and her son Des came to blows during an emotional meeting. Hurling insults and expletives at each other, Sky shocked viewers when she told Des that she wished she’d aborted him, and that neither she nor his father wanted him.

Obviously, the incident immediately went viral on social media; Sky was branded an unfit mother and a deadbeat by thousands of irate viewers, and accused of emotional abuse towards her son. Des broke down crying in the car while Sky was ranting at him; later on, he told Ceaser that it was best he and his mother go their separate ways.

In 2020, Sky’s abrupt departure from “Black Ink” got tongues wagging. Unsurprisingly, VH1 decided to suspend her from the show after she hit Des. Initially, Des stopped by to visit his mother and apologize for what had happened during a prior meeting, in which she accused him of stealing from her. Sky had insisted that a girl had sent her social media messages claiming to be pregnant with Des’s child, and claimed that he was just trying to get money from her.

One thing led to another and Des insulted Sky; she then hit him and later made it clear that she felt no remorse for what had happened and was disinterested in working on their rocky relationship. It’s been almost three years since she was suspended from “Black Ink” in February 2020, and Des and his brother Genesis are believed not to be on speaking terms with Sky.

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Sky has over four million Instagram followers, and ironically, claims to be a mental health advocate. These days, the TV personality is a shadow of her former, fresher-faced self, due to her love of plastic surgery and partying. Some of her many operations include a fox eye lift, Brazilian butt lift, and breast augmentation; Sky rarely shares photos without filters or Photoshop either.

The social media influencer makes a living working with Pretty Little Thing and other brands, as well as hosting nightclubs from time to time. In October 2022, she celebrated National Boyfriend Day by revealing she was in a new relationship, but his identity remains a mystery for now; previously, she was linked to the local rapper 600 Breezy.


Like we said, “Black Ink” and drama go hand in hand – be it petty social media spats or run-ins with the law. In January 2021, Ceaser’s teenage daughter Cheyenne accused him of dragging her out of the shower while she was naked and beating her. The startling allegations were made via Instagram Live; Cheyenne also called Ceaser’s girlfriend a “porn star” and showed clips of her X-rated videos.

Later on, Cheyenne doubled down on her claims and penned a message that read: “The level of disrespect from my father pulling me out of the shower then beating me while I was naked is a problem… It’s a shame that because he’s on TV that people would think it is ok to kick me punch me and stomp me like I’m a dog in the street.” She mentioned Ceaser’s girlfriend again, claiming that she had stalked her father for years while he was in a relationship with Dutchess.

Ceaser denied the claims and said that he’d merely disciplined his daughter. In May 2021, things heated up even more when Cheyenne’s mother, Crystal, reiterated her daughter’s claims. Ceaser hit Crystal with a defamation lawsuit and things were taken to court; the outcome of the lawsuit remains unclear.

Netizens who defended Ceaser had to eat their words when a video of the disgraced TV star began circulating on social media in June 2022, in which, prompted an animal cruelty investigation, Ceaser was seen hitting a defenseless dog with a folded chair and kicking it. VH1 promptly cut ties with the tattoo artist, who defended himself by saying that he’d been trying to break up a fight between his dogs.

“Even me looking at it, it looks crazy. But it’s a moment in time I wish I could take back,” Ceaser said. “I came home, my dogs is attacking each other… I mean they was going for each other’s necks, basically trying to kill each other.” Ceaser’s lukewarm statement wasn’t good enough for VH1 or the court of public opinion, as since then, the reality heavyweight has lost plenty of brand endorsements and opportunities.

On a lighter note, not all “Black Ink” scandals are related to animal abuse or alleged child cruelty. As mentioned, Sky Days began dating rapper 600 Breezy in late 2019, with the pair making a joint appearance at that year’s annual BET Hip Hop Awards. The relationship was controversial from the beginning due to the age gap, with Breezy being almost the same age as Sky’s sons, however, the real drama came when Queen Key, a little-known rapper, claimed to be expecting not one but three of Breezy’s kids.

That’s right: Queen Key was pregnant with triplets, and blasting Breezy on social media for not stepping up to his duties. Breezy vehemently denied having anything to do with the unborn children, but who turned out to bear a striking resemblance to him. The negative publicity got so bad that Sky and Breezy quietly broke up; Queen Key gave birth in March 2020, just one month after Sky was suspended from “Black Ink” for beating her son.

Since then, Queen Key has been documenting her single motherhood journey on Instagram, whereas Breezy refuses to have anything to do with the triplets. In September 2022, he shared that his longtime girlfriend, Raven Jackson, had committed suicide after struggling with mental health issues. Given Breezy’s disappointing track record with women, some people insinuated that he was using Raven’s tragic demise for sympathy, and pointed out that the rapper had never mentioned her, despite them having been together for over two years. Breezy and Sky are no longer on speaking terms, and have apparently both moved on in life.

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