Black Ink Crew’s Dutchess Lattimore Speaks On Reclaiming Her Happiness & Turning Trials Into Triumps
Dutchess Lattimore Talks Her Relationship w/ Ceaser, Finding Her Happiness, & More
I always say that most reality stars are misunderstood. Frankly, we only see what is chosen to make the final cut for airtime; we only see what they allow us to see. It’s an illusion of what is wanted to be portrayed as reality. When the cameras are off and the lights are out, who are these people, really? Do we really know? We’re just going off of what’s been compiled in an hour’s time. However, there are so many more layers waiting to be peeled back. I like to think that everyone has a story, a story that not many will understand unless they’ve been a character in it themselves. Recently, I got a chance to hear a little more of the story of Dutchess Lattimore of Black Ink Crew.
To us, she’s just Dutchess, but, when it’s all said and done, she’s still Crystana Lattimore from a little town called Lincolnton, in North Carolina. At a young age, Lattimore developed a passion for the world of art. After high school, she attended North Carolina A&T and graduated cum laude, attaining a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a concentration in Visual Art. Although she was known as a beauty, the N.C. native definitely had the brains to match. She furthered her knowledge, working towards a master’s degree in Business Administration. While in grad school, tattoo artistry had become her newfound love. She began working at a local tattoo shop, quickly gaining a great clientele for her premier work.
However, though life as a budding tattoo artist was kicking off great for Lattimore, she wanted to take her talents elsewhere. It was time for something bigger and better. In 2010, Lattimore moved to the Big Apple, New York City. It didn’t take long for her to become well-respected within the East Coast tattoo community. Shortly after, she found herself a member of the Black Ink Family and was soon presented with the idea of joining VH1’s Black Ink Crew. It was only the beginning for the Southern belle. From there, life in the Big Apple was starting to get a lot more interesting.
A reality TV star and an honorable tattoo expert, Lattimore’s career reached new heights. Since then, she has not only been recognized for her amazing contribution to the tattoo industry, but also for her hand in fashion, modeling, and women’s empowerment. She is now the proud owner of her very own tattoo shop, Pretty-N-Ink, located in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Though Dutchess Lattimore has seen many highs and lows throughout her journey, the Black Ink Crew star is walking into 2017 with a new mindset. Check out our exclusive interview as she talks reclaiming her happiness, her breakup with fellow cast member, Ceaser, and her experience with reality TV.
Parlé Mag: Last time you spoke with us, you had just opened your own shop, ‘Pretty-N-Ink’. Has it been difficult managing a business full-time and also handling life as a reality TV star?
Dutchess: Being an entrepreneur is a very difficult task, but being a black, female entrepreneur, that just makes it ten times harder. But, it also makes it a thousand times more worth it. To me, it’s been a battle. I’ve had some cries; I’ve had some laughs. Every experience that I’ve endured has made me a better boss, has made me understand business better. Has made me be a better person, separate from business. So, for me, it’s just growing pains. It’s things that you’ve got to go through if you want to grow—if you want to be better.
Parlé Mag: Do you have any plans to expand the brand or open other locations?
Dutchess: Of course! I want Pretty-N-Ink to be a franchise. I want it to be somewhere where females, in this industry, always feel welcomed. I want to bridge the gap, in between males and females—understanding that females are just as talented as men. Just because we’re new to the industry—as far as like history and the times, it really wasn’t our control. They wouldn’t allow us in this industry! You know what I’m saying? So, now that we have a doorway open that we can have an artistic expression through the art of tattooing, we got to make sure that we support each other. We got to build each other up. I’m very, very excited and interested in allowing Pretty-N-Ink to be that brand that allows women to truly enjoy and express their artistic creativity, through tattooing. Whether they be an artist or a client.
Parlé Mag: So, going off of what you said—about this being a male-dominated field, what would you say to women who are seeking a career in this industry?
Dutchess: I would say the same thing to a woman that I would say to a man. I feel like, in this society and in this world, we put so much on sex, on man and woman. ‘If you were a woman, what would you do?’, ‘If you were a man, what would you do?’ At the end of the day, whether you’re a man or woman, you still got to do the same thing.
Parlé Mag: Indeed.
Dutchess: You still got to do what it takes to get through. You still got to constantly be proving yourself; you still got to constantly be expanding and experimenting with ideas. You know? It’s going to be some hard times; you might lose. You’re going to fall a few times, but you have to get back up and you got to keep doing it. It’s going to be a lot of people who say you can’t do it. You got to eat that with a big spoon and enjoy it. Let that be like your gasoline to keep you going. A lot of times, that’s a deterrence, for women. We love to have support because we’re supporters; we’re encouragers. So, we love to have that. But, when we don’t have it, it’s like, we give up on ourselves, a little bit. So, I mean, I would just say, you got to keep pushing. Every day it’s going to be something, but every day that it’s something, that’s just something greater that you can understand that you overcame. So, when it happens again, you got it made. You don’t even think about it; it just comes easily.
Parlé Mag: Now, for those who watch Black Ink Crew, they’ve seen the many relationship woes between you and Ceaser, throughout recent years. To my understanding, you two are now officially broken up. Where would you say you guys went wrong? Would you say reality TV played a part in the breakup?
Dutchess: I would say this, a relationship is meant for two people—two loving individuals. When you have a public relationship, that means that you allow everybody to be inside of that relationship. Not just your friends, not just your family—strangers. People who love you, people who hate you, people who might not care less. You just allow too much to be involved in your situation. I feel like, for me, if Cease and I would’ve never had a public relationship, we would’ve probably been alright, because all of those influences and the negativity, it wouldn’t have been as big as it was. Like, when you got ten thousand people who’re telling you this and telling you that—saying this and saying that, but then you got another ten thousand people telling you this and telling you that, you cloud your own judgment by not thinking for yourself. You start thinking for them, thinking about their experiences. Not even thinking about you sometimes. And, not only that but, when you are also in a relationship that’s public, it allows so many other people who want to tear it down. You got the type of people, they want to say, “Oh, well, I slept with you.” , “Oh, well, I did this.”, “Oh, well, I did that.” Just for that badge of honor, so they think. Not knowing that they’re tearing something down that’s sacred and that’s real to somebody else. So, it’s just a lot of outside factors that comes with having a public relationship, and it’s unfortunate that my relationship had to go through that because I really loved Cease and I really wanted things to work between us. But, the temptation and the distractions, they were just far too great for what he had in mind, I guess. That doesn’t change how I feel about him; I still would love and support him. I still hope he does great things in life. It just changes how I feel like I deserve and need to be treated.
Parlé Mag: Do you regret ever opening up that much on national television?
Dutchess: No! I don’t regret anything that I’ve done or gone through on TV. A lot of people be like, “Well, Dutchess, are you a btch?”, “Dutchess, are you this?”, “Well, I think Dutchess is such and such”, but you can’t make any of those judgments without getting to know who I am. Ninety percent of the people who have met me say the exact opposite. “Dang, I did not expect you to be like this, You’re so smart; you’re so sweet. You’re so this; you’re so that.” But, because public perception is such a major thing in our society and in our cultures right now, it’s hard for people to understand what’s real and what pays the bills in reality TV. I heard somebody who’s very important and very amazing at their job, in reality TV, they’re behind the scenes, and they told me, “You know, you have to fight or fck.” This is something that I live by now because I don’t know if I can do this anymore. But, when you sit here and you say to someone they have to ‘fight or f*ck’ to stay relevant, that lets you know the type of situation that not only are we involved in but everybody who’s reading this article, everybody who’s hearing my voice. They’re feeding in it, too, because their TVs are tuned into it. We love foolishness and ignorance. I watched this girl, who’s a big girl and she takes pride in her size, and nothing is wrong with that.
Parlé Mag: Nothing at all!
Dutchess: But, she’s on Instagram. She’s got her titties out, she’s got her ass out. She’s got everything showing that she can show without them taking the page down. It’s so funny because guess how many followers she went from? She went from like five thousand followers to five hundred thousand followers. When she was posting quotes and being positive and doing shit that she ain’t doing now, she didn’t have but a few followers. But, people love it. People are encouraging it, like “Oh my God!”
Parlé Mag: Some things need to be covered up, you know? You can still be sexy without having to show everything.
Dutchess: For me, it’s not even about the covering up. It’s about the fact that we glorify foolishness and ignorance. We glorify it! Why do we put that shit on a pedestal? Why do we hold that shit to a level of esteem? But, you wouldn’t want to be that person yourself. Why do you like to hear the ratchet girl on reality TV curse everybody out and be ultra disrespectful, but you don’t want to be that woman yourself? Why are you celebrating a behavior that you don’t even want to participate in? It makes no sense! It makes absolutely no sense. What do they say? Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. That’s what reality TV is. We’re the new TLC; we’re the new N.W.As. The real people are them people sitting in them offices who’s never sat in a Black community one day to understand Black culture, but can decide how to edit a show for the Black community. That’s not an issue for nobody? For them, this is business! This ain’t our life. This is business to them. So, if I go curse somebody out and the ratings go through the roof next week, guess what? They ain’t worried about me not being able to speak at the high school that I was going to speak at their graduation next semester. You feel me?
Parlé Mag: One hundred percent.
Dutchess: They ain’t thinking about that; they’re thinking about what it does for them. Not the fact that ‘Dutchess ain’t going to be able to do this because she was behaving like that.’ They encourage the foolishness because that’s what we spend our money on. I go to some of these Instagram pages that I love, like @supremeunderstanding. When I tell you I love that man’s page! Love it. I could just sit on his page for hours and just listen to his videos or read what he writes. He can’t make any money posting Flat Tummy Tea! [laughs] But, guess what? If he was the one making some money—posting some Flat Tummy Tea, he’d be out taking that same money in the community, doing something greater than himself because that’s who he is and how he represents shit. Instead, we got the girls who sit there and show off their ass or their titties, the ngga who’s calling every woman a btch. They’re the ones with five hundred thousand followers. It’s just, we celebrate foolishness. We love that shit and it’s sad. White people hate it. They don’t even allow it to surface on top of their TV shows. Have you noticed that?
Parlé Mag: I have!
Dutchess: They don’t even let that shit surface! Us, we quick; we quick to it, without thought. When you got those type of things driving it, you ain’t got nothing but foolishness.
Parlé Mag: How much longer do you see yourself doing reality TV?
Dutchess: See, that’s a very weird question because when I say how much longer do I see myself doing reality TV, it’s so many different varieties of reality TV. Now, the reality TV you see on VH1, it’s that type of reality TV, but the reality TV you see on OWN, it’s positive. It’s melanated and it’s white. It’s spiritual, not religious. It’s non-political, non-bias. You can be gay and enjoy that show; you can be white and enjoy that show. You can be from Alaska and enjoy that show. But, when you talk about other types of reality TV, it’s limited to the type of people who find that appealing or want to say, “I want to be like that.” or “I want to do that.” Those are the shows that get the ratings, though. The ones that somebody going to slap somebody and drag them through the mud. Those are the shows that are going to get the ratings, though. The shows where they’re changing lives, nobody wants to see that. I don’t know why; I guess because their lives ain’t changing.
Parlé Mag: Well, maybe I should’ve said, ‘How much longer do you see yourself doing Black Ink Crew?’ [laughs]
Dutchess: Oh, this is probably my last season of Black Ink Crew! I’m praying to God that he can make that possible—that he can bring that to fruition. You gotta think about it like this, nobody at Black Ink likes me; they never have. I was in love with Cease. Cease was the boss. Because I was putting Cease in a position to where he had to make some changes, if he wanted to be with me, they couldn’t deal with that shit. Now that I’m gone, I got everybody against me—all because I decided that I was unhappy in an unhealthy relationship. If your friends call me a btch, I’m so sorry, but that’s an unhealthy relationship. Nobody should be disrespected by your friends; I don’t have a relationship with them. So, because I was unhappy in an unhealthy relationship, I deserve to be dragged through the mud because I chose that wasn’t what’s best for me? I’m sorry. See, the power of choices is amazing, and I didn’t think I had a choice. That’s why I stayed in my relationship for so long being unhappy. I didn’t think I had a choice. They made sure that they made me believe that I didn’t have a choice. So, you saw me on the TV, miserable and depressed—looking all fcked up, not taking care of myself, and you wondering why? You tell me what you would do in a situation you know you’re miserable in, but they’re telling you that you can’t get out of it.
Parlé Mag: I always believe that your happiness comes first, overall.
Dutchess: Yeah, so, being surrounded by that negativity, consistently, that shit was changing who I was. It took me to open up my shop and spend more time around people who really know me, really grew up with me, really went to college with me, really seen my whole progression of life and I’ve seen theirs and can respect it. It really took me to be in those type of environments again for me to understand that I have a choice. That’s what made me say, ‘I have a choice now.’ I can’t force my man; I don’t want to force my man to make a choice. So, I stayed and I waited to see if he would ever change some of the circles that he was around. And, because he chooses not to and because he also chose not to correct those men’s behavior in my presence, that’s when I realized, ‘I am not being treated like the queen I am. That’s why I’m acting like a peasant.’ I just had to remove myself from some of that energy because it wasn’t for me. I don’t have an ill will towards anybody at Black Ink; I wish them all love, peace, happiness, and success in whatever they decide to do. But, in return, I ask for peace. I ask to not be dragged through social media. You don’t even have to mention my name. You don’t like me anyway. I wouldn’t waste my time mentioning someone I didn’t like. Allow me to progress in my life in peace, the way that I am successfully happy for you all to do the same!
Parlé Mag: So, now that you’re moving on, how do you hope your success story will inspire people?
Dutchess: I just hope that my story inspires someone who ain’t been doing nothing to do something. Let me tell you, I come from women, and I come from the South!
Parlé Mag: I do, too! Born and raised.
Dutchess: It’s something different about Southern women. You feel me? They know how to work, they know how to cook, they know how to clean, they know how to make sure everybody in the house has food, clothes, shoes, and get where they need to go. This is what a Black woman does. When you see that type of energy and you understand that that’s your role as a woman and in the world—in society, you don’t have time for anything but focusing on where you need to get in life, and pushing those other people around you in those same directions. You don’t even have time for hating! It ain’t enough hours in the day for all of that. You dead seriously have to be focused. Now, I’m just trying to be focused—take care of my business, take care of my brand, take care of myself. Keep my relationship with God in order. I didn’t go to church for about four years. People be like, “Oh, so what you didn’t go to church? That ain’t nothing.” That is something when you’ve spent ninety percent of your life giving reverence to God. Yeah, that is a big deal! That do change how you are, how you behave, the circles you choose to be around. It changes all of those things. I wasn’t paying attention to that. So, I had to open my eyes. I’m thankful for the experience, thankful for the opportunities. If it wasn’t for this experience, I probably wouldn’t be the woman I am today. I wouldn’t even be able to speak to you the way that I’m speaking right now. I’m very grateful. I’m grateful for my relationship; I’m grateful for Cease. I’m grateful for all of the people who was at Black Ink. In some way, shape, or form, they helped me learn something greater about myself. It wasn’t even about them hating on me; I ain’t mad about none of that. I’m grateful for it because it allowed me to understand some things that I need to change about myself. I needed to unlearn some things that I learned as a child. Innocently, I learned some things that were f*cked up for the adult who I wanted to be. It wasn’t conducive to what I wanted to be in my adult life, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t understand that until I had to go through seeing a lot of that bullshit through TV. So, I’m grateful for it. Forever grateful. But, it ain’t the end.
Parlé Mag: From here, what’s next?
Dutchess: What’s next for me is happiness! [laughs] What’s next for me is life! Prosperity! The most amazing thing is peace. I didn’t know how much I valued peace until recently. I see myself very successful. Like, I just spoke at Women Doing It Big. I’m speaking at all of these women empowerment events and when I tell you this is like my crack right now! If I was ever a crackhead, this would be my crack!
Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Dutchess: I am enjoying this shit so much. It’s so beautiful to see other women who are inspiring to me. So, when I get to hear their story, I’m just sitting there in awe, like ‘Oh my God!’ I never would’ve thought that. I never would’ve known that. A lot of times, women don’t like to open up; we hold shit in because we’re so used to having to be the matriarch of all of our situations. But, when you see a woman allow that shit to really shine and show, that is powerful! I’ve seen a whole room full of women, crying. Not tears of hurt or pain, tears of triumph. That is beautiful!
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