On the surface, Ruthless is as lovely as can be. When she opens the door to her condo in Huntington Beach, CA, she’s all smiles and laughter in her skintight pants, despite the fact that there’s a menagerie of cats and dogs at war with each other in the background, and that INKED is about to take over her life for the next 10 hours to do a shoot and interview. But Ruthless, who’s gained the reputation of being a tough chica on LA Ink, has good reason to be practically giddy.
For the past few years, the 25-year-old petite tattoo artist has been bouncing back and forth between guest tattooing in Hawaii and her hometown, Los Angeles, but thanks to her hardworking manager, some luck, and one life-changing Skype conversation, she’s landed a gig on LA Ink. Working alongside Corey Miller, Amy Nicoletto, and Paulie at Craig Jackman’s American Electric Tattoo, the rival parlor to Kat Von D’s High Voltage, Ruthless will be staying on the mainland for the foreseeable future. As the new artist in the shop, she’s had her share of tension with coworkers, especially Amy. Things have even escalated to the point where Ruthless threatened to knock Amy’s teeth out.
Is this the same girl who confessed to us that she can’t believe all of this is really happening? Certainly. Despite a conservative upbringing by a first-generation Filipino family in the Los Angeles suburb of Eagle Rock, Ruthless acquired a sharp edge that suggests more is going on underneath her bubbly demeanor. It’s an edge as sharp as the claws of the tiger that wraps around her right arm. In high school her interest laid in athletics, namely track and field and, surprisingly for her size, basketball. “I played every sport and was the captain,” she explains. But it was the opportunity to go through police training boot camp that really held her attention. “When they came into my classroom and talked about the boot camp and police training stuff, I was like, ‘Heck yeah,’” she says. Ruthless succeeded in the program, graduated at the top of her class, and became a drill instructor. But while it’s important for a 5'2? woman to know how to defend herself, the training wasn’t without its drawbacks.
Ruthless was 18 the last time she was in an actual fight, and during the scuffle she went into a trance-like state, she says. “When I snapped out of it I had ended up breaking a lot of her teeth out,” she remembers. “I broke her nose, I broke several of her ribs, and she got expelled from school. I’m not proud of it. Ever since that I try my best not to [fight], and I haven’t fought anybody since then. That girl recently added me on Facebook.”
Just because Ruthless hasn’t fought in years doesn’t mean she’s a pushover. But you probably already knew that from her brief time on LA Ink. Born Ruth Pineda, she earned her nickname while working at the Vintage Tattoo Art Parlor in Eagle Rock a few years back. “This prostitute came in with her pimp,” Ruthless starts the story. “He had given her money to go get tattooed, and she had lost it. She did something with it and couldn’t remember. Then, all of a sudden, she turned around to everybody and started accusing us, that we stole her money. She was saying all this crazy stuff—like, ‘I’m gonna kill you.’ I had to physically escort this person out. I was really pissed off because they were threatening everybody and I’m like, ‘This is not going to happen. Not when I’m around.’ When I came back in everyone was staring at me with their eyes all huge. They all started saying to me, ‘Holy crap—ruthless, you’re freakin’ ruthless.’” The moniker stuck.