Q & A With Tyrese Gibson
Ask Tyrese Gibson how many tattoos he has and he will laugh in your face. “Shit, I don’t know—I’ve got, like, 70 now,” the actor-model-singer says with a chuckle, looking down at his forearms while relaxing in the offices of his Los Angeles–based production company, HeadQuarter Entertainment. “I’m hooked. I’m addicted.”
Since his career kicked off with a Coca-Cola commercial in the ’90s, Gib- son has gone from mugging in major ad campaigns (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein) to veejaying (he hosted MTV Jams) to singing (he’s released several CDs, including one under the alter ego Black-Ty) to battling Decepticons in popcorn blockbusters (Transformers). His other film credits include the now- classic Baby Boy—his first starring role—as well as Four Brothers, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Waist Deep, and Death Race. Not bad for a 30-year-old from Los Angeles’s Watts neighborhood, which he refers to as “the slums, the ghetto.”
This summer, Gibson reprises his role as Sergeant Epps in the hugely anticipated Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which hits screens June 24. Since the first Transformers raked in more than $700 million around the globe, Gibson is on top of the world, and feeling nothing but confident about the movie’s sequel. Not surprisingly, the guy with a personality big enough to match his megawatt smile has racked up a slew of tattoos to chronicle his journey through Hollywood.
INKED: So, Transformers sequel—no pressure or anything. Are you feeling the heat?
TYRESE GIBSON: I’m feeling the pressure, absolutely. But Transformers is gonna change the world. This is the movie of the year.
Did you and Megan Fox ever talk tattoos on the set of Transformers?
Yeah, we’ve talked about tats. She’s got Marilyn Monroe on her forearm and a few other sexy ones. Her tattoos are tastefully done.
You’ve got the Transformers logo on your arm, but what was your first tattoo?
When I was 17, I got this star-sun on my right arm. It has flames around it, and in Chinese writing it says, “Beautiful, low-class talent.” I’m not calling myself low-class, but I was born and raised in the low-class city of Watts. That was my first tattoo, and then I went nuts after that.What came next?
I got a tribal skull covering the ball of my shoulder. That turned into a woman with a snake on her belly. She’s got her boobs out, with a real sexy face, and some wings. My tattoo artist’s name is Andy. The last 11 tattoos I’ve had done were done by Andy in my living room.
So, Andy makes house calls?
No, Andy doesn’t make house calls, but he came for me. I had him set up in my living room for about a week. I love getting tattoos, but sometimes getting tattoos in public can be a hassle—you don’t want to be making ugly faces when people are taking pictures of you. Tattoos are very painful.
How do you deal with the pain?
Once it starts, you kind of just get used to it. I just want to tell everybody in the INKED community that I’m with you. I understand why you love it. I understand why you are addicted to it. It’s the best form of expression. The more I see, the more I’m inspired to keep it moving. I should be going to a few conventions. Maybe I need to get an invite from you.
Come by anytime! What body part has been the most painful to get inked?
The inside of my arms. I’ve got Popeye on the inside of my arm, and it says “All or Nothing,” because that’s how I roll.
What else do you have?
A lot of the work on my arm was done by this guy Steve Monie from Pinz & Needlez in Baltimore. I put him on a plane to L.A. On my left forearm I have my daughter Shayla’s foot- and handprints from when she was born. It’s so detailed you can actually see her fingerprints. On my left forearm right above my daughter’s prints it says, “Mama’s Baby Boy.”
Is that a tribute to the movie Baby Boy, which you starred in?
No, because I am my mama’s baby boy. I’m the last child of four. On my right forearm it says, “Rebel With a Cause,” and on my wrist it says, “I belong to God,” because one time I was in church, and the pastor said something to the effect of, “When people shake your hand, they need to know that you belong to God.” Now every time somebody shakes my hand, they can read it.
Do you go to church regularly?
Are there any tattoos you regret?
On my left forearm, this one guy did some tribal fires, and I didn’t really like the way that came out. But it is what it is. It’s just not my favorite.
Have you ever seen anyone with a Tyrese tattoo?
Absolutely. Girls have had tattoos of my face. One girl went and got my ass tattooed on her right arm.
Wow. Was this a girlfriend or some psycho chick? It was a fan. Girls get my name on their body all the time—it’s so crazy.
Is that creepy or flattering?
You get used to it. The other thing is, fans name their kids after me. They’re like, “This is my son, Tyrese—I named him after you.” I don’t know how she was able to pull that off with the man she had the child with. Like, “You gonna name my son after another man?” It’s a little weird. But I appreciate it.
Do you prefer tattooed women?
I’m attracted to women with some tattoos, but not a lot. It’s important to keep everything tasteful. It’s one thing to get tattoos and another thing to have them in the right areas.
What are the right areas?
I love a tattoo right above a girl’s panty line. I love tattoos on their back. I love seeing my name on a woman’s butt. Ladies, if you want to impress me when you meet me, I need to see my name on your right cheek.
Do you ever get to the point where you want to hide from fans and paparazzi?
This is what trips me out about some entertainers. It’s very sim- ple: The day you don’t feel like being bothered with fans, stay home. I’m a people person. The only thing I hate is video cameras. If you pull your video camera out and film me as I’m walking, or while I’m at a restaurant eating, it’s crazy to me. My privacy is all I own. Stuff like that gets me really tense. I’m like, “Yo, my man, back up with the camera. Stop filming me, dude.”
Do you remember when you first landed that Coca-Cola commercial?
Absolutely. I was 16 and living inWatts. I ran up the street in my socks to, like, 12 of my neighbors’ houses, and I told them all, “Yo, I just got this Coca-Cola commercial.” That was my debut into the world. That was a local commercial, and then it went everywhere.
You were able to purchase your first home as a teenager.
I actually sold it a couple of years ago. People had just started popping up at the house. It was in a city called Hawthorne, and everybody on my block was old enough to be my parents. I was 17 years old with a four-bedroom house, two-car garage. It was crazy.
Did you ever buy anything that was totally over-the-top?
I got real into dirt bikes and motorcycles for a minute. When I first got a hold of money, I wanted to go and do things I’d always imagined I could do—crazy, expensive trips on boats and yachts.
Have you calmed down on the spending now that you’ve grown up?
Yeah—I’m not into those things anymore. If I’m on a yacht or a private boat, it ain’t mine. I’m just visiting. I still enjoy it, but it’s at their expense, you know?
Are you still making music?
To be brutally honest, I’m taking a break from music, but these last couple days it’s been really hitting me that I may need to get back in that vocal booth and make it happen. I really want to work with female artists—Ciara, Estelle, Katy Perry.
Wasn’t Tupac originally supposed to star in Baby Boy?
Yeah, he was sup- posed to play Baby Boy, and then it happened.
Were you friends with him?
I met Tupac a few times. He was a good guy. His energy was always crazy. I would always be so excited to see him, like, “Man, it’s Tupac!” Crazy.
What was your relationship like with your Baby Boy costar Snoop?
We was cool before the movie. It’s Snoop, you know? Being around Snoop is always fun.
Did you ever smoke up with him?
Nah, I don’t smoke or drink. But I’ve indirectly smoked with Snoop because when you hang around him, you somehow end up being high and you don’t even know it. You’re just having a conversation with Snoop, and you’re just like, “Man, I think I’m as high as you are.” [Laughs.]
You’re currently working on a comic book called Mayhem. What is it going to be about?
Mayhem is a comic book character we created and developed. It’s coming out July 1, and it’s gonna be huge. To all the comic book fans out there, I am so excited about this world, and I want y’all to know I’m doing all my research.
Why is the comic book world so important to you?
I went to Comic-Con last year when I was promoting Death Race, and something about all that energy was so intense. I was like, “Yo, I have to jump in this world.” But we wanted to lay the groundwork. Naturally Mayhem will become a film, but right now we’re focusing on creating a quality comic book that fans will appreciate. I’ve wrapped my head around this world, and I’m really excited.
So when Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens, will you see it in the theater?
Absolutely. I do that all the time. That way you get the real reactions. You get to see what’s really funny, what worked and what didn’t work. I love that shit. I let the movie start and then I sneak in and hang out in the back of the theater, and then I walk out right before it ends.
Have you ever been recognized doing that?
Yeah, a few times. Sometimes I need to put on my Jamaican wig real quick. They’re like, “You look like Tyrese!” [Adopts a Jamaican accent:] “What are you talking about, mon. There’s no Tyrese right here. There’s no Tyrese.”
You can’t be serious.
[Laughs.] No, I’m just fucking with you.