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During season 8, Nikki Simpson took home two main challenge wins and alongside her alliance, starred in Ink Master: Angels for two seasons. Now, she's returned to the competition as a coach alongside season 10 winner Josh Payne to help guide a new crop of artists to the finale. We caught up with the talented veteran to learn about her experience coming back to the show and what's changed since she last appeared on our screens.

What’s changed since we saw you on season 8?

Well, everything has changed honestly. Just from doing season 8 to having the opportunity to do Angels, the reach that Ink Master has had is insane. I can travel to so many places all over the world and I have the privilege to tattoo almost anywhere that I want to go, that’s one of my dreams. That’s all I wanted out of this experience, to travel and do what I love.

How were you approached about coming back for season 12?

Ink Master contacted me and asked me if I wanted to do a little one off, something really quick to film. I was like, “Well, if it doesn’t involve me being there for months on end and going through the grinder, it seems like something that I can handle.” They said that I would be coming back as a coach and I really took that as an honor because it means that I did pretty well. It was validating to know that whatever I did as an artist on Ink Master and since then has given me legitimacy to help people in the competition and teach them a few things.

In the tattoo industry at large, do you think that men and women have different experiences as artists?

100%. I think that every experience is different from men to women. A lot of women have experienced struggle coming into tattooing based on the stereotype or stigma that women are weaker, but you need to have tough skin to make it in this industry. It’s always been a boy’s world but as long as you’re respective and can keep a peaceful energy in tattooing then [gender] really doesn’t matter.

How does social media positively and negatively impact female tattooers?

At the beginning of my career, I wasn’t well known and Instagram wasn’t a huge thing, so your image wasn’t as important or exploited as it is now. Because now, we can share the way we look all over the world, and people have really loved the idea of a beautiful woman doing tattoos, no matter how the tattoos look. If you’re going to be really successful, it’s a lot easier to do it if you’re really attractive. There’s always going to be a stigma where women have to come off as being presentable in a certain way, to be appreciated as beautiful. It’s been an interesting ride balancing appearance and career, because the more time goes on, the more people focus on appearance, and that shit’s fucking annoying. It really doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, no one is looking at me. They’re looking at the tattoo that’s going to be on them for the rest of their lives. Our beauty will fade, but my tattoos won’t.