In the last episode of VH1’s Black Ink Crew, a reality series about a tattoo shop in Harlem, events and marketing manager Sassy came out when she ran into an ex-girlfriend at a tattoo convention in Vegas. Seen as the calm and even-keeled cast member in a sea of crazy, Sassy took time to talk to AfterEllen.com about drama on the show, her relationship with her ex, coming out to her family, and being a role model for young African-American lesbians.
AfterEllen.com: Where were you born and raised? Sassy: I was born and raised in Camden, New Jersey and I moved to Harlem around 10 years ago.
AE: How did you end up working at Black Ink? Sassy: I got affiliated with them through Puma. I met Puma at an event where he was working, and we just kind of clicked. I used to do corporate events, and he offered me a chance to come by the shop to help with an event to see what I could bring to the table. The event was super successful, and he told Caesar about me and that I should be a part of the team. Caesar had me help with a small event at the shop, and it went really well, so he said he wanted me in marketing and promotions, and I’ve been there ever since.
AE: There are a lot of strong personalities at the shop, and sometimes people end up butting heads. Alex seems to be the drama queen. Puma is the party guy. How would you describe your role in the dysfunctional family that is the Black Ink staff? Sassy: I’m the peacemaker of the shop! I’m the glue. I always try to keep people together, sane and calm as much as possible because the personalities there are so large. It gets pretty intense all the time. I feel like I am the cool and calm one. You can argue it out if you want to, but it doesn’t need to get physical.
AE: Have things gotten physical at any point? Sassy: Actually it hasn’t. I’ve been afraid a couple of times. But it’s mostly just high tension, a lot of yelling a screaming, and then everyone goes about their day.
AE: Black Ink seems to be a hangout place in addition to being a tattoo shop. In one of the press videos you tell us of a party that went out of hand, where the cops, detectives and fire department showed up. What happened that night? Sassy: If I am not mistaken, that was my birthday! I had planned a little get together at Black Ink before I had my big party downtown, and it just got crazy intense. There was too much Hennessy getting poured, too many mixies (i.e. groupies) around, and once the mixies got full of Hennessy, they had a falling out with some of the girls. So there was a royal rumble down at Black Ink and the cops came and shut it down. The fire department came. It was wild.
AE: Did that put a damper on the partying, or are the nights at Black Ink just as wild as before? Sassy: It’s never gotten that crazy again. I’m trying to make sure that never happens again. It was just too much.
AE: You have a tattoo of an AK-47 on your back. What is the story behind that? Sassy: If you go to any country in the world that makes the AK-47, and you take it apart, and then you replace some of the parts that were made in a different country, you can still put the gun together, and that is how I am. I meet all different types of people, and I absorb so many different cultures, different ideas, but I still remain myself. It’s like I have a little bit of everything but I still manage to remain Sassy. When I met Dutchess, she and I clicked really really well. She has a little revolver tattooed on her side, and we talked about it and how guns can sort of represent a women’s movement in a way. Guns are so powerful, but usually looked at negatively. Women are portrayed as so dainty and pretty all the time. And so we think it represents a woman recognizing that she is her own secret weapon. So now we have girls coming in from all over the place getting gun tattoos. One of my best friends just got a gun tattoo on her arm, and another friend of mine is getting a little AK-47 on her hand. It’s really just taking off.
AE: What is the most questionable or ridiculous tattoo that a customer has requested? Sassy: One time this gay guy came in and wanted the five star general logo tattooed on his butt – the word “general” and five stars above it. It was so funny, because he was so nonchalant. He told everyone “I want it tattooed on my ass,” and everyone just breaks into laughter. He eventually flaked out, so no one had to do it.
AE: In the last episode you randomly ran into an ex girlfriend when the Black Ink staff went to a tattoo convention in Vegas. Were you expecting to run into her, or was that a complete surprise? Sassy: When I found out I was going to Vegas I had reached out to her and told her I would love to meet up with her and see her. She asked me my schedule, and I told her the basics of where I was going to be. I knew I was going to be at the strip club that night, and I told her that, but then my phone ended up dead for hours and I couldn’t contact her. Then that night I just turned around and she literally walked in the door at that moment, and that was amazing. I hadn’t seen her in a long time. It felt really good.
AE: How long were you together, and why did things end? Sassy: Well, we were never an official couple. We were friends with really great benefits. We had a really great connection, but she had to leave because of her work. She had much more going on there than she had going on in NYC. So now she’s out in Vegas. It was definitely hard to watch her leave. She just up and left like that, and when I saw her in Vegas, it kind of rekindled that fire.
AE: Did you two talk or hang out in Vegas besides the few moments that were shown on television? Sassy: Yes we did. I actually got stuck in Vegas because of Hurricane Sandy, so I ended up being there for an entire week. So I ended up catching up with her, just chilling out.
AE: Do you consider yourself lesbian or bi? Sassy: I know when a guy is attractive or handsome, but I don’t get sexually attracted to men. When a hot guy walks by and a hot woman walks by, it’s like he’s not even there. I had a boyfriend in the past, and told him I liked women – and he respected it – but towards the end of the relationship, I realized that guys didn’t do it for me. Women are what I like, so I haven’t been with a guy since then, but I’ve been with plenty of women. But I don’t want to call myself a “lesbian” because I feel that I can still be attracted to a guy in some way, but perhaps not sexually.
AE: I guess you are out publicly because of the show, but before the show, were you out to everyone or just some people? Sassy: I’m pretty open about it. I used to have to keep it quiet at home. My mom wasn’t comfortable at the time.
AE: So when did you come out to your mom? Sassy: I was 15, and my mom looked through my bag and found a letter that a girl had written to me. And she called me to come home to talk. I tried to explain it to her, but it was hard for her, being a mom. I am her first born and her daughter, and so she decided to disregard what I said, and she got really angry and really emotional and pretty much told me it was a phase and that I am not gay and that I will grow out of it. I told her that the feelings were getting stronger, and I am just going to get more open about it, but she wasn’t even trying to hear it. When I was 21 and had broken up with my ex, we talked again, and she cried, but she wasn’t as angry or upset as before. And much more recently, I had another sit down where she was able to ask all the questions she wanted. And now that she is accepting of it, I feel that I can go out and conquer the world.
AE: What are your favorite lesbian bars and parties in NYC? Sassy: I’ve only been to one lesbian party in the city. It was somewhere around the Lower East Side, and I went there with a friend after accidentally walking into The Cock, where it was all men. That was probably one of the craziest times I ever had! There were girls everywhere – girls can get so raunchy sometimes!
AE: The Lower East side? I don’t know of any parties on the Lower East Side. When was this? Sassy: I think it was last summer.
AE: Oh, you probably fell into Hot Rabbit. Back then it was at Nowhere Bar in the East Village. Sassy: Yes, I think that was it!
AE: Yeah it’s at Monster Bar in the West Village now. So, the ladies want to know - are you currently single, taken, or is it complicated? Sassy: I am currently single – super super single and kind of just mingling! I’ve been meeting a lot more people lately, with the show airing. A lot of girls seem to be coming out to the shop.
AE: Have you been getting any feedback from the viewing audience? Any fan letters? Sassy: I got a really nice Facebook message the other day, and she was just so appreciative of me being on the show. She said that there weren’t enough African American women who are open about being gay. She said, “I really appreciate that you’re doing it a way that isn’t trashy.” It was just amazing to hear somebody say that. When I was 15 or 16, I really wanted to be out and be comfortable, but I didn’t know how to be.
AE: Yes, and also, the way you came out on the show. It wasn’t a big production or announcement. It was just organic and natural – you ran into an ex, and you seemed that you were just being yourself, being comfortable. So, last question - since you’re single, will we see you date girls on the show? Sassy: You’ll see ladies for sure – but nothing exclusive.
You can watch full episodes of Black Ink Crew on Vh1.com or on Mondays at 9 p.m. EST.
women of color
The Vh1 reality show has an out woman on it, and she recently had her ex-girlfriend on the show.