Young Bae From Black Ink Crew New York Balances Filming With Motherhood - Exclusive Interview

"Black Ink Crew" has had 10 seasons of drama and tattooing air on VH1, and the reality series based in New York City doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Though the cast experienced a major collective setback when allegations of animal abuse came out about Ceaser Emanuel, one of the "Black Ink" stars, the crew has demonstrated resilience and dedication as they continue to grow the business and provide a platform for burgeoning talent in the tattoo world.

Season 10 — which filmed before Emanuel's name appeared in the news in connection to the allegations — is set to see the artists challenged in new and exciting ways, and none more than Young Bae, who joined the show in Season 5. In her exclusive interview with The List, the young mom and talented entrepreneur opened up about the struggles she's faced in running her own business, caring for her son Nico, and realizing her artistic aspirations in New York City after immigrating from South Korea in 2007. Though she may stay booked and busy, Young Bae manages to do it all, and she has some solid advice for other hardworking artists and moms. Plus, she gave us some insight into the making of "Black Ink Crew" Season 10.

Young Bae has a lot of her plate

What was your experience like as an artist coming from South Korea into a competitive tattooing atmosphere in New York? What was that transition like?

I wasn't a tattoo artist when I moved to New York, I was a fine art artist. I came here to be a famous artist and then it didn't really work out, because I was so broke. I didn't have money to buy paints and stuff, so I got into tattooing then.

I'd love to hear more about that transition, because that happens a bit before we see you on the show, right?

That was 2007. That's when I moved to this country.

In the first episode of Season 10, you said you were kind of a wild child when you first appeared on the show in Season 5. How do you feel like you've grown through your experience since joining the crew?

I've grown, definitely. When I was young, I was really short-tempered and an "I don't take no s***" type of girl. Now, I'm a mom, I own three businesses, so I better act right. I've got things to lose. Before, I didn't really care about anything. What [did] I have to lose? I didn't have anything. Now, I got businesses, and I got my son, and I better act right.

Your priorities are surrounding your son, Nico. How do you balance working at the shop and managing your career as an entrepreneur and an artist?

Every time people ask me this question, I don't know how I do it. I do it by doing it. I can't explain it because ... They're like, "You got businesses and you're on TV, you're filming and you're a mom." I'm like, "I do all that, but I don't know how I do it." I make it happen because that's what moms do. We make it happen.

You've had your shop Diamond Tattoos since 2009. How does that fit into your work at "Black Ink"?

Diamond Tattoos is my shop, and that's how I got on "Black Ink." They know my shop and the type of artist I am, so they reached out to me. Diamond Tattoos will always be my baby and it's always going to be my priority, but with "Black Ink" ... I really don't get to do anything else. It's work, work, work. There's no having fun. There's no partying. The only time I have fun, really, is when we film for "Black Ink." That's when I get to do stuff. In real life, I'm always filming, I'm always working at the shop, my clothing line, my tattoo shop, and then "Black Ink." [We] do fun stuff. It's a fair exchange.

Motherhood inspired her athletic clothing line

What kind of fun stuff can fans look forward to in Season 10? Without spoilers.

You're going to see some growing pains and you're going to see some people being people — doing crazy stuff, doing fun stuff, doing good stuff. Isn't that life? Tune in to find out.

You've mentioned your athletic brand 2one2. What was your motivation?

It started when I became a mom. I didn't have time before having Nico, but after having Nico, I really didn't have time. When do you find time to work out and be pretty and drink water, go to the gym, and all that at once? I already had 20 jobs. I wanted to make a clothing line that's comfortable, cute, sexy, but that you could do anything in. You could work out in, you can go have fun in, you can go even clubbing in. All that at once. It could be sexy, comfortable, cute, at once. I had a designer making things like that for me, and I was like, "Why not go all out and have my own clothing line?" I knew that wasn't just my struggle. I made the clothing line for everyday women who're just struggling to hold it together.

That's so cool. You had someone designing?

I design everything, and I have a seamstress making it for me. That's how I used to do it, and I was like, "Why don't I go all out and have a business?"

Has your social media been really helpful in growing your brand or securing more opportunities?

Yes. I have a big following on Instagram. In the beginning stage of my business, all my followers, they would buy my stuff from me. From then on, Foot Locker reached out and everything else. I went to Foot Locker around the corner from my shop and bothered them. "I feel like you need my stuff here." After two months, they reached out and that's how I got in.

Do people recognize you on the street? Do you have a more interesting dynamic when people come up to you and ask you about your social media at the shops? 

That started as soon as I got on TV. The next day, people started noticing me in the street. I was like, "Is this for real?" The power of TV and my social media — people say, "I follow you on Instagram." I get that every day.

Is it a little overwhelming or is it kind of fun still?

I'm really grateful for my fans... the only time that's overwhelming is when I have my baby with me. I'm freaking out because of my baby. I want to protect him. I don't know what these people are going to do. Sometimes, they [get] too close. That's the only time I freak out. Other than that, I love it. I'm grateful.

Social media helps her connect to fans

Do you ever watch the show back after the episodes come out and does it ever change your perspective on how things go down with the crew?

It used to be wild. There used to be fights all the time, every day, but it's not like that anymore. We've grown a lot, and that's good. Also, I'm like, "Wow, I used to be skinny."

Do you think you're going to watch Season 10 as it's coming out?

Of course. It's my show. I'm going to watch it and support.

A lot of people don't like watching themselves. But I like that you do.

You know what, you're right. Let's not even. The only reason why I don't watch is because I feel a little insecure. After the baby, I gained so much weight. I'm like, "Ugh." I feel insecure watching it. Sometimes, I do stupid stuff. That's out there for everybody to see. I do not [need] a reminder of how stupid I am sometimes.

You're being real. That's the point of the show, right?

I'm being too real, and that's uncomfortable to watch. Let's be honest. That's the only reason. I'm embarrassed of myself. "Why am I like that? Ugh."

I think your fans are going to love it.

"Why did I say that? Why did I have an argument?" Ugh, let's not." And then, people want to come judge me. "Yeah, you're stupid." I know.

Do you go on Twitter and social media and then say, "I know I would've changed that or I would've said something different."

Sometimes, but sometimes I'm like, "I talk s***, whatever."

Are you getting more into the art world as you get settled and get more of a following?

Like I said, I was a fine art artist first and then became a tattoo artist because I was broke and I needed money. It's so ironic that the reason why I started tattooing is to support my painting stuff, but as soon as I started making money, I did not have time to paint. The reason why I started tattooing was to support my art. 

I'm trying to go back to paint, because I always paint. I always sketch stuff, but now, I want to take it more seriously like I used to, because it makes me happy. Sometimes, I'm really not good at expressing myself with my mouth, because I'm so used to expressing my feelings, everything that I'm going through with my hand, through art. I want to do that again.

Can we look forward to a show in your future, or will you be sharing some of your work with fans online or anything like that?

Yes. Soon.

Young Bae opened up about Ceaser Manuel

A big thing that's happened recently is obviously Ceaser [Emanuel]'s departure from the show. What was your initial reaction, and how did that affect the filming process?

I was really surprised to see that. Bed-Stuy, that's his dog. When he got Bed-Stuy, he didn't let me touch Bed-Stuy. He loved the dog so much. He was like, "Don't touch him. You got to go wash your hands first." That's the Ceaser that I know. Seeing that, it was unbelievable because that's not the Ceaser I know. I didn't know what to think of it. It was a lot. 

With filming, we were almost done with filming Season 10 when the video came out. It really didn't affect [that season] too much because it was already almost done. That's why you will see Ceaser throughout Season 10, and I know in the future if we start filming again, it's going to affect us a lot.

Have you heard any word about Season 11? It's up in the air right now?

We don't know, because who knows?

How would your life change if you aren't filming a Season 11? Will you have more time to do your other ventures?

I will have a lot more time. I don't even know what that life is like anymore, because I've been filming for more than seven years and "Black Ink" has been a big part of my life. I really can't imagine my life without "Black Ink" yet.

You're in the shop and you're doing interviews, or you do the interviews later? It all looks really time consuming.

When we go to "Black Ink," cameras are there. It's there filming us. No matter how you look, how you are, it's there. We do that, and then after that we do green screen and all that after. We really don't know when we're filming or what it's going to look like because we're over there being us, and it's being filmed.

Do you feel like you have to be in full glam every time you go in then, or would you be looking good anyway?

Yes, because you have to. On TV, don't you want to look cute? One time, people are going to be like, "You look crazy. You look like this. You look like that."

She's grateful to Black Ink for her platform

Social media's a lot, but if you wear your clothes on the show, I'm sure that's great because people can see the 2one2 outfits come to life.

I wear 2one2 a lot.

That's awesome. I wanted to ask if you have been to other "Black Ink" locations and how you feel like they compare to the New York City storefront?

I've been to other locations. They are huge. New York, you can't have anything huge. It's already expensive as it is. I'm pretty sure out of all the locations, "Black Ink" New York pays the most rent, even though it's the smallest location. In New York, we don't play. The rent is crazy. The big biggest difference is the space.

You're really inspiring to moms who are out there trying to hustle and do their art and get money and it's really cool to see. I'm sure you're inspiring a lot of people. Do you get messages like that?

I get messages like that a lot. It's crazy to me, because I feel like I'm a person trying to make a living. People are so inspired by the story of my life and everything. It's crazy to me that people think I'm an inspiration, because I don't think that ... I have to give myself some credit about what I've been through, what I've achieved in life. I always look past my greatest moments and I don't give myself credit. No, not at all. 

[I get the messages] a lot. Every day. Email me, DM me, and I'm really thankful for that. I'm grateful for "Black Ink" for letting me tell my story, my authentic story.

Do you have advice for young artists, tattooed artists, young moms?

Work hard and play hard. Don't think too much, and you'll be where you want to be at, eventually.

Black Ink Crew airs on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. on VH1.

This interview has been edited for clarity.