The Real Reason Why TLC Canceled LA Ink

Tattoo enthusiasts were already familiar with the woman born Katherine Von Drachenberg prior to her landing her own reality show, but "LA Ink" put Kat Von D on the map as a star in her own right. As the in-demand inker revealed in an interview with Prick magazine, she ended up on predecessor "Miami Ink" purely by chance, after covering for another employee who was injured at the time. Von D quickly emerged as a fan favorite, and it didn't take long for producers to give her a spinoff. "LA Ink" debuted in 2007, with the famed tattoo artist making it clear to Inked magazine that the show was a totally different beast than "Miami Ink."

Clearly, there was an appetite for Von D-centric content. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, the series premiere scored massive numbers. An average of 2.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the show's first episode, which was no small feat considering it aired at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday. The mixture of drama, Von D's increasing celebrity, and the morbid curiosity of watching people getting tattooed made "LA Ink" a must-watch in a way even the lead herself never envisioned. However, after just four seasons, "LA Ink" was canceled. What happened?

Kat Von D got so busy because of LA Ink she had to stop taking appointments

Kat Von D was already in high demand as a tattoo artist when "LA Ink" rolled around, but the show proved so popular she quickly ended up completely buried in appointments. At the time of writing, in fact, she still isn't taking any new requests as per the website for her shop, High Voltage. It firmly states Von D is "no longer accepting requests for tattoos in order to catch up with the ones she has." Von D is well-established in the tattoo world, and she never looked at being on TV as her main money-maker.

The former reality star explained to Dazed in 2019, "I wanted to be able to tattoo freely and offer my craft as a gift to whomever I tattooed." She added, "For me, it was liberating to take the financial part of it out — but it's not something I necessarily 'promote.'" It's therefore reasonable to assume Von D got sick of being so overwhelmed with work to the point that tattooing was no longer enjoyable, which likely contributed to why "LA Ink" ended.

TLC confirmed LA Ink's cancellation in 2011

In August 2011, TLC confirmed midway through the fourth season of "LA Ink" that the show would be wrapping up for good at the end of it. As Entertainment Weekly reported at the time, the network announced in a statement, "TLC has decided that the current season of 'LA Ink' will be its last." They added, "The network is proud of what the series has accomplished in its four seasons, following Kat Von D's journey as an artist from Miami to Los Angeles." A month after the cancellation was announced, EW shared a preview clip from the season finale, which left everything frustratingly up in the air for fans of the show. 

Von D was still in the midst of her explosive on-again, off-again relationship with controversial star Jesse James, and the final episode of "LA Ink" found her considering leaving High Voltage behind to start a new life in Austin with him. The shop's crew, understandably, was concerned about losing their jobs. It's worth noting, however, High Voltage remains open, while Von D and James split for good in September 2011, as per Us Weekly.

Kat Von D disagreed with TLC's version of events

Shortly after the fourth season of "LA Ink" was confirmed to be its last, Kat Von D took to Twitter to set the record straight, writing, "I love how me deciding to not continue doing LA Ink, turns into being 'cancelled.' Thanks @TLC." She added, "Regardless of everything I remain grateful." The beleaguered tattoo artist, who was facing intense media backlash at the time due to her tempestuous relationship with Jesse James, elaborated further in a chat with People about what really happened behind the scenes. In particular, Von D alleged that TLC was twisting certain events to make them seem more dramatic on the show. 

She explained, "In an effort to capitalize on my recent breakup, the network has decided to focus their energy on re-editing events that didn't happen while filming." The former reality star argued that doing so was an insult to fans of the show, since it compromised "the honesty" of what really happened. She added, "As grateful as I am to have been a part of a show like 'LA Ink,' I'm ready to end this chapter and want to focus on other projects now."

Did Kat Von D's bad behavior lead to the show's cancellation?

Although Kat Von D was adamant she walked away from "LA Ink" on her own terms, the tattoo artist's reputation preceded her. Hollywood Life even cheekily suggested "LA Ink" got canceled because of bad karma. Among other things, Von D was widely known for walking out of interviews and canceling planned appearances with little to no notice, especially while she was dating Jesse James. He had his own dodgy history, as the unfaithful husband of Hollywood sweetheart Sandra Bullock, which didn't help Von D either.

Likewise, as Screen Rant notes, aside from ending on a bad note with the "Miami Ink" crew, Von D got herself into more hot water in LA by opening her tattoo shop, High Voltage, close to her former LA employer's shop. This was considered a major sign of disrespect within the tattoo community since High Voltage, with its associated reality show, was obviously going to be more popular. Von D hinted she was struggling with all the negative attention in a Facebook post, however, admitting, "As much as I'd like to picture [myself] being this strong, independent woman, the truth is most of the time I'm not as strong as I'd like to be." 

Kat Von D claims it was her choice to step back from the spotlight

Most reality stars attempt to launch another show after being kicked off wherever they started, but Kat Von D has moved increasingly further away from the spotlight in the decade since "LA Ink" went off the air, pursuing careers in the beauty and music industries instead. As a profile in The Washington Post notes, she's endured more than her fair share of controversies, from being accused of antisemitism to being labelled an anti-vaxxer. The road from reality TV breakout star to makeup mogul to aspiring singer hasn't been easy for Von D, and nowadays she simply wishes "people would be a lot gentler with each other" in general.

Clearly, the legendary tattoo artist learned the hard way that not all attention is positive, and it's unlikely we'll ever see her back on reality television as a result. But Von D doesn't take any of it too hard, arguing, "I'm equipped, like, I've been an outsider my entire life." According to her husband, Rafael Reyes, the couple is mobbed by fans everywhere they go, even in their new home in Indiana. He insisted, "In person, people love her." Maybe she truly was grateful for "LA Ink" after all.