What is the real situation

It took me six years to get a tattoo on Ink Master, a reality show where tattoo artists compete in various challenges.

I’ve been a huge fan of the show since its inception in 2012, and in 2016 I sent a cold email to the casting team. Although I got no response from my initial attempts, I was determined to enter the contest.

In 2018, I saw that this program was accepting online applications. I answered a few questions including what style of tattoo I wanted, what part of my body I wanted it on, how long I’d been tattooing, and how many tattoos I had.

Four years later, in 2022, the team responded and my dream finally came true. I was selected as the “Human Canvas” for Season 14 of “Ink Master”.

The environment on the set is much more relaxed than what you see on TV

William Zayas and Holly Marie "Master Mo."

I was assigned Holly Marie as my “Ink Master” tattoo artist.


Before going to the show, I had a brief call with the show producers where they asked me in-depth questions about the design I wanted. Afterwards, all they told me was where the scene was and that the challenge for the episode was fine art tattoos.

The series features talented tattoo artists, but I was going to have my body permanently tattooed by someone I’d never met—whose style and personality I didn’t know.

Still, I showed up. The body canvas had to be placed in the lounge before the shoot, but we didn’t have much time to interact with the artist himself.

Eventually, I was assigned to tattoo artist Holli Marie and we began collaborating and refining our ideas. I had a lot of say in the tattoo design, which evoked special childhood memories and paid homage to Salvador Dali.

I originally wanted to place the design on my belly, but the artist and I both decided that would be too painful and unmanageable for our six-hour treatment. Instead, we moved the design to my thigh. Her concern for my comfort showed the importance of the connection between artist and canvas, even when the stakes are high in a televised competition.

From that point on, filming was a whirlwind. Cameras and lights were everywhere, and the crew’s meticulous attention to detail and commitment to getting the shot right added to the tension I saw on my screen at home.

But what surprised me most was how much fun the artists had. Competition on TV can seem cutthroat, but I’ve witnessed beautiful moments of artists appreciating each other’s work.

Audiences also often see drama in “Ink Master” surrounding unpleasant or difficult canvases, but I felt relaxed throughout.

I can’t see the judges criticizing my tattoo, but it doesn’t change how I feel

Tattoos on thighs.

I’m so happy with how the tattoo turned out, it’s very special to me.

William Zayas

In each episode of Ink Master, a photo of each tattoo is displayed on the screen for the judges to comment on before selecting an artist for elimination. Season 14’s judges are popular tattoo artists Ryan Ashley, Ami James and Nikko Hurtado.

Human Canvas doesn’t usually see reviews, so I always wondered how my ink would be received until the day my episode aired.

As it turns out, my tattoos got mixed reviews from the judges. They weren’t big fans of the cube and thought Holly Marie’s lines were a little off, but I didn’t mind. I love the finished product and my overall experience was worth the wait.

For me, it’s not the tattoo itself, but the memory that goes with it. It was a roller coaster ride from the initial nervousness of going into the show to the unexpected sensitivity of my thighs when I got it inked.

Being the human canvas in Ink Master felt like a journey of self-discovery—it gave me a new appreciation for the art behind tattoos.

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