Ryan Henry, more than a tattooist, more than a television star—he’s an artist with vision. In 2013, Henry opened his
renowned tattoo shop, 9Mag, located here in Chicago. The shop’s birth was a result of the tragic deaths of his sister and niece. Determined to turn tragedy into a victory, Henry set out to breathe life into his vision and he’s only been met with success.
Henry was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. For most of his life, he grew up on the east side, near Stony Island. He says, “in the hood, there wasn’t many options for young men like myself,” causing him to sometimes fall victim to the harsh realities many young Black men in the inner city are met with. Henry’s family was “fortunate enough” to move to a calmer climate, the south suburbs, a place where they were able to escape some of the defect of the inner city. But life, like a pendulum, swings back and forth. And it swung Henry’s family back to their old neighborhood that could either build you up or break you down. Henry chose to build. The tattooist is not without his fault though. “I’ve dabbled in the streets. But you know maturity and becoming a father made me go in a different direction,” he admits.
Chicago is a tough place to be, especially for those of us with deeper skin tones and kinkier hair, but there’s a grind and grit Chicagoans believe they’re born with. It’s that grind and grit that Henry credits for his growth as an artist. “It’s just a hustle and grind I haven’t seen anywhere else, but here. Even in the cold, we grinding.” [sic] Since about 2009, Henry’s been honing and perfecting his craft as an artist. He isn’t one of the nation’s most recognizable tattooists for no reason, he’s developed a style many have yet to attain. “Unfortunately, there aren’t many Black people high up in the tattoo industry so people don’t see learning how to tattoo dark skin as a priority. But I’ve mastered a way to tattoo brown and deep skin tones,” he says. Henry’s artistry is intrinsic and complex, but his
mastery of the skill is why he’s built up a star-studded clientele list. One that includes rap maven, Nicki Minaj.
Henry doesn’t like to boast about the notable people he’s tattooed, mostly because who he tattoos isn’t why he’s a
celebrated artist—he’s a celebrated artist because that’s who he’s worked to be. Plus, he will tattoo people from
all walks of life. “Changing people’s lives and helping people find closure. Whether it’s a death or a break up,”
is what he says he loves about tattooing. It’s that personal connection he finds with many of his clients that makes
it worth while.
Ryan Henry’s artistry caught more than Nicki Minaj’s eye. VH1 tapped him to be the focal point of their hit reality show franchise, Black Ink Crew. The show began in New York, but quickly blew into the Windy City with a fiery cast sure to make you tune in every week. Henry leads the cast of ambitious young artists who strive to find success within the shop he founded. Their climb to success isn’t met without petty dramas and life-altering incidents, it’s some of the reason we tune in every week. “The hardest thing about being on a reality show is your personal life is more public. Everybody got something to say. But we just finished a successful fourth season,” Henry says of the difficulties of starring in a show based on his life in real time.
The vision sees more than his applauded reality television series. Henry desires to take his career in entertainment
to the next level. When asked what we can expect of Henry outside of the show, he says, “potentially more behind the scenes, maybe producing, that kind of thing.” It seems as if Henry has a bit of wizardry in his hands, everything he touches turns to gold—or art for that matter. If and when he decides to expand his entertainment career from behind the camera, there’s no reason to believe it won’t be a mega success. With a hustler’s heart and a businessman’s mind, there’s nothing Henry can’t do.
Be on the lookout for the grand opening of the new 9Mag shop in early 2019. The opening will be taking place on Saturday, January 5th at their new location on 2150 South Canalport Avenue Chicago, IL. Tickets are just $50 and guests will be given a tour of the new studio and a meet & greet with the staff.
Find more information at Henry’s Instagram: @ryanhenrytattoo.
You won’t want to miss it!