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Casting call yields 20 for new tattoo shop reality show

May 7, 2018
In this 2018 photo Nicole Babel points to a tattoo of a heartbeat, remembering her infant daughter, who died of a heart defect, in Kenosha, Wis. Babel was one of 20 people who answered a casting call for "Third Coast Ink," a new reality TV show that is being shot at the Kenosha Tattoo Co. The show is looking for stories behind tattoos — stories like Babel’s. (Terry Flores/The Kenosha News via AP)

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Nicole Babel’s left arm helps her tell a tragic story.

It’s about her daughter Alexa Grace, who died from a rare heart disorder 11 years ago, when she was 8 months old.

Before Alexa was born, Nicole said the doctors knew something was wrong as her little heart was skipping beats.

Alexa had Ebstein’s anomaly, a congenital defect in the heart’s chambers. Because of the defect, her heart failed, Babel said.

After her daughter’s death, Babel had her upper arm tattooed with the erratic beats of Alexa’s heart.

An infant’s loss ribbon wraps around the back of her arm, while forget-me-not flowers and a cross are etched on her lower arm.

The Kenosha News reports that Babel was one of 20 people who answered a casting call April 29 for a new reality show, “Third Coast Ink,” being shot at the Kenosha Tattoo Co. The show is looking for stories behind tattoos — stories like Babel’s.

Jon Principe, tattoo shop owner, said the unscripted series will also focus on everyday life in the tattoo shop. The series pilot will feature Principe, Carlos Cerda, Tyler Brown, Tayton Pennington, Gianna Latorre, Katy Camacho and Tyler Saaski.

Principe earlier this year signed a developmental contract with Canna Media Network to produce the series for the E360tv network, which airs on multiple online media platforms including Roku, AppleTV and Amazon Prime, with an international reach of 186 million viewers.

Principe, whose shop specializes in covering up tattoos of survivors of human trafficking for free, was approached by PBS in Milwaukee to do a documentary on his efforts. The documentary was filmed through November last year and is being edited.

Principe said a friend helped him connect with representatives at E360tv Network, to whom he pitched the idea of the reality show.

“Right away, he said, ‘I’ll send you the contract,’” Principe said. “Three days later, I had the contract.”

The pilot, which will include three to four tattoo sessions, is scheduled to be filmed in late May and to air in the fall, he said. The network is also taking Principe’s pilot to the Cannes Film Festival to help sell the series, expected to have 13 weekly episodes, he said.

He said there has been some interest by Netflix to take up the series, but the plan is to try to sell the show to major players, including cable TV programming.

“We’ll be doing the first four tattoos (for the pilot), and then from there anybody else who would make good TV — a good design, a great story of why they want to get the tattoo, and good camaraderie with the tattoo artists.”

Babel said going to the shop to tell her story was difficult, as Alexa’s birthday is approaching at the end of May.

“Some days are harder than others,” she said.

“I’ve always liked (tattoos). But, for me, it is a way to have people ask me and to talk about her and to keep her (memory) alive.”


Information from: Kenosha News, http://www.kenoshanews.com

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