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TattooGate or Tattoo Gate refers to a controversy on TikTok sparked in May 2023 when Canadian TikToker Courtney Monteith posted a series of videos sharing a negative experience with a tattoo artist, who charged her around $1,500 CAD for a "design collab fee" for a fox tattoo which looked nothing like what she wanted, then asked for another $2,200 for design changes. The artist later revealed in emails with Monteith that the design collaboration fee, which had three tiers starting at $1,500 and going as high as $6,000 CAD, was optional, which Monteith claims was not made clear to her. The controversy inspired discussions on TikTok about tattoo pricing and ethics, with many, including other tattoo artists, defending Monteith.
On May 10th, 2023, TikToker @running_mom_of_boys, aka Courtney Monteith, posted three videos explaining her bad experience with a tattoo artist (first part shown below).
In the first video, Moneteith explains that she wanted a fox half-sleeve tattoo and shows her design concepts. She reached out to an artist she likes on Instagram, paid her a $1,000 deposit and sent her the sketches. The artist told her she had three options for a design fee; a $1,500 option that allowed for one minor design change, a $3,500 option that gave two concept sketches and a final design review and a $6,000 option where you get more sketches, changes and a canvas of your concept. Monteith believed this fee would be taken out of the final cost of the tattoo, but was mistaken. Monteith picked the first option, but when the artist sent her the design concept, she found it looked nothing like what she wanted. She told this to the artist, who wrote back saying she would charge her $2,260 for a new design. The video gained over 4.5 million views in two days.
@running_mom_of_boys Part 1 #badbusiness #tattoohorrorstory #worstexperience #storytime #tattooartist #greenscreen ♬ original sound – cmonteith
In the second video (shown below, left) she shares emails between herself and the artist, who says Monteith didn't specify that the fox should be in a downward position or that the tail should be visible, going on to defend her design choices by saying Monteith's original concepts weren't "accurate to body position." Monteith responded and told the artist she should make the design fees more clear on her website and wasn't aware she'd have to pay a design fee when she booked the appointment. The artist responded by giving her the option to do "another option 1," charging $1,695 instead of $2,260. The artist then sent a message claiming the "design collab is an optional service." Monteith claims that was never told to her. She blames herself for paying the fee at all but reiterates that the artist gave her the options, never saying they were optional.
In the third video (shown below, right) she shares an email where the artist says without the design fee she wouldn't have even seen the design beforehand, so they would have ended up in the same position, but Monteith says "at least [she] would have had [her] $1,600." The artist then says Monteith has been "nasty" with her, but Monteith says she never called her names, just asked her to make the design fees more upfront. The artist refused to give a refund.
@running_mom_of_boys Part 2 There are like 20 emails, im trying to hit the highlights #badbusiness #tattoohorrorstory #worstexperience #storytime #tattooartist #greenscreen ♬ original sound – cmonteith
@running_mom_of_boys Part 3 I honestly like her work but not being transparent about fees from the start is just bad business #badbusiness #tattoohorrorstory #worstexperience #storytime #tattooartist #greenscreen ♬ original sound – cmonteith
As the videos went viral, TikTokers began posting responses to Monteith and deemed the controversy "tattoogate." Some of the responses are from tattoo artists defending Monteith. On May 11th, tattoo artist and TikToker @fae.tattoos posted a video criticizing the charges, garnering over 548,000 views in a day (shown below, left). On the same day, TikToker @sadiexheart posted a duet response offering a design concept for free, garnering over 540,000 views in a day (shown below, right).
@fae.tattoos #stitch with @cmonteith just my opinion! #lucidgate #tattoogate #lindsayjoseph #lucidtattooco #lucidtattoo #tattoohorrorstory #badbusiness #lucidtattooontario #foxtattoo #1600dollartattoo #1600tattoo ♬ original sound – Jordanne Le Fae
@sadiexheart #duet with @cmonteith This took me about 30 min to draw. Don’t let tattooers gaslight you! #badbusiness #lucidtattoo #lucidtattooco #lindsayjoseph #lucidtattooontario #ontariotattoo #tattoogate ♬ original sound – cmonteith
That day, TikToker @katiifirecat posted a video showing some posts from the Instagram account of the tattoo artist she believes Monteith was talking about, who goes by luc1dl1ndz on Instagram. The video (shown below, left) gained over 29,000 views in a day. The artist made their Instagram account private. TikToker @notahorsegirl2 posted a similar video of the alleged tattoo artist's work, garnering over 319,000 views in a day (shown below, right).
@katiifirecat Replying to @volcaeic #greenscreen 😬😬😬 #fyp #viral #trending #foryoupage #foryou #tattoogate #tattootiktok #badtattoos #foxtattoodesign #tattoogate2023 ♬ original sound – Katii Firecat
@notahorsegirl2 #tattoogate #lucidtattoo #badtattoo #tattoscam ♬ origineel geluid – Tik Toker
@_xty__ As someone with a couple “overpriced” tattoos this whole thing is whack 😳 #tattoogate ♬ original sound – •XTY•
@artofsarahjane hoping to bring more transparency to pricing when it comes to getting a tattoo #tattoogate #lucidtattoo #lindsayjoseph ♬ Daylight – David Kushner
@sidhubbard_tattoos Pt. 1 #tattoogate i think we would all like answers. @Tattoo Smart whats up? why are we encouraging this behavior from artists? @cmonteith ♬ original sound – sid 🖤
@maruncholic #stitch with @cmonteith Feel free to use this design… no, it did not take me hours, no I will not charge 1600$ for it. So sorry you got scammed like that! #tattoogate #foxtattooo #tattoodesign #tattooapprentice ♬ original sound – Maru
 TikTok – running_mom_of_boys
 TikTok – running_mom_of_boys
 TikTok – running_mom_of_boys
 TikTok – fae.tattoos
 TikTok – sadiexheart
 TikTok – katiifirecat
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