Melody Richards walked onto the set of MTV’s new series How Far Is Tattoo Far? hoping for her “15 minutes of fame.” She left with a fresh tattoo of a chastity belt just below her bellybutton spanning from one hip bone to the other — and a renewed appreciation for reality TV.
Before the 19-year-old appeared on the show, which is hosted by Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Nico Tortorella, she had one other tattoo. “It was actually done in someone’s bedroom when I was 17. Both my tattoos are crazy stories to be completely honest, so I’m gonna keep going with that,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. On How Far Is Tattoo Far?, two friends, lovers, exes, or family members get to pick tattoos for each other, and they won’t be revealed until after they’ve been permanently inked. Crazy is right.
One might wonder why on earth anyone would agree to this. For Richards, it was a no-brainer. “I’ve literally been, since I was 6, watching Bad Girls Club and Jersey Shore and all these TV shows growing up. And it’s built me into who I am,” she explains. “And to have the opportunity to go on the show and be there with one of my idols [Snooki]. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
She was also drawn to the “opportunity to be known nationally, maybe even internationally,” noting that the original version of the show, which aired in the United Kingdom, was such a success that it was replicated stateside. “The other show went viral. I will do whatever it takes to get where I want to be.” (Richards is currently employed as an exotic dancer in Chicago and makes extra money working as a webcam model.)
Plus, Richards doesn’t take tattoos that seriously, and she was in the market for another one. The new tattoo, designed by her friend Dacota Daniels, is a large chastity belt on her lower abdominals. Daniels chose it in protest of her best friend’s intended profession. “She was completely against me being a cam girl,” Richards says. “We got into actual fights about it.”
“She wanted to be a pοrn star, so I wanted to give her something that would make nobody want her and that would make her not want to do that anymore,” Daniels tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
On their episode, Richards is in so much pain during the inking process that she panics and quits before it’s done. “There were no breaks for that tattoo. At a regular tattoo session you get some few-minute breaks,” she explains. “No, I sat there for three hours with a needle constantly in my most sensitive area.” The final product is incomplete, but the message is clear.
When it’s time to see the tattoo, Richards is already crying as she takes off the blacked-out glasses that every participant wears as part of the show. “I don’t want to look,” she said through tears. Upon seeing the huge lock, her jaw dropped as she realized her career could be ruined. “I’m not gonna want to be ηaked in front of anyone.” she said. Shaking and still crying, she walked off the stage.
Daniels, 20, was next. She wasn’t as willing to go on the show in the first place. “I was nervous about what [Richards] was gonna put on me, but I think I was more nervous about being on TV,” she says. “I love having random stuff on me.”
Like Richards, Daniels doesn’t consider tattoos to be that big of a deal. “My first tattoo was a house tattoo, at a party,” she says. “The second tattoo I ended up getting was literally just, I walked into a tattoo shop and just picked something out of the book, and after that I just started picking out random tattoos, not really thinking about it.”
Daniels, who’s in the same line of work as Richards, enjoys the feeling of getting a tattoo. “Not so much the one I got on the show, that was the worst tattoo I’ve ever gotten pain-wise,” she admits. “But it’s more of the excitement and having something new that’s going to be forever on your body. It’s a high I guess.”
Richards wanted her friend to learn to be more open and comfortable in her skin. So she branded her with the phrase “I like in the the…” right above her derrière. In bright red block letters.
“I was so mad on the show,” Daniels says. “I was really upset because it happened one time,” she insists, “and she put it on me forever.” Daniels says MTV didn’t show how mad she actually was. “She seemed more mad, but I was more mad about the meaning of the tattoo and how big it was.”
Richards, on the other hand, was mostly shocked. “When I first saw it, maybe there is something in the mirrors there, but it looked f***ing huge,” Richards recalls. “It looked way bigger on the show. I can say now that I look at it every day, sometimes I forget it’s there. And I’m losing weight now, so it’s definitely shrinking.”
Given her initial reaction, it’s hard to believe how she feels about it now; she likes it so much, she wants to get it finished. “When I get more money in my pocket, and I can sit down with an artist, I want to finish it. I want to make it all black and gray, and turn the lock into a heart.” Her boyfriend likes it too: “He’s like, ‘I love it, it’s cool, you went on a show to get it, it’s awesome and it’s kind of hot.’”
In fact, she never really hated it to begin with. “The part of the episode when they reveal the tattoo to you and you’re standing there with goggles on, that is spread out over at least 15 minutes because they are filming and refilming to get the right angles, lighting, etc.,” Richards says. “So you’re standing there, your anxiety is building and building. I couldn’t see for four hours. I had those goggles on for four hours. I was sensory deprived.”
And while Richards seemed genuinely mad at her best friend for foiling her future plans, she was over it in five minutes: “My anxiety just built up so much that I cried and was shaking. As soon as it was over, we were shocked but relieved, like, ‘I love you, f*** it. We did this for a reason.’ It wasn’t as big of a deal after the fact.”
Daniels felt differently, though. “At first I was thinking after the show I’m just gonna get it removed or cover it and it will be fine. But then I was watching videos of tattoo removal and it looked like it would hurt. And I wouldn’t get it covered up because the pain I went through for this tattoo, it was so bad, it was the worst pain ever,” she says. “And then I was just like, eh, I kind of like it.”
Tiffany Perez, a tattoo artist on the show who did Richards’s tattoo, is surprised they are both keeping their tattoos. Richards emailed Perez about finishing hers. “When she reached out and I saw her email, I was like, ‘Oh, God.’ I was a little nervous when I saw the message, but then I clicked it and I read it, I was like, she likes it! That’s crazy!” she says. “When I saw her reaction to it, I felt bad because she started to cry and said it would make her insecure. But I guess she just learned to accept it and love it and that’s why she wants to finish it.”
Perez didn’t do Daniels’s tattoo, but she thought that was one of the worst tattoos of the season, saying, “That was horrible.” When Perez was informed that Daniels plans to keep it, she couldn’t believe it: “No way! That’s so funny!”
Richards isn’t going to let this tattoo stop her from achieving her goals. In fact, she’s going to put her new tattoo to work. “People are asking to pay me to send them a picture of the tattoo. That’s why I want to get it finished because, why not? If I can make money off it, screw it!” she says. “I’m not as pissed about it or crippled by the situation.” But she’s not even sure she wants to be a cam girl anymore — this whole experience gave her not only a new, free tattoo and a great story but also a glimpse of what could be. “After being on this show, I think I genuinely want to go into doing reality TV,” she shares. “Being a cam girl is not my number one goal anymore.” She’s about to take a job dancing at a club in Chicago where she said MTV filmed a reality show about strippers.
Both women have no regrets about going on the show. “It was so worth it,” Richards gushes. “Seeing my aunt being so proud of me for being on TV, and seeing my mom be so proud of me for doing something that I’ve talked about since I was 6 years old, getting on reality TV, seeing that made it extremely worth it for me.”
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