VH1’s Black Ink Crew was supposed to be a platform for Cristana “Dutchess” Lattimore to showcase her skill, artistry, and passion for tattooing. Instead, the show created and highlighted intense drama surrounding her life, making her personal life more like a living hell. Even after departing from the show after 5 seasons, Dutchess was the topic of conversation, and many of the show’s cast members, which includes the owner of Black Ink and ex-fiance’ David “Ceaser” Emanuel, reverted to her in their storylines for a few seasons afterward.
Dutchess’s departure from Black Ink Crew began a series of low notes for her, although the experience was toxic for her. While being on the show, and since then, she runs her own tattoo shop in her hometown of Charlotte, NC, “Pretty N Ink”. Many figured her decision to leave the show was due to her relationship with Ceaser failing, however, during an interview with Sister Circle TV, she revealed a deeper reason.
“The show wasn’t in line and in tune with the person that is conducive to the woman that I am supposed to be. And, I had to learn that the hard way,” explained Dutchess. She travailed through alleged threats and harassment from her previous cast members, which led to what she says was a serious depression.
“They would call my shop and tell my mother [who runs her tattoo shop] the most heinous things that they were going to do to me if I ever came back to New York,” she continued. “It got to point where I didn’t think I would ever escape it and this is two and a half years ago, mind you. Then, the new season of the show airs and I’m the topic of discussion for EVERY episode and I’m not even there. So it was like, once I went through depression by myself, now y’all want me to go through public humiliation because you don’t have a storyline? It’s been the hardest. I don’t even watch TV.”
With the residue from the show being unbearable for Dutchess and taking a toll on the artist’s mental health, she many times felt that she couldn’t take it anymore. She was a recent guest on the podcast Talk of the Town Unfiltered recently and discussed further how it damaged her life, and what her thoughts were on how it affects the Black community as a whole.
“Reality TV is meant to diminish mental health not only for the people on the show but for the people that watch the show,” the businesswoman stated. “You really have to have a certain level of disdain not only for yourself but for Black people in general, to want to watch something that you keep seeing Black people, and they never come to a place of success. Every episode is fight.”
Her reasoning for staying on the show for five seasons was due to contractual obligations and noticed that after season 1, the show’s focus went from tattooing to diminishing their characters in a negative light. Her biggest issue was behind the scenes with the production company, Big Fish Entertainment.
Lattimore went on to share a situation in which she knew enough was enough. “The day I put Cease’s shoes out on the corner, on the street, do y’all know they called the crazy house to come get me and told the lady to put me in a straitjacket for cameras?”
Big Fish has since lost its ability to produce shows for ViacomCBS. The drama, however, caused her to almost successfully take her life multiple times, Dutchess revealed during “When I left the show, I went through therapy. It was necessary. I tried to [take my own life] seven times,” she confessed. “I went through so much. I lost my grandma while I was on the show. I felt so [messed] up because I literally hadn’t gone home in damn near a year. These [people] was telling me I couldn’t go to my own grandma funeral ’cause I had to film, y’all. When they did that, that’s when I was like, y’all ain’t of God. I can’t do this.”
Lattimore is still successfully running Pretty n Ink in Charlotte and is expanding her dreams to attempt a career as a rapper. The HBCU graduate has also gone on tours on various HBCU campuses to empower college students as well.