9 things you might not know about Kat Von D, the famous tattoo artist who's covering her body in solid black ink

  • Kat Von D is a tattoo artist, author, musician, and footwear designer.

  • She's best known for her role in "LA Ink," her former makeup brand, and her controversies.

  • But you might not know her real name and the fact that she previously held a world record.

When you hear the name Kat Von D, you probably think of either tattoos or makeup.

The 41-year-old has made a career out of both art forms, but she's also known to some as a musician, author, former world-record holder, and mother.

Here are nine things you might not know about Von D, from her classical music training to her real name.

Kat Von D's real name is Katherine Von Drachenberg.

Kat Von D at Sephora in Milan, Italy, on April 8, 2017.
Kat Von D at Sephora in Milan, Italy, on April 8, 2017.Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

As Von D previously wrote in an essay for PopSugar, she was born on March 8, 1982, in Montemorelos, a city in Nuevo León, Mexico.

Her family moved to the United States in 1988 and lived near Loma Linda, California, which is home to a large Seventh-day Adventist community. Von D said in her essay for PopSugar that her family was involved in the church when she was a child.

As a child, she was trained as a classical musician.

Kat Von D performs at her former beauty brand's 10th anniversary party.
Kat Von D performs at her former beauty brand's 10th anniversary party.Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Speaking with Forbes in 2021, Von D said she began playing piano at age 5 with classical lessons from her grandmother "every single day."

She also told the outlet that she "grew up on a healthy diet of Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin."

Today, music continues to be a huge part of Von D's life. She released her first album — a mix of electronic pop and indie tracks called "Love Made Me Do It" — in August 2021, and a disco-esque single called "Vampire Love" in October.

She once set a world record for tattooing the largest number of people in a single day.

kat von d world record
A shirt that was given to people who participated in Kat Von D's former world record.Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

Of course, Von D wasn't doing any extensive tattoo work that day in 2007. Instead, she inked a Guinness-approved LA logo on 400 people for $20 each, with proceeds going to the Vitamin Angels nonprofit organization.

According to the World Record Academy, lines formed approximately 48 hours before Von D began tattooing, and police later had to break up a crowd of around 1,000 people.

At one point in her career, Von D was the go-to tattoo artist for celebrities.

Demi Lovato and her bird tattoo done by Kat Von D.
Demi Lovato is one of many celebrities to have been tattooed by Kat Von D.Danny Moloshok/Reuters and David Livingston/Getty Images

Von D's rolodex of celebrity clients include Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Harry Styles, Demi Lovato, and Dave Grohl, among others.

She's released four books throughout her career, including one children's book.

Kat Von D promotes "The Tattoo Chronicles" at Barnes & Noble in New York City.
Kat Von D promotes "The Tattoo Chronicles" at Barnes & Noble in New York City.Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Von D first became an author in 2009 with the release of "High Voltage Tattoo," which details her life story, early career, and tattoos.

She then released "The Tattoo Chronicles" — an illustrated diary of tattoos she's given — in 2010 and an essay collection called "Go Big or Go Home: Taking Risks in Life, Love, and Tattooing" in 2013.

Most recently, Von D published "Leafar and the Magical Treasure Chest," a children's story inspired by her son, in 2022. The book came with a page of temporary tattoos for kids to use when they finished reading.

She previously lived in a historic mansion that was featured in "Cheaper by the Dozen."

The exterior of Kat Von D's California house.
An outside view of Kat Von D's former Los Angeles mansion.The Sher Group

For years, Von D lived in a Victorian mansion located in Los Angeles, California. It was originally built in 1896 by businessman Isaac Newton Van Nuys, and was later featured in the 2003 film "Cheaper by the Dozen."

Von D then purchased the home for $6.5 million in 2016 and renovated it over the course of six years. While she lived there, it had a gothic library, a dining room fit for royalty, and a blood-red swimming pool.

But after deciding to move to Indiana, Von D listed the mansion in January 2022 for $15 million and sold the property in March 2023 for $7.75 million.

Von D is also the owner of a vegan footwear brand, which she founded in 2019.

The home page of the Von D Shoes website.
The homepage of the Von D Shoes website.Von D Shoes

In a video on her brand's website, Von D said that as a vegan and "one of the biggest shoe junkies on the planet," she wanted to create a "luxe line of artfully-minded shoes that were cruelty-free in all aspects."

The brand currently sells sneakers, platform heels, flats, and other footwear that are all made from 100% vegan materials.

Though KVD Beauty still exists, Von D has no part in the brand.

The original Kat Von D Beauty Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks at a Sephora store in 2017.
The original Kat Von D Beauty Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks at a Sephora store in 2017.Ross Gilmore/Getty Images

While starring in the second season of her TLC series "LA Ink," Von D launched a limited-edition makeup line at Sephora. According to the Los Angeles Times, it included four lipsticks, two eye-shadow palettes, six liquid eyeliners, and a brush set.

But eventually, the collection transformed into a massively popular brand. As Allure previously reported, a Kat Von D Beauty lipstick in a shade called Lolita was Sephora's best-selling lipstick of 2015.

While appearing on Hillary Kerr's "Second Life" podcast in 2020, Von D said she "had no idea" what she was doing when she began working with the beauty retailer, but that she was a "bit defiant" in making sure that she and her brand didn't "fit in" with others at the time.

"I was trying to create something that wasn't made, and we did that," she said. "I remember telling them, 'Hey, I don't go to Sephora because it's fucking boring. At that time, you would walk down the aisle and everything was the same."

In a January 2020 Instagram post, Von D revealed that she'd sold her shares of her namesake beauty brand to Kendo.

She later said during a podcast appearance that the beauty industry had become "a culture thing" filled with influencers, which she didn't want to be a part of.

Von D has covered most of her famous tattoos with blackout designs.

Kat Von D in Los Angeles, California, on June 7, 2023.
Kat Von D in Los Angeles, California, on June 7, 2023.Wil R/Star Max/Getty Images

Von D began replacing her original tattoos in late 2020, starting with her arms and later working on pieces across her legs and back.

In an October Instagram post, Von D shared a video of her progress and explained her decision to cover her body in solid black ink.

"17 sessions, and almost 40 accumulative hours later, we are about 80% done with blacking out my body," Von D wrote. "I've been consistently flying out to Philly to get tattooed by the amazing @hoode215 at his lovely tattoo shop @blackvulturegallery."

Von D went on to say that the old tattoos no longer align with who she is today.

"Some people are fine with keeping these types of landmarks in time on them — I personally grew tired of waking up to them, and seeing those constant reminders every time I looked in a mirror," she wrote.

She also said that she "did start lasering tattoos" but later decided to cover the designs with blackout ink because she likes the aesthetic.

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