duchessWe know Dutchess Lattimore as the southern spitfire who made her way into our homes via television on VH1’s Black Ink Crew. We’ve seen the ups and downs of her public relationship play out on our screens every Monday, and the obstacles she’s overcome on her road to becoming a well-known tattoo artist. What we unfortunately don’t get to see enough of, is what drives her when the cameras are off, and real life returns.  Tattoo artist, entrepreneur, new business owner, and proud Aggie alum. Dutchess is so much more than the blocks of edited content given to the masses every season.

Almost 6 months into her ownership of her new tattoo shop Pretty in Ink, Dutchess sat down with The Buzz to talk her life outside of the show.

As a new business owner Dutchess states, “it’s just a blessing to see, I don’t know, it just makes you feel good inside, you can see my smile without even seeing me.”

“It was the greatest adventure of my life. There were a few hiccups but it was so exciting. It was just comforting to see the progression of something you’ve thought about, dreamed about, wanted, and then see it come into fruition.”

A Lincolnton, North Carolina Native, Lattimore says she began getting to know herself in full once she started college. Forced to cease her plans of attending Spelman after a death rocked her family, Dutchess opted for a school closer to home. Choosing North Carolina A&T University to pacify her parent’s worries, she doesn’t regret her decision now at all. Though apprehensive at first, she exclaims that she feels like her tenure there was just yesterday.

dutchess7-1447690727With two degrees in Marketing and Management from A&T, Dutchess says she went on to grad school, but after getting caught up in the art of tattooing and falling in love with it, she put her Masters on hold.

Pursuing her new love of tattooing full time, she wasn’t sure what would come out of it in the end. Now with a successful tattoo shop of her own, and the know how to run it effectively via her education, Dutchess is making power moves for herself. Pretty in Ink, her Charlotte NC based tattooing business, encompasses all of her accomplishments; a successful tattoo career, and her college experience.  “When I tell you my family at first was like, “I can’t believe you’re going to waste all of that college to do tattoos.” Now it’s like, “We get it.””

When asked how to get people to understand the importance HBCUs still hold, Lattimore made it known that she was sad with the lack of representation shown in today’s time when speaking of notable HBCU alum. ” We don’t celebrate that part of their lives, that’s not considered an accolade for some reason, and that’s terrible.”

img_5035“When you have great powerful black leaders that have attended HBCUs in this country, that helps draw the attention back to that foundation. When I was coming up, it was amazing.  Not just entertainers, but educators and politicians, just look at Alma Adams, she’s doing Amazing thing for this state [North Carolina,] and she comes from an HBCU.” Driving home her point that it’s time to change the narrative of HBCUs in mainstream media, Dutchess went ont on to finish. “Until we truly encourage people to share that part of themselves. Like look at me, I’m on a reality show on VH1, and a lot of people don’t even know I went to college, let alone an HBCU. It’s not because I’m not proud of it. I’m at every homecoming, I give back every chance I get, my brother is a student there right now so I’m constantly there. I wear my [school] paraphernalia, I’m always on my social media talking about how proud I am of my school, but the job I have with a major TV network, doesn’t deem that important enough for my story line, when that’s the greatest part of my life.”

Dutchess’ main objective in her position as a celebrity, is to give back to others as well. Mentoring youth, holding monthly community events in partnerships with other black business owners, and making sure to stay active in the HBCU community, is something she prides herself on. She calls it a blessing.

“The power, of the black dollar, the power of the black economy, the power of our Black institutions, these are the things that we have control over, so why not use them to truly empower our children and our people?”