"I have a pretty light hand, says tattoo artist Jonathan "JonBoy" Valena to Refinery29. "I'm fast, so I have a lot of repeat customers because they love that." It's this light touch that's helped bring big-name clients like Hailey Baldwin—and her friend Kendall Jenner—into his West Village-based tattoo parlor.
Kendall Jenner called upon the services of Valena when it came time to get her first tattoo, going with Baldwin to West 4 Tattoo; a place where Baldwin has been inked by Valena at least five times before.
While Jenner got what's probably best described as "the most 'non-tattoo' tattoo" possible (she received a single white dot to represent, "the little things that matter,” according to Valena), it's a testament to his calm demeanor and rising reputation—particularly among ladies. As the New York Post notes, Valena's clients are around 90 percent female; coming in for his signature of delicate designs.
“I think I have a better understanding of what women want. They present themselves elegantly,” he said to the New York Post. “So being that tattoos are permanent, it should be thought out with a method that will look pleasing."
While Valena has a roster of loyal clients both male and female (Jaden Smith has been spotted in his shop), it's his reputation within his church—Manhattan's branch of the Hillsong Church—that's helped spread his work far and wide. It's time at Hillsong that connected Baldwin and Valena, with Baldwin calling on Valena's talents for her very first tattoo.
Valena's rode to success wasn't overnight though. He started his professional life attending a seminary with plans to become a youth pastor. Inevitably, he would score an apprenticeship at a tattoo parlor while interning in Iowa. While Valena left his religious pursuit behind to focus on tattooing, an arrest in NYC in 2011 (for jumping a subway turnstile) helped Valena turn back to God, and ultimately into Hillsong Church.
It's the combination of celebrity clients and bedside (or rather, chairside) manor that makes him a favorite. As he puts it, "I give my clients assurance by playing music and creating a calm atmosphere.”
But while Valena is more than happy to provide his services to first timers and tattoo newbies, he's got a few ground rules. For starters, make sure you're familiar with the artist—especially the quality of their work.
"Make sure to look at the artist's portfolio. The old saying is that you get what you pay for — that good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good. Go in and meet your artist. There’s nothing worse than going through the pain of the tattoo and the pain of sitting with someone who doesn’t care about what you're getting, who just wants to put the tattoo on you, take your money, and kick you out the door. Find someone that’s going to connect with [you]."
And for those who are still unsure about getting inked when the moment of truth arives, Valena says, "“If I sense that a person is not ready to get inked, I tell them to go home and think about it."