You left Jubilee! 15 years ago. Was getting back onstage in Pin Up like riding a bike?
It was a little nerve-wracking the first day that I came in. The second I got up there and started rehearsing, it all came back to me. I love it. I’ve had so much fun with it, and the cast is amazing. It’s been awesome.
Your style is very different than [regular Pin Up headliner] Claire Sinclair’s. How do you think the audience is going to take that?
Pretty well. Claire is not a trained dancer, but she’s got a great personality, and she can make it work. She’s not tattooed, so that’s going to be a different aspect altogether. People are going to be like, ‘Whoa, what is this girl doing?’ Because there’s never been a heavily tattooed girl headlining a show on the Strip. So I think that’s a big boundary that’s getting broken.
You’re seeing a lot of performers who are tattooed get roles where the tattoos still can’t come into play. Lena Headey from Game of Thrones has work they cover or digitally erase. Shouldn’t it be something people are used to now?
It’s in a weird place still. It’s definitely a lot more acceptable than it used to be. But especially for women, it’s still looked down upon. When I go to the airport, if I’m all bundled up in sweats, hair in a ponytail and no makeup, I get treated like a scumbag. But if I’m all dolled up in makeup and heels and a dress, everyone’s like, OK, cut through the line. I’m a princess. It’s so funny. They look at the tattoos like, ‘Why is this scumbag sitting in first class?’
What’s the status on the next season of Best Ink, the Oxygen show on which you’re a judge?
They have not completely told us yet. They have until March to tell us. I don’t know 100 percent. I have heard through the grapevine that we are, but I don’t know. I’m hoping.
Is there a level of irony with you operating Bombshell Tattoo Removal out of the Hart & Huntington tattoo shop?
Everybody says that! It’s funny because my ex-husband was a tattoo artist and I was doing tattoo removal. We covered the industry. He could put ’em on, and I could take ’em off. That was my plan B when I was pregnant with my last daughter. I didn’t know if I was going to model anymore. I was like, what can I do that’s part of the tattoo shop, but not tattoo, because I can’t draw? I went to school to do tattoo removal, and I really liked it.
In a way I almost feel like people feel more comfortable coming to me to get their tattoos removed. Most people who are getting their tattoos removed, it’s something they did when they were drunk or they were young and it’s a stupid tattoo or it’s a racist tattoo or something they’re not proud of. When they go to a doctor’s office and they’re heavily tattooed like that, whether they have that stuff on their face or real prominent places, a lot of doctors will look down on you for that. I feel like they feel a lot more comfortable with me because I am so heavily tattooed, they don’t have to be as ashamed about some of the stuff they are getting removed. I’ve seen it all. It doesn’t surprise me, and I don’t look down on people for anything.
What’s the one people are getting right now that’s going to be the regrettable tattoo of the future—the tribal arm band of the next few years?
Right now a lot of girls are getting their whole chest blasted, and over their eyebrow girls are doing writing. A lot of really young girls are going crazy right now and blasting their necks and chests. And, yeah, it might look cool right now, but unless you’re completely secure in your job, I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. I waited a long time before I did my neck, and when I jumped to do my neck, the TV show wasn’t even happy about it. They were pissed. They were trying to cover it at first. They put me in turtleneck dresses and put my hair all to one side. I think it was a little too overboard for them. I called them out on it, and they let it go. I got a lot of reactions at first. But now everyone loves it. It’s probably my best tattoo.
If you could take that removal laser and point it at one celebrity tattoo, what would it be?
Rihanna’s hand. She just covered up the stuff she got in New Zealand. She got something real tribal in New Zealand, then turned around and got it covered up.
Even more than the underboob Isis thing she has going on?
Oh, God, I forgot about that. The hand one just sticks out so much, though. The Isis one hasn’t bothered me as much. There are a lot of celebrities who have some crap tattoos.
Kelley appears in Pin Up 10:30 p.m. Thu-Sun through July 31, $55, 702-380-7777, StratosphereHotel.com.