Hanging in the Lower East Side with a Darling of NYC’s Tattoo Scene
“I’ve moved all over NYC, but the Lower East Side is definitely my favorite,” says Lauren Ledford of the downtown neighborhood, gritty and electric, she now claims as her own. Several years ago, the southern belle was lured north by a fashion internship then found herself, serendipitously, pulled into the world of celeb tattoo artists. She now manages several, notably JonBoy, an It Girl favorite known for his linear, minimalistic designs and having tattooed the Kendalls, Kylies, and Haileys of the world. He is also her boyfriend and co-parent to a pomeranian fluff named Gucci. The two work out of Bang Bang Tattoo near her pad, so the LES and neighboring Chinatown are two neighborhoods Ledford knows like the Lion and Lamb JonBoy inked on the back of her hands.
Below, she pulls on her classic sneakers (“you are as fresh as your kicks in this city,” she says), talks creative paths and guiding lights, and shows us her haunts.
Give us a glimpse of where you were in life before you decided to move to the Big Apple.
“Before moving, I was finishing up at Auburn University in Alabama and competing in Birmingham Fashion Week. I was working so hard there at the end so I could catapult into my next chapter. I majored in fashion design and could not wait to be in New York. I literally moved a week after graduation to start my internship with Miu Miu.”
Where’d you land after Miu Miu?
“Hilton Hollis, a high-end designer. It was a smaller team and is how I came to enjoy being hands-on in a small, growing business.”
How long have you been in NYC now?
“Almost four years. I fell in love almost immediately because everyone was so passionate about their work. It’s awesome to be in a place where everyone dreams big and works insanely hard to make it happen.”
How did you transition from fashion to managing one of the most sought-out tattoo artists?
“I’d always been interested in branding as a whole, not just design, though it’s a major component. After I started working in design, I’d been feeling pretty removed from the rest of the creative process. I was starting to date JonBoy—surprise, we work together and date!—around the same time his career was taking off. I realized he needed help and I wanted a creative side hustle. It grew from client booking to taking on press to coordinating pop-ups and projects, and it continues to change every day.”
How is it being a chick in the tattoo scene?
“I’ve worked with some of the best tattoo artists in NYC and around the globe. But I’ve been really blessed that the people I’ve personally worked with have all been incredibly welcoming. These people are wildly talented but equally as encouraging and kind.”
We know your faith plays a big role in your life. How does it intersect with work?
“My faith is what keeps me going. I would not be able to do so much without knowing that God's got me. I love to help others—I've made a career out of it!—so my faith is what I constantly return to, to be recharged.”
When you’re not managing clients and traveling the globe, where can we find you?
“I'm probably at home with a face mask on and tacos en route. Ha. But really, I love enjoying time with my friends over a not-rushed cup of coffee or shopping at all the LES boutiques I pass by when I'm in too much of a hurry to stop.”
Tell us about the most “omg I’m in NYC!” moment you’ve had in the LES.
“I get that feeling the most when I run into friends on the street...every time it happens I feel more like this is my home. It's cool to be running errands and see your friends doing their thing too. Sometimes we even link up for the rest of the day!”
Can you call out a look you love paired with sneakers?
“I have always loved a ‘business’ look with sneakers. The contrast of sporty sneakers with refined pieces feels interesting but is easy to put together. I like to pair blazers (now with some good shoulder pads) with a tee, jeans, and cool sneaks.”
Lauren’s Recs for a Good Time in the Lower East Side & Chinatown
“I've moved all around NYC, but I love the LES and Chinatown for the charm. LES is very chill, artistic, and cute, while Chinatown has gems that are destination spots. I've been living in the LES for a few months now and I love it.”
The first place I take visitors
“Bang Bang Tattoo. That's where JonBoy and I work from and honestly it is the sleekest tattoo shop. The outside corner of the building also hosts a mural by Buff Monster that’s a great photo-op. From there, go to Public Hotel down the street for a grain bowl and matcha.”
Where I head to caffeinate
“The Good Sort is my go-to for coffee. It’s known for its Unicorn Latte—just as vivid as it sounds. But instead of using food coloring, it's a blend of turmeric, blue algae, beetroot, and oat, almond, and coconut milk. So it’s healthy and Instagrammable. And I love Cha Cha Matcha for (obviously) matcha!”
When I’m all about that carbo-loading
'“The Sosta has amazing pasta, though I do love that they let you sub in zucchini noodles on any dish.”
My regular dinner spot
“Esther & Carol is always a crowd-pleaser. My favorite order is the fried chicken with gluten-free mac and cheese. I'm not so preoccupied with the gluten-free part, but it's worth mentioning that they can take dietary restrictions and make them delicious!”
When I’ve got money to burn
“Heels are cute but super impractical for the cobblestone streets of the LES. I am definitely a sneakerhead, so I go straight for my Vans, Fenty x Puma creepers, and Adidas Superstars.”
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