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EXCLUSIVE: ‘Black Ink Crew: Chicago’s Ryan Henry & Charmaine Bey Talk About Drama, Reflection, R. Kelly & More


After a pandemic shortened sixth season, Black Ink Crew: Chicago is back, so that means fans can expect the return of the tattoos and, of course, drama in season 7.

We’re heading back to Chicago. No, the pandemic isn’t officially over, but the world is slowly opening up, so that means 9 MAG’s owner Ryan Henry and 2nd City Ink’s boss Charmaine Bey have turned on the lights and tattoo guns in their shops again. We spoke with the reality stars/ tattoo shop owners on Zoom, and during our online conversation, we talked about Ryan’s drama with his former best friend after he got called out for sleeping with his boy’s baby mama. We also touched on how Charmaine keeps it together after losing both of her parents in a short time span and at the same time becoming a new mom.

Henry and Bey also talked about being back in front of the VH1 cameras full time, what they were reflecting on while Chicago was shut down, and even R.Kelly finally getting convicted.

Hip-Hop Wired: Last season was a pandemic shortened season for you guys. And this is your first full season back. So how does that feel for you guys to be back in front of the camera full time?

Charmaine Bey: I mean, I was grateful and fortunate because there was a time during the pandemic where you see all these headlines about these shows being canceled. And I was just praying that that wouldn’t happen to us because we love filming our TV show. And I mean, I would have been really sad. I’m really fortunate and so happy that we are still on the air, even without a pandemic. We’re in our seventh season, and a lot of shows don’t make it that long. And for us to be putting out even better content than we were before. Now we’re with a new production company, and the focus of our show has changed. And I’m just grateful. I’m very much happy and grateful to be back in front of the camera.

Black In Crew Chicago Key art Season 7

Source: Courtesy VH1 / ViacomCBS

Ryan Henry: Yeah. I mean, we didn’t know how it was going to go. And it wasn’t even real that it was going to have to stop and shut down, and then for as long as it did. That’s what made it more real. And then just like a lot of businesses, a lot of things didn’t survive. A lot of shows didn’t survive. People cut cable subscriptions in half.  At that time, you got people who going to cut what they consume in half. And it could have been one of the shows. So it was a blessing to be back.To still have the support of the people a year and a half later because those things don’t last like that.


Source: Courtesy VH1 / ViacomCBS

HHW: Yeah, absolutely right. Well since there wasn’t really much recording, y’all had plenty of time to reflect on things, like a lot of people had because everything was shut down. Outside wasn’t open yet. So what did you guys reflect on during your time in the pandemic?

CB: I was reflecting on being a mom, and I was just living in the moment. Postpartum was definitely very difficult too. I mean, we hear women talk about it, but to go through it. I mean, that was like, whoa. I think the pandemic had something to do with it. I’m stuck inside. There’s this thing called the coronavirus outside. We are all finna to die. And I got a newborn baby. I was dealing with those thoughts, but then also the sadness of losing my mom. And I almost had to reprocess her death all over again once I had Nola. So it was not easy for me during those times, but I was just focused on being a good mom. Yeah.

RH: Yeah. I mean, I guess, yeah, I felt like I was tapping more into other things. But like I said, that idle time, it allows for you to really be yourself. That can be a good or bad thing. So as I was tapping more into how I was going to handle business and change my lifestyle health-wise and things like that, I was messing up. I was losing my mind. And these things ended up leading to some of the worst decisions and some of the worst situations for me, simultaneously as I’m growing in other aspects. So, I mean, it has different effects on the people, and they are not always just positive ones, even if they look like it.

HHW: Ryan, you touched on messing up and doing certain things. And this season, you actually get a little candid about a situation you got involved in with a friend of yours. In the show, you actually have that conversation with him in regards to what happened between him and his baby mama and all that stuff. So what was that scene like? What was it like filming that?

RH: The scene, it was tough. Like you said, we were friends. The friendship wasn’t fake or anything. It was just the fact of how the things led up to what it was. And then when we parted ways, it was a lot of stuff that went on between afterward. So it was a lot of mixed emotions from anger, the results, and the actions. So through a lot of that growth and that time that I had to be in therapy, and you know what I mean, started to take accountability for myself for how I want to do things, it allowed for us to be so separate to where the conversations we had had before,  that weren’t out to the public, they began to dissolve in what they meant, or even what they might of meant in the beginning.

I’m a different person as I’m growing and changing. So now, it might not have been sufficient. So the way that I might have apologized to him last year wouldn’t have been as valid as it would be now, and what I can do and how I can display it. And then you can actually get him to a point of understanding. I might not have been able to get him to the point of understanding. I might’ve still just been in my ways back then. So it had been so long in the times where we had been able to speak, and like I said, a lot of stuff in between that. So you’ve got anger and non-accountability. So when you get to that point, it’s like, all right, now I can do this.

And I can say that because I mean, you’ll see. We spoke only because he felt at that time that we never spoke. And it’s like, all right, now we got to disconnect. But I’m more of a man now. I can tell you straight face-to-face, let’s meet. Because before you say we ain’t spoke at all, I’d rather you hear it straight out. And then give clarity as opposed to excuses and whatever you thinking.

HHW: You guys are no longer friends. Is the friendship done?

RH: Yeah.

HHW: Charmaine, you touched on losing your mom, and just recently, you lost your dad too. We watched a lot of reality TV and honestly never seen a person go through so much, and put it out there on television like that. So we commend you for that. And we want to know how do you deal with that daily?

RH: And had a baby, Nola.

CB: And had a baby.

HHW: That too. That too.

CB: Our show has allowed me to use it as therapy sometimes where I’ll be holding in all my emotions, and my emotions is at the very tip of the iceberg. And I might be emotional all day, but don’t let it out and don’t let myself feel it. But then I know I have this scene with Ryan coming up where I get to talk to him about what I’m feeling. And Ryan and I, we talk more often outside of the season because during the season, we try to save those communications for our face-to-face interactions on camera. But I look forward to that. I need those conversations with the people that I love and the people that I’m close with. Because when I sit down and I talk to Ryan, or sit down and talk to my cousin, Danielle, or my husband Neek, I mean, usually I’m not allowing myself to feel those emotions until I’m having this conversation with the people that know me. You know what I mean?

So it’s hard. But the show, in some sense, is also a sense of therapy where you’re able to kind of talk about it. But then when you’re talking to someone like Ryan, he kind of plays devil advocate a lot where he’s kind of bouncing it back at you, like, “Well, did you think about this,” or, “You say this, but what’s going to end up happening is this.” And then it really just opens up my mind to a whole different perspective. And I actually really need those conversations, those genuine conversations with people that matter to me. So it’s been really tough. I haven’t really dealt with it to be honest with you. But those conversations with these people have gotten me through some of the really hard times.

HHW: That’s dope. Shout out to Ryan for that, man. That’s really dope.

CB: That’s my dog.

RH: Ain’t nobody else will listen to it.

HHW: Charmaine, during one of the seasons, you were very active in the protest streets against this particular artist [R.Kelly]. And this artist has gotten convicted. So I wanted to know your thoughts about that.

CB: I’ve been working all day long and have not been up to date of what’s been going on today. But I will say obviously R. Kelly is from Chicago. And it was definitely a hard topic for a lot of people from the city because not only do they love R. Kelly and they grew up on his music, but they also know the history of the past of how it seemed like something else. It seemed like he was having these parties, and everybody wanted to be involved. But then, all these stories ended up coming out. At the end of the day, for me, it doesn’t matter who you are or your importance in life. No man or woman should have to go through some of the things that these victims were going through. And I am very pleased that R. Kelly has to face his demons.

Black Ink Crew: Chicago returns Monday, Oct.4 at 8 pm EST on VH1.

Black In Crew Chicago Key art Season 7

Source: Courtesy VH1 / ViacomCBS

Photo: Courtesy VH1 / ViacomCBS