Winner's Chat with Karly: "I Didn't Think I had a Shot in Hell!"

After weeks of anticipation and no clear front-runner, Karly Cleary officially won Season 3 of Best Ink! Scroll down to read Karly's winning interview, where we asked her all about her favorite piece of the season, about who she's still friends with from the show, and about what life is like after winning Best Ink...against all her expectations! (Um...Would you believe she didn't think she could even make it on the show?) See what Karly has to say!

Congratulations! Going in, did you think you would make it as far as you did?

No. Not at all! I couldn’t even believe I made it on the show. Every week that I made it further was great, and I achieved what I wanted to achieve, which was to represent myself in a genuine light and also showcase some of the best work of my career.  As corny as it sounds, it wouldn’t have mattered to me if I won at all! I think toward the end there it could have easily have been any of us, but it’s still a game and there could only be one.

Has your career blown up since being on the show?

I had always been booked in advance as of a couple of years ago. I always kept it 4-6 weeks in advance, but now its months in advance -- and it’s only climbing every day! It’s overwhelming in a good way. I’m full-blown full-time either in the studio [Davidian Tattoos] or drawing at home. I’m working my ass off!

What are you going to do with the prize money?

I’m probably going do something very boring and put it away [laughs]. You can’t help but splurge a little bit. My husband and I need new cars, and I’d love to treat my family to a vacation, but we’re going to be sensible with it.   

What inspired you to be on Best Ink?

Well, I’m a fan of the show. One day I was online, reading more about it, and I just followed a link that said I could apply. I was embarrassed because I didn’t think I had a shot in hell. I didn’t even tell my husband I had applied at first! Even during the show process, I told producers that I’m probably too boring for TV! But, I guess you need the even-keeled personalities to even out the…strong personalities.

We heard your husband’s reaction over the phone on the finale! It was so cute! How did the rest of your family react when you heard you’d won?

It was actually awesome…we had booked a trip earlier that year. My whole family was going up, and of course I had no idea from week to week if I was going to be back in time -- which I wasn’t. So he was in the middle of that vacation, so he had my whole family just on the edge of their seat all day waiting to hear what the outcome was. I was able to hear everyone’s reaction in the too. Just sharing it with my husband and kids…I don’t even have the words. Everyone wants their family to be proud of them!  

What tattoo were you most proud of this season?

I would have to say the angler fish! Not only did I think it was the strongest tattoo that I did, it was my third win in a row, and I won the Flash Challenge that day too.

Aside from winning, what did you get out of being on Best Ink?

The people that I met -- even though we spent a relatively short time with one another -- we went through a very unique experience together. The bonds that we built on the show, I can’t even imagine it ever being broken by anything. Now I have friends and colleagues all over the country.  I talk to Alayna all the time, and Darnell sometimes too. Danny is really close to me geographically and he’s coming to a party to watch the finale with me! He’s like my little brother. I talk to Romeo, and he works at Alayna’s shop now.

What’s next for your career and family?

I have a son and a stepson, and they’re eight months apart. They’re in middle school, they’re not by any means all grown up, but they’re more independent now than they ever have been, so I feel like they’re at a perfect age for me to start focusing more on my career, which I wanted to do but I had different priorities. After winning Best Ink, I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to make that transition into calling myself a tattoo artist. I always felt like tattooing was still a part-time thing, it was on the sidelines. But now, I can’t wait to do all the traveling and take advantage of the opportunities this industry has to offer -- and the kids are old enough to come with me! 

Guess who inspired Karly? None other than Season 2 winner Teresa Sharpe! Watch Karly's interview below.

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