Nix It or Fix It Winner Shows Off Denver's Worst Tattoo

Sometimes $30 goes a long way. It can buy a full tank of gas and some snacks at 7-Eleven, a few days’ worth of groceries at King Soopers or a solid night out with friends. What $30 cannot do, however, is get you a good tattoo. Joseph Rivera, winner of FLO 107.1’s Nix It or Fix It contest, knows this firsthand.

Two years ago, Rivera was at work, talking about possibly getting another tattoo added to his impressive collection of ink, when his co-worker mentioned that his brother was a tattoo artist. So as soon as they'd clocked out for the day,  the two headed over to a tattoo studio on South Broadway. Despite having a 4.8-star Google rating and being named one of the ten best tattoo shops in Denver, the following photo shows the result of Rivera’s request for an owl tattoo:
Things seemed to be going okay as the stencil was applied, Rivera remembers, but he became uneasy when the tattoo artist pulled out some deodorant and started applying it to his leg. “My main purpose for going there, my main idea overall, was to have an owl tattoo on my leg because I’ve always wanted one,” he explains. “I was just going to let him do his work, and I didn’t even realize there was something wrong until I got up to go to the bathroom during the session.”

When he took a close look at his leg, he thought the tattoo didn't look right, but he let the artist finish the session. “I knew $30 was cheap, but that’s what he charged me in a down payment,” Rivera says. “I was supposed to come back and finish with the rest of the money.” He never did.

As a result, Rivera sported a half-done "calf-tat" for two years, even as he added other, more professional tattoos. But the owl was so bad that Rivera was embarrassed to wear shorts during a pickup game of basketball, and he was about to commit to another summer of long pants when he heard about FLO 107.1’s Nix It or Fix It contest.

Last month the radio station teamed up with Fallen Owl Tattoo Studio and Tattoo Emergency 911 in search of Denver’s worst tattoo; the prize was the winner's choice of a complete removal, cover-up, or combination of the two.  Rivera asked his mother to submit a photo of his tattoo to the contest’s event page (Rivera doesn't have Facebook account), where listeners could vote for the worst tattoo.

Rivera was voted the Nix It or Fix It winner, and the contest results were announced on January 29.

“I went to Fallen Owl Tattoo Studio last Thursday to meet with Angel, my new artist,” Rivera reports. “He looked at my tattoo and said he thinks he can work with it. What I’m hoping to do now is have him cover it up and redo an owl, this time with something representing my brothers in it. I’d like to have maybe four little people inside of the owl, sort of like in Aztec style.”

Rivera has an April appointment with Fallen Owl Tattoo Studio for that cover-up tattoo. The name of the contest partner seems appropriate; with Fallen Owl doing the inking, this time Rivera's tattoo should really fly.

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Lauren Archuletta is a contributor for Westword's arts section, covering Denver's health and wellness scene. Follow her work for tips on cheap workouts and which yoga classes include mimosas and beer.