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Nudity and controversy at the Hottest Inked contest

Not approved by Hottest Inked.

People with copius amounts of skin covered with tattoos are sometimes considered rulebreakers by mainstream society -- but that's not always (or even often) the case. Take the Hottest Inked contest that TattooFinder, an online tattoo resource and sponsor of the September 19-21 Denver Tattoo Convention: Museum of Skin, threw on September 19 at Beta nightclub. The official rules for the contest, which pitted ink-fiend against ink-fiend to see who was the proud wearer of the hottest tattoos in the city, clearly stated that "all tattoos submitted for judgment during the contest must be non-offensive (at sponsor's discretion)." The guidelines also stated that no indecent exposure would be permitted in the contest.

And out of the dozens that participated, only two were unable to follow those simple rules. According to a press release that TattooFinder sent out, "After stepping up onto stage in his rotation with other contestants, one man revealed a collection of prominent anti-Semitic tattoos, including a large swastika on his chest, 'SS' insignia and lettering on his torso that read 'White Power.'

"The contestant, a Loveland resident, was booed off the stage by the crowd and was later formally disqualified by the TattooFinder contest organizers," continues the press release, which also contained these quotes from TattooFinder CEO Lou Bardach: "It completely caught us off guard. Our company long ago took a stance on artwork that we felt was offensive. We recognize that, in the arts, what might be offensive to some is non-offensive to others. But our policy on artwork draws a line of what we will and what we will not display on our site, and we carry these same standards through to our events. TattooFinder in no way supports [the] choice of artwork and it was unfortunate that he slipped through the cracks and made it on stage. I think the response he received from the crowd was appropriate and we were glad to see such a strong public reaction denouncing his tattoo choices."

TattooFinder's policies and procedures clearly state that the site does not sell artwork that "specifically promotes violence towards any living individual or specific group of people," or artwork that is "overtly racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, anti-ethnic, pro-Nazi/supremacist, misogynist."

In addition, "The number one winning female got disqualified," notes TattooFinder's Tasha King. "She definitely scored more points as far as the hotness category went, but she was disqualified because she showed her breasts, her nipples, which is indecent exposure."

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The real number-one female, who didn't have to resort to such moves on stage, is none other than the Denver Roller Dolls' Green Barrettes player, Bijou Blacnbleu. "She is just covered in tattoos," notes King. "She has a huge chest piece and full sleeves. She's tiny, and she works at Th'ink Tank. We were really excited to have her."

The first-place male was Joe Salomon, who came in from Anaheim. "All of his artwork is done by Steve Soto," says King. "He has just amazing black-and-gray work, he's completely covered. It's just amazing photo-realist, very Hispanic-inspired -- just beautiful stuff." Also noteworthy is third-place winner Jason Hays, who donated his $100 prize to the charity receiving Hottest Inked proceeds, ArtReach.

"I think ultimately, we were really happy with the way it turned out," King says. "Everybody was so excited to participate and show off their ink. We don't get a lot of accolades for collecting tattoo art -- socially, you sort of get looked down upon -- so it was great to get people together to celebrate the craft and such amazing artists. Despite the incidents that happened, everybody else was so amazing and patient and excited, and we raised a lot of money for the program." ArtReach is $2,260 richer today because of Hottest Inked.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Hottest Inked calendar, which will feature the twelve top men and women from the contest and will be released in November. You can visit www.hottest-inked.com to learn more. -- Amber Taufen

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