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Former Reality Show Star Ceaser of ‘Black Ink Crew’ Said his Show Made Billions, But the Cast Got Paid Less Than 1 Percent

Former star and creator of VH1’s “Black Ink Crew New York” Ceaser Emanuel claims in an Oct. 23 interview with the “Bagfuel” podcast that the reality show about a Black-owned tattoo shop had become a billion-dollar hit.

Ceaser Emanuel
Ceaser Emanuel (Photo: Instagram, @ceaserblackink)

“Black Ink Crew New York” began airing in 2013 and ended in 2022. It chronicles the operations and staff drama at a Black–owned and Black-operated tattoo shop in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. The show’s success has resulted in similar spin-off series based in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Shockingly, Ceaser points out a stark reality of reality TV: Despite the massive profits raked in by the network, the on-screen cast members, he says, receive less than 1 percent of the earnings.

Behind the Scenes of “Black Ink Crew New York”

He was terminated for his role as executive producer and star of the show. VH1 fired the “Black Ink” boss in June 2022 after a video surfaced of him allegedly abusing his dogs. 

It was in the process of him moving on that Ceasar discovered the wealth of the show. Upon reevaluating his prospects for a new show and application, Ceasar engaged a lawyer to assess the value of “Black Ink Crew” based on its advertising revenue.

The creator was taken aback when the conclusion revealed that the show had amassed a staggering $1.2 billion in ad revenue over its decade-long run.

“My lawyer said $1.2 billion; I almost pissed in my pants. The whole cast did not get 1 percent of that,” Ceasar said on the podcast.

The earnings of a reality star depend on the show, and in some instances contestants on popular shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” receive no compensation despite the shows’ trending popularity.

Other reality stars on programs such as “90 Day Fiancé” and “Dance Moms” are paid at least $1,000 per episode, according to Moneywise. However, given that these hour-long shows typically have around a dozen episodes with filming lasting for multiple hours for one episode, some argue that these stars are both underpaid and overworked.

Of course, there are reality show stars that rake in millions, such as the Kardashians, who have commanded a hefty $5 million per season for their E! network show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” according to Moneywise. Their earnings might even increase with their new Hulu streaming series, “The Kardashians.”

Ceasar’s Plans

“I’m on a different type of sh-t with these motherf——. That’s why I needed to rebuild; that’s why I felt like it’s time to go, bro,” he said. “You’ll stay here and be comfortable for another 10 years because they’re giving you money that you don’t even know how much you’re f–king really making, bro. I was just curious, right; it was just curiosity, right, and my lawyer looked into this sh-t like how much advertising of money ‘Black Inc.’ made for the whole 10 years span, bro.”

The podcast hosts, Hynaken and Es$o, seemed surprised by this disclosure. According to their calculations, the show generated $100 million in ad revenue during each three-to-four-month season of shooting. Ceaser also revealed that VH1 does not offer residuals to the show’s stars.

Ceaser owns Black Ink Tattoo in Harlem, from which the show got its name and revolves around. Additionally, according to TMZ, Ceaser owns tattoo studios in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Orlando and Houston.

“At the end of the day, I understand what programming is, you feel me? Especially being 10 years on a hot TV show and I executive produce for 10 years on a TV show like that, bro, I’m not going to sit here and just throw away the knowledge. I can’t tattoo forever. I’m not going to be stupid and the money that’s out there from the knowledge,” he said.

In his new endeavor, Ceasar aspires to capture the essence of 1990s hit daytime talk shows like “Maury” and “The Jerry Springer Show.” He believes that his experience with “Black Ink Crew New York” has equipped him with the expertise needed to produce his take on these iconic shows.

“The Caesar show… this s–t is going to be like Maury and Jerry put together; I miss them so much. I’m doing my own situation: DNA test, f–king lie detective test… Listen, [VH1] f—ed up. They trained me to do all… at the end of the day, I’mma do my own thing now. I don’t have to ask permission for what shows I want to put out, no nothing,” Ceaser said.

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