Kat von D: Why I Got Jesse James’ Face Tattooed on My Ribcage

 David Livingston/Getty Images

Long before she and Jesse James called off their engagement, Kat von D surprised her bad boy beau with the ultimate grand gesture: a tattoo in his likeness.

"He had a rough childhood, so to see what he's become from there, it's amazing. That's why I wanted the picture of him as a child, to capture that certain innocence," von D (real name: Katherine Drachenberg) said on Thursday's L.A. Ink premiere. "It was good having him beside me while we finished. The tattoo is a way of him recognizing somebody loves him."

The reality star also explained how she and James, 41, first became a couple. "We were friends forever so I thought dating would be weird," she said. "I never saw him like that. and once you're in my friend zone, that's usually it. But one day something in my heart said, 'How's your friend Jesse?' so I texted him a joke and he came right back saying he hadn't laughed in weeks."

The pair stepped out as a couple in August 2010 and announced their engagement five months later. After splitting with James in July 2011, von D, 29, pulled out of several pre-scheduled TV appearances.

"Today felt pretty impossible," she explained on Facebook Thursday. "Most of the time, regardless of what's going on around me, I'm usually strong enough not to get things get to me like this. But today there seems to be no way of escaping my thoughts. 'What have I done? I sure made a mess of things.'"

"Although my intentions were never to offend or hurt anyone's feelings, this isn't an apology for walking out on a silly morning show interview this morning — and this isn't an attempt at justifying anything either," von D said of bailing on her Good Day L.A. appearance. (She also canceled an E! News interview that afternoon.)

"I don't expect people to understand, just like I can't expect myself to be able to please everyone at all times," she added. "As much as I'd like to picture [myself] being this strong, independent woman, the truth is most of the time I'm not as strong as I'd like to be — but I'm still trying."

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