Home Relationship ‘Love and Hip Hop Atlanta’ Star Sierra Gates Felt ‘On Fire’ After Tattoo Gone Wrong

‘Love and Hip Hop Atlanta’ Star Sierra Gates Felt ‘On Fire’ After Tattoo Gone Wrong

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Love & Hip Hop Atlanta’s Sierra Gates is opening up about a tattoo experience that caused an extremely painful infection.

The businesswoman and reality TV star, 35, revealed in a Thursday, June 6, interview with local Atlanta station FOX 5 that she contracted a bacterial infection called cellulitis after attempting to get a tattoo that spanned across her entire right leg. The body art was completed over a 12-hour session.

Gates — who appeared in seasons 6 through 10 of the MTV series — has been getting tattooed across her entire body since she was 16. She was prepared to take on the massive tattoo and long session with the help of some numbing cream, and the artist she was working with successfully finished the design, she told FOX. However, the next day, she woke up to immense pain.

“On fire. Like, literally on fire. Like I’d never been set on fire. But I swear it was burning so bad I felt like I seen flames around my leg,” Gates told the outlet, describing the sensation the next day. 

Sierra Gates attends the Atlanta premiere of BET+’s “The Deadly Getaway” on May 8, 2024.

Paras Griffin/Getty 

“I knew when the numbing cream wore off, it was going to be some pain, but not to this extent,” Gates added.

Several days later, Gates was hospitalized and diagnosed with cellulitis, a superficial bacterial infection that can become serious if severe or left untreated.

Gates’ nurse, Brittany Gould, told FOX that the Love & Hip Hop star’s infection had developed past the superficial stage and put her at risk of suffering from complications like sepsis.

“She was suffering from cellulitis to her right leg. It was pretty bad,” Gould told the outlet. “Bacteria just kind of moves through the body. You’re at risk of becoming septic, which we were worried about with her because she ended up getting a fever while she was in the hospital.”

“Usually, cellulitis can be treated in, like, five days is the average, and hers was about double that,” Gould added.

According to the Mayo Clinic, cellulitis is often caused by injury, such as cuts or burns that give bacteria an entryway into the skin. People with weakened immune systems, from diabetes or cancer, those with skin conditions like eczema, and overweight people also face a heightened risk of contracting the disease.

The clinic adds that untreated cellulitis can lead to other complications as well, including bacteremia (when bacteria enters the bloodstream), toxic shock syndrome and more.

“Rarely, the infection can spread to the deep layer of tissue called the fascial lining. Necrotizing fasciitis is an example of a deep-layer infection,” the clinic states on its website. “It’s an extreme emergency.”

Sierra Gates with her leg tattoo.

Sierra Gates/ Instagram

However, most cases of cellulitis can be avoid by washing cuts and scrapes daily with soap and water, covering wounds with bandages and contacting a doctor if things become too severe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recommends that people who suspect they’ve contracted an infection from a tattoo reach out to the tattoo artist so they can identify the ink and avoid using it again.

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For Gates, her faith played a major role in helping her through her healing process. She also spoke directly to tattoo hopefuls who are considering getting a large piece done all at once.

“Take your time,” she added, addressing tattoo lovers directly. “Do it in smaller sections. Don’t just be like a tattoo junkie just because you don’t feel anything.”

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