Glob­ally in-de­mand tat­too artist Dr Woo on the rise of Asian-Amer­i­cans in the cre­ative ecosys­tem

Glob­ally in-de­mand tat­too artist DR WOO speaks to HE­LENA YE­UNG about the rise of Asian-Amer­i­cans in un­con­ven­tional cre­ative fields

#Legend - - SPY CAM -

TAT­TOOS ARE NO longer as taboo as they once were – chalk it up to style, where it’s now as much an ac­ces­sory as your favourite necklace or bracelet. But we ac­tu­ally have to thank the le­gion of artists who pop­u­larised dif­fer­ent styles that are more in­tri­cate and soft – break­ing the stereo­type of tat­toos hav­ing to be bold, and, well, “scary.” In this realm is a name you’ve def­i­nitely heard of: Dr Woo. Born Brian Woo, the artist has a ru­moured wait­list of at least two years, a whop­ping 1.3 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers and a brand-new stu­dio in Los An­ge­les. But not only is Dr Woo one of the most pop­u­lar tat­too artists in the world, he’s also a part of the Asian-Amer­i­can cre­ative class that has paved the way for a younger gen­er­a­tion that’s strug­gling to find le­git­i­macy in

“un­con­ven­tional” ca­reer paths. We re­cently spoke with Dr Woo dur­ing his pop-up res­i­dency at I.T in Hong Kong.

Grow­ing up, Woo al­ways knew he wanted to do some­thing cre­ative, but com­ing from a fi rst-gen­er­a­tion Korean house­hold, it was a dif­fi­cult choice to make with tra­di­tional par­ents who wanted him to pur­sue a more tra­di­tional ca­reer path. In fact, the name

“Dr Woo” came about be­cause his par­ents al­ways wanted him to be­come a doc­tor. “When I was young, I was into fash­ion, de­sign, pho­tog­ra­phy, mu­sic… I knew I’d do some­thing in the cre­ative field, but the ques­tion was, how?” he re­calls. “As a kid, how do you sur­vive by be­ing cre­ative? Tat­too­ing was an op­por­tu­nity for me to have a tan­gi­ble for­mula where I could be cre­ative and sup­port my­self.”

De­spite Woo’s im­mense suc­cess, his par­ents still have their reser­va­tions. “For the long­est time, they didn’t tell peo­ple what I did. They just said I was just an artist. It’s def­i­nitely some­thing that was a big deal in a first-gen­er­a­tion Asian house­hold! They still don’t love it,” he pro­fesses, laugh­ing. Con­sid­er­ing the fact that Woo’s par­ents are orig­i­nally from South Korea, where be­ing a tat­too artist is still il­le­gal in

2018, it’s per­haps un­sur­pris­ing. But the clas­sic Asian-Amer­i­can strug­gle to find le­git­i­macy in a cre­ative ca­reer led Woo to find his pas­sion, where he’s es­tab­lished him­self as a trail­blazer.

“It’s def­i­nitely a pro­gres­sive time,” muses Woo. “[The kids I grew up with] are now what, 37? I feel like there were enough of us that paved the way to show that you don’t have to nec­es­sar­ily take the con­ven­tional path any­more.” Among his good friends are other Asian-Amer­i­can public fig­ures such as Ed­die Huang and Edi­son Chen – both of whom are proudly wav­ing the iden­tity flag in their own in­dus­tries of food and fash­ion, re­spec­tively. Their shared ori­gins in “un­con­ven­tional” ca­reer paths is some­thing that’s much-needed at a time when di­ver­sity and rep­re­sen­ta­tion is key. The more faces we see mak­ing it out there, the more we’ll be able to over­come ar­chaic stereo­types and con­ven­tions – prov­ing that no mat­ter who you are, you can strive to do what­ever you want.

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