As tattoos become more widely accepted by the general public, tattooists who are a part of the evolving community are working hard to normalize the artistry for future generations. Following the career of Dr. Woo is a testament to that evolution as he often breaks the convention of what it means to be a tattoo artist.
Woo is a world-famous tattoo artist and creative entrepreneur who has tattooed the likes of Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Cara Delevigne, among others. He was featured alongside Candice Kumai in Haku Vodka’s “Defy Definition” documentary which highlights the way Asian Americans defy conventional definitions of their identity. As someone who holds a multitude of titles, Woo makes the perfect subject as he is constantly pushing the boundaries of his identities.
Born and raised in Los Angeles to immigrant parents, Woo grew up with the dichotomy of being one person around his parents while being someone else at school and around his friends. “Here in the West, I grew up with a lot of American culture and a lot of American friends and the lifestyle, so it was … almost easier for me to learn and … be around [tattooing],” he explained.
He first got his start at the Shamrock Social Club as an apprentice under the legendary tattooist Mark Mahoney. Over the years, Woo has blown up on social media and has become known for his intricate and geometric style. He even now has his own private studio, HIDEAWAY at Suite X, located inside the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood and is considered one of the most sought-after tattoo artists out there.
However, being a tattoo artist is not all that Woo is. “Before I did tattooing, I was very interested in fashion and art,” he revealed. “I try to show that, if you’re obviously good at one thing, that’s amazing, but you don’t have to be pigeonholed into that one thing.” As his popularity grew, Woo began to venture into different industries like lifestyle, art and fashion. He launched a skincare line, WOO, that is formulated for all types of skin, especially tattooed skin, and recently collaborated with Jean Paul Gaultier for the designer’s Fall 2021 Couture 2021 collection.
“It’s fun to see how my interests have changed and what actually excites me now. It’s a good challenge,” Woo said, thinking about all of his projects. But with all of his success, he never really thought of himself as a role model to other Asian tattoo artists. “It feels nice that … kids will reach out and be like, ‘Hey I never knew I could do this and you’re an example that I can tell my parents … this guy did it,’” he admitted. “I’m happy to be an example and encourage them and show them that it’s possible.”
Watch the full interview above and check out his episode of “Defy Definition” here.