Tattooing is a very male-dominated industry with very few women leading shops and garnering high-profile clients. Within the last decade, however, numerous women have defied those stereotypes and have broke ground for others like them to find success in the tattoo world. Katrina “Kat” Jackson found fame on VH1’s Black Ink Crew Chicago and also a new fanbase that was drawn to her beautiful art. Since her departure from the show, the half-black, half-Korean Chicago native decided to elevate her career in tattooing with her own shop in Beverly Hills, becoming the first black woman to do so.
In an email Q&A with BLACK ENTERPRISE, Jackson discusses finding success as a woman in the male-driven industry while overcoming the odds in opening her own shop, Engima Tattoo, in the glitzy Los Angeles neighborhood.
How did you learn to thrive as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated tattoo industry never made me feel any less than any of my male counterparts. I never felt like I had a disadvantage because I was a woman. I grew up around mainly guys. I’m the only girl and I have three older brothers, so naturally, I always wanted to do whatever the boys did.
Once I got into the tattoo industry, I knew I wanted to be the best. I studied other people’s work and wanted mine to be better. I carry the same confidence as any man in the tattoo industry, if not more, and now I am at a point in my career where my work and my drive is respected by men and women all throughout the world.
What made you pursue tattooing as a career?
Tattooing is something that found me. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a tattoo artist. I got the talent from my mother. She is an artist as well, she just never did anything professionally with it. Instead, she went the corporate route. I always took art classes for my “easy A.”
In my senior year of high school, all my friends started getting tattoos, and they would have me draw them out so they can bring it to the tattoo artist. Once I got my first tattoo, I knew it was something I wanted to try out. I went off to college and it was there that I got my start. I ordered up a tattoo kit and started practicing on my friends in my dorm room. From there it became my passion and my career.
What made you decide to open your own shop and why did you choose Beverly Hills?
I made the decision to open up my own tattoo shop when I walked away from the TV show Black Ink Crew Chicago.” Being on TV and being able to showcase my talents was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I refused to walk away with nothing to show for it!
I always had dreams of moving to LA, and I was living there for 2 years before opening up my tattoo shop. I chose Beverly Hills because I didn’t want my shop to be just another hole in the wall tattoo shop. I wanted it to SCREAM upscale, luxury. And when I found the location, everything literally just felt right.
What were some challenges you encountered when you decided to open your own shop?
Being a first-time business owner was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life! I had no clue about the amount of challenges I would face. The first challenge I encountered was walking away from everything I knew. It wasn’t easy leaving Chicago, or walking away from a hit TV show, but I felt in my heart that God had something greater in store for me. All the other challenges seemed pretty minor from that point. Every day poses a new challenge, whether it has to do with working with contracts and business planning, or plumbing issues that cause damage to the floors, it’s always something, lol.
What advice can you give other black women entrepreneurs interested in owning their own tattoo shop?
The advice I would give to young black women wanting to open up a tattoo shop or any other business, is to be confident, work hard, perfect your craft, value relationships, and use your resources and most importantly BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. No dream is too big.