Inking Wayne: Tattoo Artist Dow Hokoana

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Published March 25, 2011

After raising two children as a single mother and working as an animal control officer in Clackamas County, Oregon, for most of her adult life, Dow Hokoana packed up and moved to Miami, following her dream of becoming a tattoo artist. “As soon as my youngest hit 17, poof! I knew what I had to do,” she tells us.

Still a relative newcomer to the business at 45, she has quickly become the go-to artist for the famously inked record label Young Money and its tatted-up founder, Lil Wayne. Headquartered at Rockstar Tattoo in Miami Beach, Hokoana has been with Young Money for the past two years, leaving her mark on everyone from Wayne and his posse of stylists, managers, assistants—you name it. The relationship between tattoo artist and recipient has allowed her to grow intimate with various members of the label in a particularly intimate way, and, through her eyes, its culture is revealed as intensely creative and nurturing, an inspiration for her art. “I feel really blessed to be in the position I’m in, and that they put their trust in me the way they do,” she says. We chatted with Hokoana to talk tattoos, Tabasco sauce, and one peculiarly placed ladybug.

KATIE MENDELSON: How are you doing?

DOW HOKOANA: I’m doing very well, how are you?

MENDELSON: I’m good. There’s a scary thunderstorm going on right now outside my house.

HOKOANA: Really?

MENDELSON: Yes, but it’s kind of awesome, it’s a great spring thunderstorm.

HOKOANA: I was going to say, that’s what I loved about moving to the East Coast. I love the thunder and lightning.

MENDELSON: Where are you originally from?

HOKOANA: I was born and raised in Cali—Bay Area.

MENDELSON:  And how long have you been in Miami?

HOKOANA: Since June of ’07.

MENDELSON:  How long have you been tattooing?

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