From his first professional tattoo at 14, Brian Woo—better known as Dr. Woo (@_dr_woo_) to his 1.6 million Instagram fans—has left his distinct, minimalistic single-needle designs on some of the world’s biggest A-listers. (Did we mention he has a three-year waiting list?) Here, we tap the creative visionary for more on his L.A. upbringing, his iconic career and a few exciting ventures in the works.
How does it feel having turned a fascination with tattoos into an empire?
From the way I grew up and what I was told I could or couldn’t do, I am pretty happy and blessed to be where I am. ... It’s less of a prideful thing for me and more of a gift for my parents to show that they raised me right and they did everything perfectly and I ended up right where I was supposed to be. ... It was many, many hours of constant hard work, so it was hard to sit back and reflect while it was happening, but when I do have a moment to see all of the accomplishments and achievements, I’m still hungry. There’s always something on the horizon for me.
Who influenced your artistry the most during your career?
In a sense, it all goes to my mentor, Mark Mahoney, who brought me into the tattoo world. He is one of the original legends of single-needle valve tattooing. Just being at the Shamrock Social Club tattoo parlor and looking at Mark, absorbing all these techniques and visual aesthetics, it kind of spoke to me, and you can read it all in the tattoos that I make now.
How has 2020 impacted your work, and in what ways have you pivoted your brand to function during the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, I was traveling a lot, had a set routine and was moving super fast. ... This year turned out to be a very good reset and a time to prioritize, dig in deep and really focus on my goals. It’s definitely weird, but I’ve found a new rhythm that I’m very happy with. ... The year has also allowed me to reconnect with my family and have a little bit more time for myself.
You recently launched your own skincare line, WOO Skin Essentials. What sparked this new venture?
Skincare is something that spoke to me. From a young age, I was always aware of taking care of my skin and the importance of skin health. There never was an artistic side to that, and it’s always been a fascination of mine to build a brand and have a lifestyle-curated product rooted in everything that I find inspiring under my umbrella and in my universe.
Your star-studded clientele includes the likes of Justin Bieber, Drake, Katy Perry and many others. What’s it like getting to work with top celebrities?
Working in a famous tattoo shop, we were raised to not be starstruck and to treat everyone the same. ... That’s the cool thing about tattoos: Under the needle, everyone’s skin is the same. For me, I just try to keep everyone on the same level, be real and have an honest moment with another human.
Photography by: Rick Rodney/ProjectWoo