WOC Tattoo Artist & Shop Owner During Covid-19 : By Miss V.

Hi all, my name is Valencia or Miss V as I’m called by many over the years, and I will give a bit of back story to my journey before getting into my experience during COVID-19 and various things that have occurred during and after lock down.

I have been tattooing as a licensed tattoo artist as a WOC for over 11 years. It was a journey of over 15 years to find an artist willing to apprentice me without judgement because when I started this journey almost 20 years ago it was a different landscape. Not only as a WOC but being of color first and as a woman. I was offered apprenticeships back then but would be uncomfortable with certain situations. I didn’t want to tattoo in someone’s home as a survivor from when I was a teen and wanted to be safe and also wanted the validation of a true apprenticeship as well as feeling safe. 

I did find mentors who were amazing and gave me safe space in Hawaii and New York and changed my life. I moved to Saint Louis from Hawaii  a few weeks before Mike Brown and experienced my own injustice with police as a Black woman and due to that went back to school and got my BA and minor in Mandarin at Saint Louis University and studied in Beijing a year then went on to start my Masters of Fine Arts at Washington University Saint Louis, which I am concurrently pursuing while being a business owner.

Then COVID occurred. I own a shop in Saint Louis Missouri that is currently the only black female owned shop in the city and it was a fight to get there when I opened my first shop here in 2014. My shop Onyx Dagger Tattoo is a private studio currently with only myself and one artist and we love to give the clientele the feeling of a safe space. 

When the shutdown occurred at the end of March I was told not only that I couldn’t be open but at the time could not qualify for PPP and  any loans by my bank so I continued to pay shop rent and utilities out of my savings although I could not make any income.

I applied for many minority business grants with no response but once May 18 hit I was able to reopen. For the safety of me and my other artists clientele we only do one max to two clients a day. When we had protests for BLM here in Saint Louis my income was further impacted because clients from out of town who were not of color were concerned to come to the city so I lost a week worth of revenue YET it was truly worth it to me because the outrage of why the peaceful protests began was beyond words.

I must say though that the support from people locally and states away was very meaningful to me and my landlord did give me opportunity to pay late, but I don’t like to owe anyone later so I took care of it early and before rent was even due each month.

It was hard especially as a single mother of a trans teen of color not receiving Child support and a small business owner but my shop is my second baby so I did what was needed. I am grateful for that support and hope that it continues in these times that have always been as such for people of color but now affecting the whole world. Now if anything I hope it opens all eyes and we stand in solidarity together.

 No Justice No peace. Blessings