Meet Kareem Masarani the Tattoo Artist Celebrity of Newport
This tattoo artist in NEWPORT chose tattooing over slicing fish. From a fish slicer to a celebrity tattoo artist, cover his interesting journey here. He stepped into a tattoo parlor for the first time along his girlfriend and her friend who wanted to get inked. And….he started questioning the artist… about the ABCD… of tattooing. And today…the young boy who interrogated the tattoo artist breathlessly is the famous celebrity tattoo artist, Kareem Masarani.
Kareem Masarani needs no introduction – a celebrity tattooer today in Newport. He owns the Newport tattoo since almost a decade and also is passionate about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – a martial art and combat sport.
Looking back, he revealed his success story during in an interview. His journey began when he visited a tattoo parlor for the first time and he had no idea about what next would come up in his life.
“Everything the tattoo artist was pulling out looked so cool”. “I was just asking question after question about everything. I know he must’ve been getting sick of me asking all those questions, but I just couldn’t stop myself,” Masarani says.
Whatever he collected form the tattooer about the tattoo art left an impact on Masarani. From there, he convinced his older brother to allow him to borrow $500 for a tattooing kit. With virtually no knowledge of tattoos and what he saw during his one trip to the Newport Tattoo, Masarani not only received his first tattoo on his ankle but also inked his friends, though poorly.
“I didn’t realize I could’ve practiced by not using ink, just to get a feel for the machine,” Masarani says. “It’s actually surprising how many people are willing to let you practice on them just for a free tattoo. Those tattoos weren’t that good, but they also weren’t that bad.”
Since he didn’t wanted to mess up with the skin of too many friends, he put aside his kit after a few tattoos. And there he vowed that he’d not return until he could dedicate himself to the art entirely. In the meantime, he worked in a fishing industry job in Alaska that offered him $1,000 per week.
“I packed up my Volkswagen Vanagon with all of my bags and set out for Washington to ferry over to Alaska,” Masarani says. “I called ahead and they told me the ferry would cost $350, but when I got there it was $750, and I didn’t have enough money to pay for that. The guy working there saw I was kind of freaking out, so he said if I went into Canada, the ferry would only cost $150. By the time I got to Alaska, all I had left was a bucket of change.”
Masarani struggled a lot while he worked in the cannery. He actually had to catch his own dinner for a week. After two long weeks of fileting fish and sleeping in his van in the middle of the woods, he returned to the tattoo shop in town. He got a job offer immediately upon moving to the state.
“The shop was run by this big biker guy,” Masarani says. “I told him I’d apprenticed, so he asked me how many tattoos I’d done. I’d done so few that I could literally count them, but while I was counting them he stopped me and said ‘If it’s taking you this long to count them, then that’s plenty. But I’m going to need to see you do a tattoo.’ He stood over my shoulder as I started doing a tribal mermaid on this other big, burly biker’s leg. As soon as I went to pull the first line, I just started sweating and shaking.”
But, his nerves couldn’t stop him from expressing what was there in his mind. And Masarani got the job and spent the rest of the summer tattooing there in Alaska. For the succeeding years, his newborn career moved from Tahoe to Vegas and back to Alaska before returning to OC in 2001.
“Newport Tattoo always had a good name to it,” Masarani says. “The artists were really cool. The location is really cool. Everything about it just seemed really cool to me, so I knew it was the shop where I wanted to work.”
With plenty of experience in his belt, after working at Newport Tattoo for about five years, in 2006 Masarani was given the opportunity to purchase the shop he so admired.
Today, Masarani doesn’t have to work every hour anymore. Since he expanded Newport Tattoo to yet another location in 2010, Masarani’s normal schedule has allowed for him to focus on his other passion: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
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