“When I got back, I was trying to find the right tattoo artist and just liked his work,” Tuan recalls. “It’s not too dark; It’s soft and strong. So I reached out to him, and his assistant got time in for me.” Dr. Woo worked his magic for a dove and olive branches on the back of Tuan’s forearm. “It signifies a new beginning, hope, and freedom,” Tuan reveals.
Most of Tuan’s tattoo hold similar messages of motivation and affirmation for him. First, he mentions the words “stay true” and “be real” inscribed above each knee as the tattoos that mean the most to him. (They also barely ever on full display.) “That is a phrase that I want to keep to myself,” he explains before pausing, reluctant to verbalize that he’s famous. We are both fully aware that he, in fact, is, and has 10.6 million Instagram followers to prove it. Instead, he chooses to utter, “Now that you’re famous, a lot of people change and they let things get to them. I always want to be true to myself, and I don’t want the fame to get to me.”
Next, Tuan points to the Korea’s national flower, the hibiscus, delicately decorating the back of his bicep. “I thought it would be a good, meaningful tattoo,” he says. “I started out my career in Korea. I’ve gained a lot in Korea, so I got that on me.”
From there, I ask Tuan about the smiley face smack dab on the center of his kneecap. “That one was just something fun,” he states through chuckling. I tell Tuan that I, too, have tattoos with no meaning, just for vibes. Tuan mentions he has a butterfly on his calf for the same reason. There’s nothing deep behind it besides the fact that the angled placement looks cool when he’s wearing shorts.
Tattoos are like stamps from my past, I muse. I may not like some of them right now, but I know I did at one point in my life. Tuan agrees with the first part, but, “I don’t think I have a tattoo that I don’t like. I want to live my life with no regrets,” he shares.
Tuan takes a moment to think before getting lost in a message that could apply to every aspect of his life right now. “I just do what I want. If it makes me happy, it’ll make me happy,” Tuan says. “At the end of the day, you have to live for yourself pretty much. You should be happy because if you’re not happy then, you won’t enjoy anything you do.”