Meet Young Bae: From Opening Her Own Tattoo Shop To Manifesting Her Own Line At Foot Locker
“Have faith and work hard; it’s simple as that that.”
If Young Bae could have it her way, she wouldn’t even be on social media, she’s busy living life in the present moment. For her, this includes tattooing her revolving list of clientele, being a mom, and recently, even manifesting her own fashion collection with Foot Locker called 2One2 Apparel. Her own success story is admirable in itself, and today she serves as a poster child for individuals around the world whose artistic dreams transcend the typical mediums.
A fashionista by nature, Young Bae began making her own clothes at an early age, upcycling hand-me-downs she received from churches. Despite struggling with poverty and homeless in her youth, she always dressed ahead of the trends, and the dream of one day having her own fashion line began to take root.
Young Bae arrived in New York City from Korea at the age of 22 without knowing English. But she was resilient and determined, eventually opening her first tattoo shop in the heart of Times Square. Diamond Tattoos, her current venue, is a Midtown staple, located on 41st street. In recent years, Young Bae walked to the Footlocker around the corner from Diamond Tattoos daily, visualizing the fashion line she’d one day have and talking to the employees about the need to collaborate. As with her artistic goals, this dream is now realized. Today, her line is available for purchase on Footlocker.com, as well as in 20 stores throughout the tri-state area. Young Bae paid homage to the zip code and named her line, 2One2, after the city she calls “her personal promised land.” She created the brand with the everyday woman in mind, though it certainly illustrates her personal flair, which she describes as ““very classy, with a touch of hoe.”
It’s the hooded sports bra for me! The line boasts sexy catsuits and bright hues, and I imagine it will soon be a go-to for athleisure.
“Kind, talented, artistic, and a little crazy sometimes.” That’s how Young Bae describes herself. And while she dished on tattooing, this recent dream-come-true, motherhood, and even handed out advice to young professionals, I could tell her description was on point. It certainly takes the right kind of “crazy” to move to a foreign country with little more than a dream and become a nationwide success.
How did you first get into tattooing?
At home in Korea, I was just a fine art artist. I started tattooing when I came to New York. One day, I was just walking down the street – I was broke as shit – and I saw a little sign that said “tattoo.” It was not even a real sign, it was a little piece of paper. I went into the shop, and the rest is history.
Do you remember your very first tattoo? Were you nervous?
My first tattoo was on my friend from the language school I was going to because I came here with a student visa. And no, I’m the type to never get nervous. I was just excited.
You have a lot of tattoos yourself, what is your favorite?
I have to say the one on my thigh. There are two snakes with Kiani flowers all over, and it goes from my knees to my waist. I’m a punk when it comes to taking pain. I hate getting tattoos, but I love doing them. I’m a giver, not a taker.
Do you have a favorite tattoo you like to do?
Honestly, people come to see me for a lot of things. But what I like, is when people say “just do what you want.” They pay big money to get what I want them to get.
One of my specialties is cover-ups. It’s a love and hate relationship. It’s so hard to do and it’s so annoying to do, but it could change somebody’s life. It could change somebody’s worst memory of their life into the best memory of their life. That’s why I still do it. Covers are so hard to do, but whew, I do it. People who’ve been abused, if they have a scar from that, I cover that too. It means a lot to me when people look to me for stuff like that.
How have your childhood experiences with poverty and homelessness affected your art today – tattooing and other work?
As an artist, we constantly expose ourselves and what hurts us, right? And we use art to heal from that as well. I’m a hurt person, so my art is crazy! It’s life.
You’ve talked about getting hand-me-down clothes from church as a child and amending them to create your own sense of style. How has this impacted your style now?
Basically, I don’t wear what’s ‘in’ in that moment. I just do me. I’ll wear whatever the fuck I want. I create my own style. I create my own shit. It’s never about what’s ‘in’ right now. That started just because I couldn’t keep up, I didn’t have any money, and now it’s part of my style.
How did this collaboration with Foot Locker come about?
By my tattoo shop, there’s a Foot Locker. It’s literally around the corner from Diamond Tattoos. I buy shoes there all the time. One day I walked in, and I saw small businesses collaborating at Foot Locker in that location. I’m like, “this could be me, but they playing.” So I started talking to the salesperson every day, saying, “Hey, what’s up. This should be me right here next to [this brand].” I did that every day. Everybody knew what I was doing, they said, “Oh, you’ll never get a deal like that.” Guess what, I got it. That’s literally how I got it: somebody emailed somebody, then that person emailed somebody, then the buyers emailed us.
Are you big on the manifestation?
Of course, that’s my whole life. That’s me. If I didn’t have faith in my life, I would’ve been dead right now. I would’ve been a fucking psychopath because it was miserable growing up. I had to keep telling myself, “This ain’t my life. My life’s gonna be beautiful. I’m going to be rich.” I make sure I always say good things about myself. Because in Asian culture, we always say “oh, you fat. You fat.” Even your mom says you’re fat. I tell myself, “I’m beautiful!”
Why did you call line 2One2?
It’s because New York is my home. I don’t even call it a second home, it’s my home. Times Square is where everything started for me. When the bus from the airport dropped me off, that’s the first place I went. I said, “You know what, I’m going to have something on my name here.” And I really did that. My shop has been in Times Square since 2009. I started really small, but it still was in Times Square.
When I see Times Square, I just get excited. Not because of the lights, but because of the feeling I get. It was a weird feeling. My heart starts beating really fast. I feel always like something’s gonna happen here. So 2One2 means everything to me.
Who would you like to see wear 2One2 apparel? What kind of demographic and body types?
I honestly created his brand for us: everyday, regular-degular women just like us! I’d love us to wear it every day. I wanted to create something that’s really, really high quality but affordable. If you can wear my shit, you’ll immediately think, “oh my god, this is good.” And it’s affordable! I always think about myself when I didn’t have the money to buy nicer things. I created a lot of stuff for moms as well. Because after I had my baby, my body… damn!
What celebrity would be a dream to see wearing your line?
Oh my god, I can’t only Name one! Beyonce, Rihanna. Can I name everybody?
As a woman who can do it all: business owner, TV personality, mom. What advice do you have for young artists trying to pursue their dreams?
As a woman, we have to go through a lot of bullshit in every single industry we enter. I don’t care what type of industry you’re in, there’s always gonna be somebody against you. Just do your thing. Follow your dream and do not fold. Because as long as you do the right thing and have faith, you’re gonna get what you want. Just work on your fucking craft and be you. You’ll be successful.
Speaking of being a mom, how has that experience changed you?
Oh my god, having a baby is so beautiful. It’s crazy. Mine just turned 4. When I had my baby, it was everything. It was so hard, but it was so beautiful. I was angry and mad at all the changes, but then it was so fucking rewarding. Everything was a lot. Nobody tells you how, with a baby, your life changes in a second. Your life will never be the same after you drop your baby. People don’t tell you that! You’ll never be the same. Not even you’re your look, your whole life. You can’t even go for a night out without calling somebody to watch your baby.
Have you enjoyed being on reality television?
It’s hard to be on TV. It’s reality TV. It’s real, but sometimes it doesn’t seem real to me. Like “oh, is that exactly what happened?” But it is what it is, it’s part of the business. I love Black Ink and I’m thankful for VH1. Thankful for the opportunity. I’m just a little Korean girl from Korea. Literally, how the fuck did they find me and pick me to be on TV? It’s crazy! I’m really, really thankful. God works in mysterious ways.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start a business?
Have faith and work hard; it’s as simple as that. But I know that’s really hard to do. A lot of times, you’re gonna doubt yourself. You’re gonna doubt everything. But fuck everything, just have some stupid ass faith that nobody can break, and it will happen for you.
Do you have a favorite LA tattoo shop?
Oh, I went to Kat Tat’s shop. I love all of them! I love everybody who works there, good vibes.