Photography by Justice Howard
Dejah Garcia is the quintessential pin-up with flowing black hair and Betty Paige-style bangs, a seasoned tattooer with thirteen years of experience, and the owner of Trusted Tattoo in Corona, CA. Growing up in Bullhead, AZ, Garcia found art at a young age. “We lived in the middle of nowhere and we didn’t really watch a lot of TV and I’m not athletic, so I’ve drawn since I’ve been able to hold a pencil,” she says.
At sixteen, Garcia got her first tattoo–tribal work on her upper arm that has since been covered up. The same year, as a sophomore in high school, she worked her way into an apprenticeship at Trust Tattoo, a local shop and the namesake of her own tattoo parlor, by scrubbing tubes and floors, and making needles. At eighteen, Garcia went to Vegas to work at Starborn Tattoo. After spending time in California, she returned to Vegas to work at Hart and Huntington in 2003. There, she met Lacey McClellan, who was the first female tattooer she worked with, and who she considers her unofficial partner at Trusted.
Starting out as a female in the industry wasn’t easy for Garcia. “People didn’t want to get tattooed by a girl. They think you have it easier, but you have to work twice as hard to prove that you have a right to be there,” the artist explained.
The hustle and bustle of working at a shop in Sin City prompted Garcia to seek out quieter surroundings in 2007, when she opened Trusted Tattoo. “It was really scary putting in that much time and money and not knowing if it was going to work. I just moved to a city where I didn’t know anybody,” she says. “I kind of opened that shop sitting there by myself and that’s how I got my clientele, which has been awesome. Corona’s been really welcoming to me.”
At Trusted, Garcia and her crew of four committed tattooers offer custom work to a dedicated base of clients. Garcia enjoys tattooing large and colorful pieces. “I really just like fitting people’s bodies and flattering them and just making sure it has a really nice flow and kind of shows their curves,” she says.
Garcia started modeling two years ago when she was approached by legendary tattoo photographer Justice Howard. “I met Justice when I was eighteen and worked at Starborn. She always kind of looked at me like I was a kid, which I was,” Garcia says. “I got older and I went to one of her art shows and she looked at me and said ‘Oh my God, we need to shoot you.’”
In the past few years, Garcia has found success as a model, as a tattooer, and as a shop owner. “I’ve just always worked hard,”she says.” I put my heart into it every day by pushing myself to get better, and working with people that are better than me and learning from them and being humble enough to know that I’m still learning. That’s what’s so exciting about tattooing. There’s always something new to learn and there are always people doing it a different way.”