Across sports and entertainment, star tattoo artists Herchell Carrasco and Joaquin Ganga are creating a different kind of social media.
Professional athletes are meant to wow spectators with their otherworldly talents and awe-inspiring feats. But a major factor that keeps fans coming back is the personal story behind an athlete’s journey to success and the connection it creates with the public. The kind that leaves us feeling almost as if we know these superstars personally.
But what if the stories of those athletes were told anew to viewers every time they flipped on their televisions or attended a live sporting event?
That’s legitimately the case when it comes to the tattoos that cover most of their bodies.
A person’s chosen ink is a window into the upbringing, experiences, and influences that have shaped who they’ve become. And specifically with regards to famous figures like high-level sports stars, that means that the storytellers who transmit these narratives most powerfully aren’t the local beat writers or reporters, or even the award-winning journalists who get the biggest TV exclusives.
Rather, it’s the tattoo artists that are enlisted to provide the style and vision that bring this energy to life.
In so many ways, tattoos are a permanent, bespoke form of social media.
And Joaquin Ganga and Herchell Carrasco’s status as purveyors of this extra-special medium has helped them become stars themselves.
Ganga, a 29-year-old tattoo artist from Murcia, Spain, has become one of the most in-demand inkers in today’s culture. His client list includes some of the biggest names in global entertainment and sports, from Odell Beckham Jr. to Post Malone to LeBron James.
His rise to prominence came via the two full-leg sleeves he was tasked with handling for Beckham, both of which have since joined the ranks of the most visible, closely examined tattoos in all of professional sports. The leg murals feature iconic athletes and public figures who have inspired OBJ, including Muhammad Ali, Tupac Shakur, Allen Iverson, Lil Wayne, and Richard Pryor.
The 29-year-old Ganga called it the most ambitious work he has done to date.
“I would say my biggest creation has been the one I did for my bro OBJ. It’s been a project done through the years that I’ve enjoyed, and it ended up being spectacular,” he told Boardroom.
When it comes to seeing his work plastered across the world on some of the most visible celebrities, Ganga still finds it all a bit surreal. But ultimately, he sees it as a point of pride to be tasked with handling tattoo projects of such magnitude.
“Couldn’t really describe the feeling. For me, it’s an honor to be able to see my work exposed to such a big audience of people,” he said.
In an era driven by impressions and engagements, Ganga has 880,000 followers on Instagram, OBJ has 14.3 million, and LeBron has 90.3 million. But when glory is on the line upon the biggest stages in sports, the stories Ganga sends out to the world don’t expire after 24 hours.
And if you like driving impressions, you should see what a tattoo needle can do in the hands of an expert curator.
For Herchell Carrasco, one of the most in-demand artists in California who has done work on Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo Ball, being able to help bridge the gap between fans and his subjects through art was something he always envisioned for himself.
“When I first started tattooing my vision was to be an artist for the stars! I was heavily inspired by artists like Mister Cartoon, who at the time was hip hop’s tattoo artist with clients such as Eminem, 50 Cent, and Kobe Bryant,” the CEO of Orange County’s Pachuco Tattoo told Boardroom. “My vision is to have a place in the culture, such as a Ben Baller or a Johnny Dang.”
And while you won’t soon find Carrasco slinging Ben Baller-esque diamond-encrusted pendants or gaudy grills reminiscent of Johnny Dang’s, he’s is well on his way to building a distinct artistic legacy that captures imaginations.
“It’s a blessing to be a part of the aesthetic of sports and hip hop,” he said. “Moments when it all felt real were times such as when I was featured on Ball in the Family with the Ball brothers, or seeing my tattoo work on NBA2K.”
Carrasco understands the importance these tattoos carry and the straight-from-the-heart moments they broadcast to the world. When he embarks on a new project, he builds an intimate bond with his clients, one that he likens to the relationship barbers develop with their customers over a period of years.
“We connect on a personal level since we spend many hours together,” Carrasco said. “My clients come to me with ideas or stories to mark permanently on their body, and it’s my job to turn those feelings into visual representations of those emotions. A tattoo can do a lot for someone.”
Being the curator of such powerful, personal narratives is a careful responsibility. But the payoff is forever.
Naturally, it’s the end product that earns a tattoo artist public acclaim under the bright lights. But for Ganga, seeing his clients’ reactions as the work comes to life in real time is the most worthwhile part of the job.
“For the client, [the tattoo] is normally the representation of something very important for them and with a story behind it. When they tell you the story and you see the reaction when they see the tattoo, you really realize how important your job is,” he said. “It’s the most gratifying sensation.”
A top-class athlete’s influence can reach all the way across the world, from what they say to how they dress, all the way down to the story told on their skin.
They don’t simply carry their most precious people, places, and things along with them — they literally wear them on their sleeves.
And that status gives creative storytellers like Herchell Carrasco and Joaquin Ganga a special kind of social media reach that resonates in ways that even the greatest innovations of the digital world just can’t match.