A Q&A With Legendary Latino Tattoo Artist Nikko Hurtado About What He’s Been up to and More

A Q&A With Legendary Latino Tattoo Artist Nikko Hurtado About What He’s Been up to and More belatina latine
Credit: Instagram/ @nikkohurtado

I come from an era where Latino representation in American media was an anomaly. So, whenever I would see a Hispanic-esque last name, I would become intrigued enough to turn on my computer and start up my dial-up internet to research whosoever caught my attention. (I’m not trying to age myself much here, but it is what it is.)  I remember doing this for Nikko Hurtado while I watched LA Ink. 

So, it brought great satisfaction when I confirmed that Hurtado came from a Latino household – just like me. 

Watching Hurtado freely talk about tattooing and seeing others get works of art stamped on their bodies was breathtaking. I listened intently to everything the artists on LA Ink had to say, envisioning myself under the kiss of a tattoo needle one day.

Since his appearance in LA Ink, he’s gone on to appear on various TV shows such as Tattoo Wars, Tori & Dean, and Spike TV’s Ink Master. His influence, overall, also grew as people noticed his artistry and unique talent for tattooing high-quality portraits while staying true to himself.

The influence he has on the Latino community is not lost on him. He knows that he’s being watched by the Latino youth and others in the community who are often looking for positive figures. This is why he’s intentional about everything he does. In fact, all his partnerships are materialized to create awareness for the communities he cares about, including the Latino community. 

One of his most recent collaborations is with Jägermeister’s “Local Snapshot,” which is a content and fundraising campaign that tells authentic community stories. “Local Snapshot” is highlighting the local spaces that shape tastemakers like tattoo artist Nikko Hurtado with content premiering throughout the year. Local charities will benefit from this initiative.

Being that Hurtado has been doing so much lately, BELatina News spoke with him so he could catch us up on what he’s been up to as well as let us know how he continues to inspire the Latino community. 

What is the most important thing to you? 

I think being positive with each other and inspiring one another is what we need. I’m lucky enough to see younger kids that are Latino that can look up to me and be like, “man, that dude is doing it.” I always told myself that I wanted to be a positive role model for this generation and the next generations. So, hopefully, this continues.

What’s something you’ve noticed as of late? 

To see that all over the world. And to see just how the culture of Latinos in Chicago and Southern California, like the low riders and tattoos, inspires the world. [My culture] gives a lot of styles, and it actually adds swag to some people. It’s cool to see. And I think that this is the road we should continue.

How did your LA roots and Latinidad influence you? 

I think that just being from Southern California had a lot to do with it.  I was born and raised here. I was born in the San Fernando Valley. And I just think that it’s so ingrained in me. You’re always around it, so it’s just normal. It’s when you step outside of it and you’re somewhere else that you realize how different life is. The culture is different, and it’s a whole different lifestyle. It’s cool to see that kind of culture take place.

What’s something that has inspired you in your life?

People like my dad, who came from Mexico, have inspired me. Watching his work ethic and everything that he did was really inspiring, and I think that that’s what’s helped me be in this position. It was ingrained in me as a kid to work hard.

How have you continued to impact the culture?

I think it’s really cool to see your culture take off and to be able to work with people, like Jägermeister, which is bringing awareness to our community. Really, being Latino is awesome. It’s amazing. I really hope that I inspire other people to work hard. It’s cool to see my people move forward. 

Do you have an idea of the upcoming tattoo trends?

I see small tattoos have become really popular. Light tattoos, too. Then, on the opposite scale, what’s become popular is heavy blackout tattoos, which could be considered a different form of a tribal tattoo. People have these intricate designs in these blackout sleeves now. The way they fade out and the end is like they’re using geometric designs. That’s a huge style that’s coming in. I also have seen people use kind of my style, but do blackout tribal kind of designs in the background, which really looks cool. So, I see black coming in in a heavy way.

Any words of inspiration that you would like to leave the BELatina News audience?

Believe in yourself and work hard. And when the opportunity comes, do your best – just put your head back down and continue to work hard. Don’t let it get too much to you and enjoy the ride. I also think it’s important to find something you love doing and do your best. If you love something and you love doing it, it should come naturally to excel at it because you just enjoy it.

There are different things that set people on fire and light their hearts up, and I think that’s what you need to find in your life. So, if what you’re doing isn’t lighting your heart up, take a risk, take a chance, and do what does. It might be hard in the beginning, but it’ll pay you back tenfold or more in the long run. And, remember, it’s okay to take a step back in order to take ten steps forward.