Name: Miryam Lumpini aka the Witch Doctor
Age you feel: Oh wow, I feel like all the ages I’ve ever been all at once!
Occupation: Professional Tattoo Artist
Hobby: Since I started my business, which has just been full time it doesn’t leave much time for hobbies
TGM: What inspired the transition from studying graphic design to becoming a tattoo artist
ML: I had to pick something to do in school so I picked media production, graphic design and photography because I thought that would be beneficial for me in the future no matter what I would do. Then I was kind of bored of sitting in front of a computer a lot because I’m a very free spirited Sagittarius woman. So instead of showing up to class I used to go to Gothenburg to tattoo my friends. It was like 2008 around the emo hardcore punk era where it was way more fun to listen to that type of music and do tattoos on my friends than go to school. This actually ended up getting me an apprenticeship later on.
TGM: What was it like moving to LA from Sweden. What surprised you about America/LA
ML: It was such a culture shock but it was very interesting at the same time because I always was very curious about what America is really like. How does it really work there? What was the mentality over there? How do people feel there? What’s cool to them over there? I’ve been in LA and America enough now that I feel like really have a grip and personal understanding of what the USA really is about. And it’s very interesting!
I feel like LA is very different from the rest of America which is really cool. What surprised me the most was the drastic segregation that I see. But at the same time I see how much different culture is coming together. I’m learning a lot about different cultures while being out here!
TGM: Tell us about the favorite tattoo you have on your body and it's meaning
ML: My favorite tattoo on myself is I think of my dad. My dad represents the Black part of me, the Congo. I love my dad. He unfortunately passed away a few months ago. But he’s always with me, and I did the tattoo before he passed away. It’s very important that I carry that energy with me, that our physical beings are not always as important as our spirits and what we carry inside.
TGM: What’s the toughest thing about being an entrepreneur
ML: The toughest thing about being an entrepreneur and an artist is that you need to function on a high frequency level with your entire brain. It can be a little overwhelming sometimes. But once you get used to using your brain in conjunction with your high frequency, you reach super powers.
TGM: What’s the most surprising thing about becoming an entrepreneur
ML: How real shit gets! Shit gets so real. I have so much respect for people who run good businesses. It’s easy to do business, but doing good business is where the artistry comes in.
TGM: Why did you choose the name, The Witch Doctor
ML: It’s kind of like my lil’ nickname. I was looking for a nickname and sitting in this hookah lounge with my friend one time, and I said ‘well i'm thinking of a nickname because Miryam Lumpini is a long name to say.’ And my friend said ‘you’re like a witch doctor`. And then it felt so obvious. It just made sense, kind of the way I’m a healer with my art. There’s some type of magic to my artistry. I do a lot of cover ups, tattoo makeovers. i make people feel way more confident with their bodies once I do these big pieces. I basically change people’s lives for the better. I feel like I work with more blood than a nurse does since I’m working for such long hours which is where the doctor part comes in.
TGM: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a young woman trying to turn her passion or hobby into a full time career
ML: It doesn’t matter what it is but just express yourself in different ways until you find your true expression, because that's going to be your guideline, your confidence, your YOU. That energy is what you’re going to need to stay in tuned with whatever it is you pursue.
TGM: Your hair styles change often, can you share what your favorite styles are and are they meant to signal anything specific to the outside world
ML: I want people to be able to relate to me in different ways. I feel like I change my hair styles a lot just to show different looks with different tattoos so people can relate.
I also switch it up to inspire when it comes to body art. Because to me, tattoos are not the only body art. Hair is body art. Makeup is body art. It all goes together. Clothes are body art. It’s all a cohesive expression that is YOU. You express yourself through your tattoos, your hair, your makeup, everything. I just want to inspire people to express themselves in different ways. You don’t have to be in a box. You can just be different and always change but still be yourself because you know who you are inside.
I love having braids, but sometimes they can be a little heavy, you know? I love waking up and not doing much to the hair. I also love to be able to just have a fresh silky weave to just flip around, to have a break for a while. I just like to play around with whatever comes my way.
TGM:If you had to describe your personal style in one word, what word would you use
TGM: Two makeup items you can't live without:
ML: I can’t live without makeup products for sure but I definitely like a fresh base. For now, I use Fenty Beauty because I just love Rihanna and she’s killing it with different color tones/shades. I definitely don’t like ashy dry lips so a clear lipgloss at least. I also like to keep my lashes done.
TGM: There's a fire in your apartment and you can only save three items, what are they
ML: My dog, my bird, and my paintings
TGM: What celebs closet would you raid
ML: Maybe Zendaya because she has similar body structure to me and she kills every red carpet she’s on. But I would also pair her clothes with some of my own pieces to really make the look my own!
TGM: You get to collaborate with any makeup brand, which brand would it be
ML: Probably YSL or something high end like that. Would also love to do something with a Black owned brand, like Pat McGrath!
TGM: Name three products from that collaboration
ML: This is something that you need to sit down and think creatively about. People are going to steal my ideas! Maybe we gotta keep these to ourselves, for now!
I definitely want to do more premium and luxury beauty products targeting people with tattoos.
It makes me think about how much money people put into their tattoos, which are probably more prestigious than buying a designer bag. And it’s forever. you wear them to your grave.
JUST FOR FUN
TGM: Favorite color
ML: All the colors
TGM: Favorite food
ML: I love mangos, I love artichokes, I love fresh salads from somebody’s homegrown garden
TGM: Favorite book
ML: Astrid Lindgren, she’s the author behind Pippi Longstocking and a lot of children’s books with women role models. I also like J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkein because I really love how they create their own worlds within our worlds, how we can pull parallels from their worlds and use them in our own society in order to get more insight. You see it from a different perspective. It’s like our world explained with magic and super powers. Stuff that we have within that but just need to be reminded of.
TGM: Favorite smell
ML: YSL black opium
TGM: Favorite apps
ML: Probably farmville, I play farmville a lot randomly
TGM: Describe your life’s journey in three words
ML: Humanity, purpose, and inspiring (everyone to come together through my art)
My life’s journey has a lot of purpose since I was born in Sweden and I’m half African and emigrated to America. I feel like it’s important that people in this world understand how Africa works, how America works, how Nordic society works. Not trying to exclude other countries, these are just the one’s that I have experienced so far. I feel like the world needs more understanding and I’m trying to bring more of an understanding between people from all over the world, especially through my art.
TGM: you win tickets to go to anywhere in the world for 24 hours, where would you go
ML: Probably Barcelona and the Pyramids too!
TGM: Biggest guilty pleasure
ML: I love going out to eat, especially brunch. I also love kalles kaviar. It’s a Swedish food that is a creamed smoked cod paste that Americans aren’t into but it’s a thing in Sweden. I have to sneak it when I eat it around my American friends!
LET’S GET PERSONAL
TGM: When was the last time you had a good cry and what was it about
ML: When it really hit me that my dad passed and at the same time I fractured my ankle and still had to work.
TGM: What scares the shit out of you
ML: Fear. I hate fear. I don’t want any fear in my life.
TGM: What do you want your legacy to be
ML: I want my legacy to be about spreading love and healing.
TGM: Name something you've made peace with
ML: I accepted myself for who I am and stopped trying to change myself to what I thought other people wanted me to be.
TGM: What's one thing most people don't know about you
ML: It’s funny because I just shared 5 things you don’t know about me on my instagram. So I had a female jackass team. We did some crazy things. It was fun to be living on the edge... when you’re a teenager you just want to try crazy things. And I’m happy I got it out during my teenage years because through that I found a lot of friends and they were the ones I started tattooing.
TGM: if you wrote a letter to your 13 year old self, what would the first line be
ML: We’re good. We got this. WE got this! Don’t worry about anything.
TGM: Finish these sentences. When i am 85, i hope that _____
ML: I’m killing it still as the Witch Doctor
TGM: Sweden is ______
ML: A beautiful country in the summertime
TGM: LA is ___
ML: Where it’s at
TGM: Congo is ___
ML: Where everything comes from
TGM: My future is___
ML: Bright as fuck!
Interview by Gabi Thorne
Photos by D. Williams + From Miryam’s instagram