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Elisir Lead Hostess Meshell Brown Shares Her Ink

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Welcome back to Ink Spotted, a feature in which Eater talks to DC's tattooed chefs and gets the stories behind their most intriguing ink.

[Photos: Nevin Martell/]

"I just got in an argument with my mother, because she saw a picture of my 'Happiness is a warm gun' tattoo on Facebook," Elisir's lead hostess Meshell Brown says when she sits down to chat about her ink. "She was ranting and raving, 'What are you doing to yourself? Why would you do this?'"

There's an irony here: Brown's mother, who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, has a giant, Polynesian-styled shoulder tat of an owl inspired by the family's aumakua (spirit animal).

Brown snuck out of high school to get her first tattoo, a snowflake etched on her hip. "It looks more like a ninja star," she admits. "I'm not disappointed in any of my tattoos, but it wasn't as I had imagined it." Luckily, her mother didn't find out about the tattoo until six months later, and by then it was too late.

The Hawaiian native moved to DC in the summer of 2009, but wasn't prepared for her first winter. "I had never been away from home, it was cold out, and it was getting dark at four in the afternoon," she says. "I think I got a mild case of winter depression." So, she went out and got a pistol tattooed on her wrist. "It made me feel tough," says Brown.

A couple years later, she added a string of orchids, which runs down her triceps from her right shoulder. These flowers and the firearm help keep her centered and motivated. "When I look at the gun, I think, 'Go out there, get it done, and do what you have to do,'" she says. "Then see my orchids and think, 'But remember, you're still a lady. You have to be delicate.'"

—Nevin Martell

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