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In this series, we explore what it means to be a “Smoke Sister” through interviews with inspiring women that we either know personally or admire from afar. Smoke is a brand of connection, intentional living, self-care, and uplifting friendships. With each interview, we hope to delve deeper into this culture.

Meet Malia Luna, a ritual tattoo artist using her practice to walk with others towards purpose and empowerment. After years of living through the pain of isolation and loneliness, Malia catalyzed her healing process with an unlikely strategy - she shed her protective layer and bared herself to the world of crushing blows and heart wrenching beauty. It was only when she embraced this naked existence that she discovered her true purpose: to help others find theirs.

Malia is a believer in the great wisdom of pain. She’s a proponent of making space for growth and awakening, and her medium is the process of tattooing. In this interview, Malia gives us a glimpse into the transformative power of choice and listening. We are so honored to call her a smoke sister, and we hope our readers find her mission as inspiring as we do!

So what is it that you do?

(Long pause…..laughter) I do ritual tattoo work, and what that means is that during the session, I hold space for that person’s empowerment. So...energetically what's happening is that I’m holding space for the eradication of the fear that gets in the way of your ultimate empowerment and you getting to where you are going in life if that makes sense? The fullness of your being and what you came here to do is something that I hold space for the manifestation of. I want to inspire other people to be the fullest expression of themselves.

Where we can find you?

You can find me at malia luna (IG) best way to find me.

Where were you in your life 10 years ago, and did you ever see yourself being where you are today?

Ten years ago I was 16. I was almost 17. I was in high school, and I was actually feeling the dead weight of school.... and of life in general.

It was a period of me shutting down from other people. It was really painful and isolating period, but it was also a transition period… it was deeply spiritual, and it was actually when I had a lot of breaking open experiences by way of being incredibly lonely…but that lead me to opening up sensually. I really began to see energy for the first time, and so my explorations into the metaphysical world began to open ten years ago. That experience catalyzed a path that wasn’t always open, but it was the doorway to walking down a new path.

When did you discover tattooing? Was it much later in life?

Tattooing was like 5 years ago. However, I started getting tattooed when I was 18. There was always an interest in tattoo, and I have memories of being really little (like 4), and tattooing my dad. I would draw on every surface. I would just draw, so that idea of brining imagery into the physical and onto the body...that sort of adornment was always a part of my consciousness. I find that things that we do in that first period of life are the most resonant of our true life purpose. For me, it was isolation by way of my own fear. I cut myself off from people and connection, but it lead me to a really profound inner discovery which ultimately is a big part of the work that I do and the person that I am.

Do you still feel like you utilize that isolating mechanism as a tool for yourself?

Totally. I need to have time alone to realign myself. But also, I’m seeing that I’m ready to shed that as a form of self protection...the not engaging and not connecting. Holding onto those patterns has become more destructive than they’ve become helpful, you know?

Working in my community and doing my work - it’s all about connecting with people, and I think that our deepest wounds speak to our greatest empowerment. I honestly lived most of my life in intense states of trauma and excruciating pain on all levels -  mental, physical, emotional. I spent a lot of time cutting myself off from people just because connection was terrifying, and it’s interesting because my work in this world is about empowering people and connecting with people in a very intimate and deep way, and I’m still learning that.

Where do you derive your strength and fortitude? What gives you the strength to move forward?

That’s a really good question. Feeling the excruciating pain of not feeling liberated and not feeling free to be who I am - I believe that’s what catalyzes the desire to live without those things. I think I just have a really strong willpower because I feel like I could have and wanted to die so many times in my life, and honestly my strength comes from my spirit, and that has always moved me forward. By some miracle, I knew that wasn’t my path - to go into the dark and not do anything about it. I think that experiencing that pain and feeling it manifest physically was what made me want to love myself and take care and move myself forward.

Who is someone you look up to the most and why?

I have so many muses. Definitely the people in my life that have the courage and the desire to seek their empowerment. I have some dear people to me in my life that are that way, and that’s beyond inspiring. Anyone who is allowing their creativity to express themselves. Anyone who has tapped into doing what they love the most. Anyone who can speak their truth with confidence.

What does your self care look like? What are some non-negotiable aspects of self care for you?

I feel like just now I’m starting to commit consciously to loving myself. I don’t want to experience what I‘ve been experiencing any longer, but it’s been a challenge for sure. The things that are the most effective for me are moving energy out of my body. I’ve gone through so many phases of restricting myself from things and not doing things because I thought that it would interrupt my process, but I think that gentleness and compassion is also about just allowing yourself to do things that you want to do.

I think when you can, laughter and humor and dancing. I want to be doing those things every day. Living my best life is laughing every day. Feeling the extent of my joy every day. Appreciating the people that I love every day and expressing that.

I’m just learning about how to really truly care for myself, and I think it comes from not wanting to just survive anymore and find out what my life could really be like if I really chose to live it to its fullest every day. What would my life be like if I just chose to let go?

How do you cultivate joy in your daily life?

Everything is a choice. You can allow yourself to wallow in the fucked-up-ness of everything for the rest of your life, or you can choose to feel a different way - or at least move yourself towards the possibility of feeling a different way. I was definitely a wallower for a long time, but I began to see how one could cultivate joy on your own...

Honestly, it’s hard and persistent awareness of what’s really going on. I think it’s incredibly important to feel the pain and the suffering of the world because it’s real. I think allowing yourself to feel something leads to creating space for feelings like joy and love and happiness, and I think that one of the most destructive things that can happen is not expressing something that wants to be expressed. Not allowing energy to move. It festers and becomes a weight in your soul. Allowing energy to move I think is a way to cultivate joy and gratitude.

What’s an early scent memory for you?

Jasmine and those flowers that grow on the bush and they’re these poofs. I wear a lot of amber. I love rose. I love jasmine. I love gardenia and rosemary. Orange blossom.

What’s the most inspiring natural place you’ve ever been to?

I’ve actually spent a lot of time in nature. I could talk about the Grand Canyon. I could talk about Canada which is so amazing because its wild as fuck. It’s completely untouched. It speaks to the wildness of your being, and it’s so pure. It’s so beautiful. It’s endless, untouched green. I went on a solo journey in Canada, and it was so healing.

What’s your greatest hope for the future?

For everyone to remember who they truly are and the magic of their being and the creative potential of their being. I deeply wish for every being to remember their divinity - who and what and that which they truly are.

*This interview has been edited and condensed from it's original length for the sake of space. 

Photo by Scott Emile Simon