When Johnny Bethea came from Fayetteville, NC to attend North Carolina A&T State in 2016, he came to pursue a career in biology. Bethea took on painting as a side hustle on campus, but had no thoughts of it becoming a career. When the pandemic took place during his senior year in 2020, Bethea was left jobless and unmotivated.

“I was really lost during COVID. My job closed and I couldn’t pay for school. I really needed to make money and I just kept praying for some type of inspiration,” he said. 

In this season of uncertainty, Bethea took his side hustle of painting more seriously. While he was working on a painting gig, a friend bought him a tattoo machine and offered to take his art to a new level.

Bethea took his new tattoo machine, put it together, and started to visit surrounding shops in Greensboro in hopes of a tattoo apprenticeship. He states, “When I would walk into these shops that were around the area, they were white-based. There were no black artists. Tattooing wasn’t very friendly and open.”

Bethea did not let that stop him,  however.  He started to practice his tattoo work on pumpkins to build his skill before tattooing on actual people.When he finally felt comfortable, he started to take clients from home and build a following through his social media marketing and traditional word of mouth.

As his clientele grew, he was approached by fellow NCAT alumni and owner of Rolling Rose Tattoo Shop, Jon Southall, to join as an artist in his shop, Rolling Rose.

“I was thinking of moving to Atlanta but word of mouth in Greensboro caught the attention of Jon and he sent me a DM saying he’ll teach me a lot of new things and build my way up through the shop," shared Bethea.  "He was the only African-American male tattoo artist that actually hit me up and recruited me off my talent versus my following. He understood my artistry.”

This opportunity opened Bethea up to a whole new audience and an accessible location to work.

Johnny took a negative circumstance, leaned into his interests and cultivated an ability. It's so admirable, and now he reaps the benefits of trusting himself. I think that's something that we can all appreciate. Rolling Rose Tattoo Shop officially opened January 1st, 2022, and is located at 1109 Coliseum Blvd. in Greensboro, NC. If you're in the area, stop by, show Johnny some love!


Kaylah Kelty is a Senior at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University from Charlotte, NC. Currently, she is pursuing her B.S. in Journalism and Mass Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations. She focuses her craft in PR on the entertainment and travel sector.