From the wrestling mat to the canvas, this artist found her hidden talent

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Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 8:03 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 9, 2021 at 5:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Pearl City resident JT Ojerio, 30, is inspired by island culture, Hawaii’s beauty and mana wahine, or strong women.

She’s the artist behind the brand “Aloha de Mele” and is known for her drawings of tita buns, triple puakenikeni strands and her realistic hibiscuses.

Her work is now sold in more than 20 stores across the state and in Australia and Japan. Her most expensive piece sold for more than $1,300, but JT’s journey to becoming an artist happened quite unexpectedly.

Ojerio is self taught, says she was never artsy, and didn’t know she could draw until a couple of years ago.

“I only just started showing artwork to public a year ago and just recently signed with an artist management agency,” said Ojerio.

The Punahou grad is a former state wrestling and judo champ. She has a master’s in exercise physiology and was deep in her career as a personal trainer when her health took a turn for the worse.

“I started losing feeling in my right arm, I had tremors, I was getting tested for MS, lupus, migraines and broke my ankle,” said Ojerio.

She underwent two major surgeries and was gravely ill. Looking back, Ojerio believes her condition stemmed from breast implants.

“I underwent breast explantation surgery. I had my breast implants taken out. Once that happened, literally everything went away and I was healthy again.”

Her health complications turned out to be a blessing in disguise. People gave her coloring books to stay busy during her recovery. Over time, her drawings turned into works of art.

“If I didn’t get sick, I wouldn’t have drawn,” said Ojerio.

Her advice to aspiring artists? If you want to be seen, show your art on social media, at fairs or farmers markets.

“Hawaii is very word of mouth. Get exposure. People may see it and wonder where else they can see your work,” said Ojerio.

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