0:14 - Meet Kara 1:53 - Kara talks about balancing her dreams and ambitions with parenthood 6:17 - “I didn't get a moment to embrace everything that was going on, going to work one day and then all of a sudden, like, overnight, not being able to go back to work at all.” - Kara 9:45 - Kara and Jessica discuss safe stretching practices at home 14:07 - Kara dives into misconceptions with stretching and how to avoid making the same mistake. 33:11 - Kara talks about her experiencing being a modified parent 38:15 - Dealing with misconceptions in the modified world 44:55 - “...And she looks at the woman and she says these tattoos were on my heart before they ever came out in my skin.” - Jessica 1:03:05 - Last pieces of wisdom from our interview with Kara
"I think my end goal is to be a tattoo artist and a piercer and I went years which is being set on wanting to be a tattoo artist.”- Kara
Jessica: Hi friends! This is Jessica here with Kara from Avanti and today we thought we would talk a little bit about bravery, and but before we dive in, and let's have Kara tell us a little bit about herself for you who do not know her.
Kara: Well, I mean, she already beat me to it the first time. I'm Kara and I work at Avanti but other than that I'm a full time mom to a two year old son. It's basically I am working on putting myself into the modification industry while being a full time mom and just trying to keep myself together as best as I can, and keep my son together and work for my career so that's me.
Photo by Just Jessica June LLC
Jessica: I think you do a very good job at it.
Kara: Thank you!
Jessica: I've worked with you for quite a few months now and it's really cool to see how you balance family life with work life because you are very---Oh, I'm losing the word but ambitious, that's the word. You're ambitious, you have dreams and you have goals, and you also love and care about your son and I think there's often a stigma that once you become a mom, that you just stop dreaming but that's not true. And I think you're a very good example of that, just because you don't believe the lies that society tells you about what it means to be a mom. I think oftentimes, things get so stigmatized for me, being a modified person, Oh, you're a modified person so you can only ever do this, this or this, but that's not true.
Jessica: And you're a mom, so you could do whatever you want and have a kid.
Kara talks about balancing her dreams and ambitions with parenthood
Kara: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I definitely at first, I just sort give up on my dreams a little bit when I first became a mom, because watching all the parents that I know growing up, but sort of what everyone did, because they were so focused on just making sure that they were doing everything and providing for their children that they gave up on what they truly were passionate about. And then something I realized, I kind of got a moment of clarity was like, just because I am a mom and caring for another human doesn't mean that I have to stop doing what I love because if I do that, how a better way to inspire him to do what he loves if he does watch the person who's taking care of him do it, but that's just my philosophy on that and I'm good at it too.
Jessica: It's really cool to see. So I guess, why don't you talk a little bit more about your dreams. I know they're in the modification world, but maybe not everybody who's listened has, maybe they haven't---this is their first time checking in to our podcasts or videos and they're not really aware of what it is that you want to do.
Kara: Yeah, so I think my end goal is to just be a tattoo artist and a piercer. I went years which is being set on wanting to be a tattoo artist, but I think it would be really great to be able to balance both out just because I could build more rapport as people and more clientele that way and then also I'm doing things that I enjoy at one time, so that just makes it even more fun too but yeah, so that's basically my goal with what I want to do as career path is just have two: an artists and an piercer. Focusing on piercing first though.
Jessica: Yeah. So when I interviewed you first to actually come work at Avanti, it was really just tattooing so what made you fall in love with piercing?
Kara: Yeah, I think honestly, just because I've always really enjoyed piercings just because I've had a lot of piercings in my life but I think honestly, just watching it like firsthand and being that up close and being able to have the opportunity to see everything else that goes into it versus just being on the side of everything going in and getting piercings and leaving that really inspired me to want to learn more about it so I think that's kind of why I sort of transitioned into piercing and stuff right now it's just because I became a lot more intrigued by everything that was going on so yeah.
Jessica: That's cool. I had thought about piercing before the pandemic happens and then when it all shut down, I realized that I miss being a part of someone's transformation journey so much that like yeah, it changed things for me. I was like, just this whole shut down. That's what I want to do, I want to be a part of that transformation journey so much more than just helping people pick out jewelry, which is fine and exciting and we get into it, we know about the stones and we know about gold quality of actual gold and if you have a gold allergy, you might not actually have a gold allergy, you might be allergic to the nickel in 10k gold and that 14k gold when made with safe alloys actually probably better for you. Just all of that, I like knowing all of that and I like seeing someone come in and be like "You should get this," but having that taken away for a little bit, it's made me want to be not only do I want to help them pick it out and do I want to help them do that. I want to be the person who then is the conduit for the transformation and see them leave with like that finished masterpiece like, "Oh, we worked on this together start to finish."
14k Gold Dome Threadless Top
Titanium Prong Set Tear-Drop Navel Rings
14k Gold Fixed Bead Ring
"I didn't get a moment to embrace everything that was going on, going to work one day and then all of a sudden, like, overnight, not being able to go back to work at all.”- Kara
Kara: Yeah! I definitely agree with you too. Yeah, just being able to share that intimate experience with someone and I've just been craving it a lot since this whole pandemic has been happening. I honestly kind of took advantage of not doing it as much before in our shop when I was just in the front and them helping them pick out the jewelry and stuff like that. I would just get so caught up and just keeping up with everything and just kind of being sent into what's going on around me. I didn't really get a moment to actually embrace everything that was going on, if that even makes sense, but then going to work one day and then all of a sudden, overnight, not being able to go back to work at all, I was almost like I wish I could have had one more day to appreciate everything that was happening and to appreciate all the people that were coming in for piercings.
Jessica: Yeah, I agree. I missed our customers.
Jessica: I miss them so much. I think about random regulars who come in and I'm like, I wonder how they're doing. I actually got to talk to one, Gigi, who came in January. I don't think you were in, I think it was just me and Anastasia, but I got to talk to her on one of these zoom calls, and it was so much fun.
Jessica: I just miss everybody. I was like, Oh, I want to know what they're doing, I want to know who's coming. I know we're going to see a bunch of them when this pandemic is over, and I cannot wait to see what people are going to come in and want in, because I know that there's a lot of inspiration going on right now from piercers who had nothing to do but post pictures.
Kara: Right! Yeah.
Jessica: I also saw that you have taken this time to learn a little bit about different piercing techniques and different stretching techniques. What have you learned?
Kara: Yeah, I know there's a couple of stretching techniques that you can do with your ears. I actually just started stuff again recently, so now I am at 18 millimeters.
Kara: So, I'm at the point right now where I'm dead stretching my ears and that's a technique that is very recommended when you go up to bigger sizes. Usually, I would say when you get to be about two gauge and then everything up in there, it's a perfect time to start either dead stretching, or doing a tape method which I can get a little bit more into also. The dead stretching essentially is just using a heavier material like glass and when you put in like the the ones that you have in, okay, so you'd want to use like a stable flare, and then you go ahead and just pop it in like normal and then the weight of the glass or that heavier material that you're using, slowly weighs down your ear and stretches it out over time, so it's less like blunt force trauma, trying to tailor your ear at a bigger size and then you don't run the risk of either like blowing your ear out or accidentally tearing it, which is very, very common, especially in bigger sizes. Tubes can be harder sometimes to stretch and get bigger because you do have all of that like built up scar tissue. That's another thing that's really good about dead stretching too is that it just really helps prevent all of that and it helps prevent all that scar tissue building up that's needed for future stretching too. So that's my favorite and it's the safest method I would say that's used for stretching. Other than that too, if you're kind of having a hard time with your ears kind of stretching themselves out if you do have all that scar tissue then you can tape which is taking like a self0excusing tape like the bondage tape or the PTFE. Yeah, that one I'm probably [inaudible 09:26] it though 'cause letters, but like the plumbing tape, and then you can just do like a wrap or two every day or every other day and then slowly stretch up your ears rather than try to shove something that's a lot bigger through your ears like a taper.
Kara and Jessica discuss safe stretching practices at home
Jessica: That makes sense. That's actually something that maybe people who are hungry to do some sort of modification but piercing isn't safe to do at home without the---well, really not at home at all, but it's especially not safe to do without the guidance of a professional doing actual procedure but stretching is something that when done correctly, and with the correct education, people can actually do it at home.
Jessica: So if we have someone at home who's sitting there going, Okay, I want to stretch, what should I do? What advice would you give them?
Kara: My first advice would be just making sure that you can be as clean as possible with the whole procedure and know that you can't be completely sterile because you are at home. But the cleaner the better, just so you are actually cross contaminating with any bacteria just because you are--- it's not necessarily like an open wound like a fresh piercing, but essentially, it's kind of the same concept when you're doing a fresh stretch. So you want to make sure that whatever material plug that you're using is going to be clean, you can soak it. Usually when I get mine, I knew just like soak them in some 70% alcohol, and I'll let them soak for a little bit and then I'll rinse them really really well with hot water. And then after that, I'll just kind of let them air dry. I won't rub them with any paper towels or anything just in case there is any of that bacteria that's builts up on it. That's just like an extra precaution that I take, it's okay to little dab it with a towel if you want to and then another thing too is just make sure that your hands are clean before you start anything. So go ahead and wash your hands, clean your plugs, wash them again and then once you're ready to actually start stretching, you want to make sure your ears are clean too. In case you do have any built up, if you're wearing a material that you know is really prone to building up all that bacteria like a wood material or silicone or even glass too.
Kara: It can potentially cause irritation, too, if you're not making sure that your ears are clean. So you can go ahead and do that by just doing like antibacterial soap, and then warm water and just like rub them for a little bit and just like thoroughly clean them and then go ahead and rinse them off. So wash your hands again after that, too and then after that, you can go ahead and just lubricate the plug and your ears with some like---I like to use the jojoba oil or you can use like a Vitamin E or coconut oil, and then you can go ahead. I actually wouldn't advise using coconut oil for fresher stretchings that can be for healed ears, but the jojoba oil is really really good for new stretches. And then if you're doing a dead stretch method, it shouldn't hurt honestly at any point. Stretching shouldn't hurt in the smaller sizes probably you might have some tendonitis because you'll be using a taper but you'll want to make sure that you're just very slowly putting them sliding the taper through when everything's all oiled up and stuff. You don't want to force it through because then that can cause ripping and tearing but the best time I was say to stretch is going to be immediately after a hot shower just because all the elasticity in your ears and stuff on the hot water and the moisture just really helps open up all those skin cells, and it makes your ear super, super stretchy. So then almost every single time I go up into size, I slide them in after doing everything that just said, right after a hot shower, I'll prep everything first, make sure everything's clean so the second I get out, I can just put on oil and pop them in and then it's like, I was already at that size. It should never hurt.
Jessica: Yeah, I started stretching before I knew the correct and incorrect way. So I actually joined the facilitator of modification late into my modification journey and I did not know you're not supposed to sleep with tapers in and those were not regular jewelry.
Jessica: People a little bit ask too why because I think that's a common misconception, is they do---I know there's a lot of jewelry that's designed to look like a taper and so I just thought it was safe but now, I obviously know why it's not but you know, you know more.
Kara dives into misconceptions with stretching and how to avoid making the same mistake
Kara: Yeah, no, definitely it is a common misconception. I used to do all the time when I was younger so I started stretching my ears when I was like 13-14 years old and I didn't know anything so everything you aren't supposed to do, I've most likely did do my ears like I can go off the whole list but I mean, that's just because like all the knowledge that I have now is from my own personal experience, and just teaching myself and educating myself too. But a reason why you don't want to wear tapers as a form of jewelry or sleeping in them is because its longer, right? It's not meant to sit flush against your ears so because of that, when you're wearing that taper, the back part of it is actually going to weigh down your ears, and then that can cause uneven stretching in your ears too and, no one ever wants to---you want to have nice even lobes, make sure that you can get up to bigger sizes eventually that time and tapering can or at least like wearing tapers consistently like jewelry or sleeping in them can potentially make it to where your lobes aren't even and the skin around in the back is kind of a little bit thinned out versus in the front of the lobe. If you're sleeping on them, and all that pressure that you're putting on your ears can also cause irritation and could potentially give you headaches. They used to give me headaches all the time and then also it can just irritate your ears, which can potentially cause a blowout of triggering ear irritated enough. Yeah, especially if they're fresh, and you left them in and you're sleeping in them, they haven't taken about to clean them or anything like that, then yeah, that can definitely cause irritation on the ears too.
Jessica: Yeah. I have slept in tapers before and they ripped my ear.
Kara: Yeah. I got really closed to ripping my ear too is tapers. It's not fun.
Jessica: I was blown away when I learned that you can taper through. I don't know why it was such a concept to me that you can taper through and then when you put in the plug that fits that size, it makes it easier.
Kara: Yeah, when you are tapering out smaller sizes, you do want to make sure that you're using a single flare plug and then whatever plug like whatever size you're going to, you want to make sure that that fits with that taper so you're not forcing something that's slightly bigger, since you're already putting so much trauma into tapering your ears anyways, so make sure that it fits into the right size so then, once you've put the taper through, you can pull the top of the plug and slowly push it through to just pop in that plug in one motion, and then that's it then you have the plug in, you're not wearing the taper. That was my mistake too. I would just put the tapers in and leave them in until it didn't hurt which was a couple days and then I would put my plugs in and then oh no my ears blow out, I wonder why.
Jessica: Yeah [inaudible 16:58] not really any information that's easy accessible for people who don't know how to find it because I remember before I started stretching, at that point, I think I had only had my ears pierced like I didn't really know anything but I knew I wanted to try stretching my ears and I was like okay, so I have to google it first because I don't know what on earth you're supposed to do with a taper and then I got the tapers and I still didn't know because, you look at them and it's like three different sizes on it so I thought that you--- I'm hoping I'm not the only one and this is helpful for somebody, but I thought that you just gradually inserted it in and that those earrings on either side were to keep it in place at that spot.
Kara: I mean, sure you could do that. It would be the less damaging, you're just shoving the whole thing through but it's not advised because it can get snagged and pulled and it will take you weeks to try to slide in one taper because I did the same thing too, especially when I went to double zeros which was a huge mistake. I should have never tapered my ears with a double zero because that's a two millimeter jump and you usually want to stretch between a millimeter or less when you are stretching and so doing it like two millimeters and trying to shove the whole thing through. I can still remember the pain six years later, it was excruciating. I was up all night going back and forth between each year with cold rags and I was getting up every hour to bring some off and make it cold again and it was like the worst experience I've ever had in my entire life and if I would have dead stretch my ears to a double zero then I probably would have had a less traumatizing experience honestly but yeah, there are some jewelry that is kind of goes smaller and goes bigger and they're like a little spiral guys. Those are okay to use for jewelry. I wouldn't recommend using them, wearing them for long periods of time just because they can potentially have the same effect does like the taper but if you want to wear them for like decorative purposes, that's totally okay. I just want to make sure that you're not wearing them for too long or sleeping with them.
Jessica: Yeah, that's really good to know. I think that'll be some really good information for anyone who is having a hard time finding answers on the internet because the internet gives a lot of information, but not all of it is clear.
Kara: Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, I've put in like hours, days, weeks and months and years into my research, and I still can't cover everything that there is to know about ear stretching, there's just a lot and, people figure out stuff every day and it is constantly changing too, so in especially years ago, too. There wasn't as much information as there is now. So I guess it's kind of another reason why I know decent amount of ear stretching is just through my own experiences and kind of doing trial and error for years, which now that there is a little bit more information. People don't have to do that and they don't have to put their ears through all of that, just figure out what worked and what didn't and why something didn't work and why their ears are hurting and why they're irritated and why they blew out and things like that, too. So, but you definitely do have today, you have to be very specific with the kind of research that you're putting into, want to like, make sure that you're using a lot of keywords and phrases for what exactly you're looking for or else you're probably gonna have a hard time trying to find a solid answer, because it's just everything sort of spread all over the place on the internet and a lot of people contradict other people too. They can get very, very confusing, especially if you don't know too much about it and kind of just looking into it. You don't really know where to start.
Jessica: Yeah. I agree. I think also, you're stretching jewelry depends on your own personal anatomy. I think that was one thing that I remember feeling impatient about is because I wanted large lobes and I am not even at my dream size now but everywhere I looked, it was like, Oh, it's gonna take you two years or three years to get there and I remember feeling like, Oh my gosh, that's so far from now and then I would talk to friends who have been stretching for years, and they're not even at the zero yet. And really, I think the one piece of advice I would give someone and I think you'll concur is that first off, the time goes a lot faster than you think it's going to.
Jessica: Yeah, I look back and I've been stretching for three years now and it does not feel like I've been stretching for three years. It feels like maybe I've been stretching for like six months just because there's so much that goes into it, you do feel like you're actively at your dream size all the time. And also your ears elasticity is related your anatomy, which means that as long as you're following those safe methods, and you're [inaudible 21:59] when that hurts, you might find that you stretch faster than your friend or you might find that it takes longer for you than your friend.
Kara: Yeah, that looks very, very true. Something I always like to tell people too, is just to try to not give yourself a goal size if you can, because that will make you a lot less likely to get impatient and then try to push your ears to stretch more, and then potentially causing any tearing or ripping, because usually, you want to wait somewhere between three to six weeks before or during each stretch. Just because it can give your ears enough time to be able to heal and recover from stretching out and then you're keeping all that elasticity so you're not causing any scar tissue to build up versus if you stretched one day and then you're like, well I'm at a 12 gauge now. I know that my goal is to be a double zero and then you're just like, it's fine. I can fit two more stretches in this week, that's my goal, so stretch two more times, and then you end up hurting yourself potentially and then go on right back to square one. That's always a saddest thing to see. My friend, she had lobes that were larger than mine, but then she pushed them and then just recently had to take them out because they both blow out and now she's backed out to probably 10 gauge and she's been working on it for years now. It just took that one time so it was really, really sad to see but she learned from it. So now she's taking more safer precautions, but just making sure that you're being as patient with yourself and with your body as you can and just listening to it. That's the best piece of advice that I'll give anyone who's looking to stretch their ears regardless of how large you are at all already. It's just making sure that you're listening to yourself and if you're trying to put in like you're trying to stretch up to a size like for example, for dead stretching, if you find that it's not going in or you have to try to force it, just stop. Put the size that you were in, back in, give it another week and then try again because a week can go by so quick, especially if you're trying to just do other things to preoccupy yourself so you're not constantly thinking about it. That really does make the bigger difference of a healthy large lobes which is everyone's goal to have healthy lobes versus lobes that are very, very thinned out and very, very fragile from overstretching drastically in too fast too. You might be at your goal size but your lobes aren't healthy as they could have been if you would have just waited a little bit longer, you know?
Jessica: Yeah, definitely. I can speak from personal experience too that what you put in your ear matters. I got those really cute glow in the dark spider earrings for like this and I got my allergy react to them. And now, I know better, and I know, I knew that quality does matter, but it's sometimes you can know it, but you won't think it'll happen to you. And you know, because I was like, well, I'll be safe and I'll make sure that I've read all the reviews and I'll make sure that they're clean and all that and I still had an allergic reaction because if you don't purchase your products from a credible source, then you're not going to necessarily know what's going into your body. And even if your piercings have been stretched for years, and you've had your ears pierced for two decades, they can still get infected and they can still get irritated. They can still blow up like balloons.
Kara: Yeah, and same thing happened to me too. And then you could even have an allergy to a material that you didn't even know and then you go ahead and you try to wear it and then you're wondering Oh, no, what was going on is because you probably used material that your body didn't like and it had a reaction to it. Which is another thing that happened to my friend too. I can use her as an example because I've asked her and so she gave me every detail. She's just like that is totally fine. If someone can learn from this, please tell them because I am morally messed up and I'm sad about it. So this is exactly what happens when you're not patient with yourself. She actually took us a little club what I'm wearing right now, and she just loaded it up and tried to pop it in, which I used to do when I was younger and I'm very, very thankful that my ears didn't get as bad as it could have been because that's probably the most damaging things you can do if you're trying to push yourself to stretch. Also with tapering that larger sizes too is because all of that is instant damage to your ear lobesand usually, I would only wear these if I'm sleeping. Silicone is really good to wear on healed ears, depending on how your body wants to react to it, they can be okay they can be totally fine. I've never had any weird reaction with silicone versus with acrylics I can't really wear just because for some reason my ears don't like them but then the person next to me can totally wear acrylic all the time and be completely fine. Just you want to make sure that your ears are healed before you wear in materials like that, just to make sure because acrylic is like people don't really know exactly what it is. It's a whole bunch of different mystery materials. And so you don't really know what you're working with when you order something, especially from somewhere that you don't know a lot about the shop and then you just purchase them which I have done in the past. Definitely, I've bought in random plugs online from random places that I didn't know because they only look cute and then I luckily didn't have reactions to them, but at time they have been doing it for years, I eventually developed a reaction to acrylic, which can definitely happen too, so just want to make sure that you're staying safe. The best materials that you can wear while your ears are still healing is probably glass, honestly. Woodis really, really good to wear when your ears are healed, but wood plugs are just kind of it's a whole other ballpark with wood plugs because they're very tedious to take care of too, which is something that I had no idea. I even stretching my earsfor years and years years, I finally researched, I got curious, how do you even clean wood plugs, because if you're wearing wood plugs, if you're wearing them in the shower, they can expand and then they can crack because wood expands and cracks with water and then they can get damaged and that can hurt your ears and so when you're using wood plugs, you just want to make sure that you're taking an organic essential oil and just wiping them down really good with a clean paper towel and then after that, you want to make sure that you're wiping down any excess like oil residue, so it doesn't sip into the woods and expand it, versus the glass, is not that tedious, and it's also a really good material to stretch with too, because it is a non-porous material so it's not going to have any of those, if you look at like a [inaudible 29:24] material like in a microscope is it has all those tiny itty-bitty holes for breathing. It's not a breathing material, so you don't have to worry about it either. Stop [inaudible 29:32] using to your open wounds. If you do potentially like teary ears a little bit which is totally expected too if you're stretching your ears, it can happen. I get little itty-bitty micro tears and that's okay, as long as you're just being very careful with how you're treating your ears and keeping up with having to be cleaned while they're healing.
Kara: It's not going to be the end of the world if you have one little itty-bitty tear. You just want to make sure that you're caring for it and making sure that it stays clean and you're not messing with it too much too, because even with like stretching, for as long as I have, I still tear my ear sometimes. It just happens and if that does happen and it does get irritated, or you think that your ear might potentially be blowing out, all you have to do is just take that size out that you are right now, and then go back down to either size or two and then put that in, make sure it's clean and everything and then just wear that plug and let your ear because then you're taking all of that [inaudible 30:35] pressure that's on your ears and you're leaving it by not keeping it that larger size and just trying to clean around it and keep it out. Your ear needs to breathe and it needs to heal. So want to make sure that you're giving it all that necessary room to be able to even if it does shrink back down. You know it might be sad. Think about the fact that you just stretched up and then ear got angry and I gotta go back down but It's better and safer to go ahead and do that, versus just keeping it in and potentially making it worse so and that's something I learned from experience too, growing up in stretching my ears for as long as I have is that I honestly wasn't thinking about it. Like I used to be on the line of having blowouts all the time, and I didn't even know it and I just left them in my ears and thankfully my ears is very, very nice to me. And they just didn't get as damaged as they could have because I was not nice to my ears at all. When I was like, first I'm stretching but yeah, it definitely can happen because it happened to a lot of people that I knew and they're just like, I was at the same size as you were, Kara and now my ears are all the way down to the very, very beginning. I'm at a 12 gauge now and for a lot of people who don't know what a 12 gauge is, its just like a couple sizes up and look at your average standard ear piercing size so it's just really sad to think about knowing I'm at 18 millimeters and they went all the way down that small. It just really, like I said before, it's just a difference of taking care of your ears and your jewelry that you're wearing in them versus not and just being patient with yourself and pushing your body more than it needs to and just---I am rambling a little bit, but I think you get the gist of what I'm trying to say.
Jessica: I think what's really cool about body modification, whether you're a hairstylist, a tattoo artist, beautician, anything is that it teaches you a lot about your person and I think that if you have someone you love who's modified or you're considering about becoming more modified and you're taking that step and dyeing your hair or doing a crazy makeup color is it teaches you to listen to yourself, and it teaches you to listen to your body and it also to makes you brave.
Jessica: Just to kind of step out of your comfort zone, and I think that maybe you have a little bit more of a unique perspective, both being modified and being a mom, because I think those are two very different stigmas that you've put together and I would really be interested to hearing what it's like to be a part of the modified community and also like to be a mom and not only a mom, but a single mom.
Kara talks about her experiencing being a modified parent
Kara: Absolutely, yeah. I would love to touch on that a little bit. So first, like for starters already, because I am a young mom. And so then you get a lot of the stigmas around young moms too like I wasn't being safe, I wasn't being responsible, I was being stupid and I got myself pregnant and then, you know, I love my son and he's a blessing to me and just being young and still trying to grow and work on yourself while caring for a completely other human and watching them grow, I think is kind of one of the most empowering things you could probably experience as a mother too. Even if you're not a young mom, and you're still trying to figure yourself out, you're working on yourself while working on another person-that shows dedication, and it shows strength, and it's just really amazing to see all the things that moms can do and then just like also, on top of being a mother and being a single mother too, a lot of people look down on single moms, there's a lot of things that people say about single moms, but at the end of the day, it's just down to the fact that I'm single, because I'm doing what I need to do to make sure that my son and I are safe and my son is taken care of in the best way he can. Sometimes that doesn't always mean being with the other parent, especially if you're in a toxic relationship or you're just in a relationship that just, you're two different people and then not working out. That's okay. Like, you don't need to force yourself to be in a relationship with someone just because you had a kid with them. Sometimes it's better just trying to break that off while you can so you're not teaching your child, whether it's intentionally or unintentionally. This is one of my things why I'm single is that I would rather my son grow up and know that he is healthy and that he's safe and he's cared for and that he is loved and it's okay to be by yourself rather than watching him---watch me be with someone like his parents constantly fight and then be unhappy and think that that's normal, because it's not normal. I had to kind of watch that growing up myself, and then just becoming a mother, no kid ever wants to go through that, you don't ever want to like wonder like, why your parents are sad, why they aren't getting along. So sometimes it's just, you got to do what you got to do, and if that means being a single parent, you're just making the best choices you can for your kid, and that's all that matters at the end of the day. With all of that being said, being a mother in general, and then being modified, before I was even a mom, I was modified. I was already getting all those looks and all those like - I'm sure everyone who has some kind of modification can agree with us and they say that someone, somewhere told us that we weren't going to be able to do something specific or if they were religious, that we were going to go to hell, or like somebody wasn't no of us, or we were going to get made fun of and be looked at differently and just I've heard all of it. I've heard all of it and what really matters is that you're doing it for yourself, not for somebody else and then if you're happy with the way you look, and you're happy with your modifications, that should be enough regardless if someone else doesn't specifically agree to it. I have lots of friends who would never even think twice about getting modified, but then they see me and see all my modifications and they don't judge me for it but then, just kind of being a mother too, tying all that in and then being a young modified single mother, it goes back and forth like I get a lot of looks like. Well, like I really like your tattoos and I like your piercings and where did you get your work all done and all those things.
Dealing with misconceptions in the modified world
Kara: And then also, I get those people who are like, they caught it. It's almost like they look at me like I'm not capable of taking care of my kid, if that makes sense because I'm doing something irresponsible to myself and I've got the saying, somebody told me Oh, they said "If you had a rose why would you paint it black? "And I was like, "Well, maybe because I like the color black like, black roses." And he fought me on that. He got angry at my answer, but I'm like, that's just how it is at the end of the day. Just because someone is specific in the kind of aesthetics that they like on themselves or even on other people, that shouldn't change the fact that you like what you like on yourself, and it makes you happy. And it's not even to sometimes a lot of people, modifications is not for us that it gets, it's actually it's literally their lifestyle- it's what they're passionate about and then, that's kind of one of my things too, what I'm passionate about. I don't do it just for the aesthetic, like yeah, I feel beautiful now that I am modified the way that I am and that have them. But it just really, really builds my self-confidence and I know that I'm passionate about it too and then that's something else that I can teach my kid. You know that you don't have to look a specific way and tailor yourself to a specific look to be accepted especially with today's society, too. I know that a lot of people around my age, I am 22, around both of our ages and then growing up myself and a lot of people I know they struggled with their looks because they want to be accepted and me starting modifying myself so young, it did the complete opposite of what I was wanting. And then I realized, like, you know what, people are gonna like me for who I am, the kind of personality that I have, not for what I look like. And then, it ties into like getting a job too. My mom always used to tell me Oh my god, like, you're never going to get a job with that dang thing in your lip, take it out, what are you doing? And then look at me, Mom, six years later, and I'm building a career out of that thing in my lip. What are you talking about?
Jessica: Right. What I always love about modification, I wanted to speak to the same thing you're talking about is, I was told the same thing. I was told Oh, you can't do that if your hair is colored or I have a sleeve and I got a sleeve that I don't even know if I was 20 yet, maybe I was 21. I just turned 20, I wasn't even 21 and I was like full sleeve, yes, let's do it. I just graduated with my bachelor's and I remember being like, Okay, I'm not really just going into the job field, I'm going into the job field, and I have this degree and I have a full sleeve and I remember applying for entry level jobs and then being , I like covered all my tattoos and then being like, you're going to have to take your nose piercing out and I just remember thinking if you're going to want me to take my nose piercing out, then I don't want this job because it's speaking more about my appearance, which I actually think is---any position that looks at your tattoos or looks at your piercings and uses that as an excuse is being prejudiced towards you based off of your appearance.
Kara: That's true.
Jessica: Because as long as you're clean, and you are practicing healthy hygiene, there's no reason that that's going to interfere with your job but what it made me do is I wanted to have that aesthetic. So it made me know that my personality is gonna have to shine through and my work ethic is going to have to shine through and it makes you work harder. I actually could talk to a lot of modified people are some of the most hardworking, kind hearted people I know. And I know that's not true for everybody and there's non-modified people, too, that are just absolutely amazing and you can be whoever you want to be but I have noticed that oftentimes, you have to compensate with your inner person to make way for the way people receive your outer person. Would you speak that that's true for you too, or?
Kara: Yeah, I would definitely think that's true for me. I know that there was times where I go into job interviews. I've actually turned down a couple jobs and my mom wasn't happy with me but I was one of those people too. It's like, if I have to take out---because my nose piercing was aside from my ears just being pierced. My nose piercing was like my first actual body piercing that I got and I did it myself, which is never advised and I was in seventh grade. So I was really young, it wasn't really that socially acceptable to have pierced in lobes, be that young and have a piercing. So my mom was really worried about how that would make her look. And then also just getting judged because I did that and that was irresponsible on her end because she couldn't control me and then it was irresponsible of me because I was damaging my looks and just all of that and then growing up until and telling my Mom, I'm not going to take it out for you, I like it and then she eventually accepted that, then that I went through that transition of needing to find my first job and like becoming the age where I do to start working and stuff. I turned down at least five jobs I can think of off the top of my head because they told me like okay, well you're gonna need to take your nose ring out. Are you going to take your lip ring out? Is that something you can do? And I honestly told him it'd be after the interview was great and then at the end of it okay so by the way and then that would be that and I would tell them like you know, honestly No, like, I actually had to lie to one of my jobs before which is also never advised that my piercings, I told them that my piercing were religious because thats the only way they would go up to keep them in, which is honestly really sad. Like, (1) because no one should ever have to lie about their religion and for (2) no one should have to lie about feeling comfortable in themselves just because they need to have a job. And it was really depressing, honestly. And then I ended up moving along from that job because I got to the point where I was coming in every day and they were just fighting me on it, fighting me on in and try to convince me and then even after me, you know telling them that was like part of my religion, which essentially I wasn't lying since it was part of my spirituality but I was just like, all you're focusing on is the fact that I have my ears stretched and I have enough time only had like a couple piercings and you can't even like actually focus on the work that I'm doing and me being an employee, but you're so focused on how it looked and it's very discriminating, you know?
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Jessica: Yeah, that was I was looking for earlier. It is -
Jessica: So I went to George Fox University, which is, it does have a reputation for being very, very conservative and I remember being on orientation and listening to them talk and they brought out a book called Tattoos on the Heart and it was like for conservative school, it really kind of like flipped it on its head for me. [inaudible 44:55] was talking she had gotten a tattoo and she was talking about her experience with this. It's just, I think it was just a butterfly on her wrist and she was talking about what it meant for her to get it and she's like, I never knew what I wanted and then I was like, Well, what will people think? And she's like, and it's going to be in a visible place and where would you---if I put it there like maybe I don't know where I want to put it and she was waiting for her hairstylist. So her hair stylist was working on this conservative older woman and the older woman said, "You were so beautiful. I don't know why you got all those tattoos."
"...And she looks at the woman and she says these tattoos were on my heart before they ever came out in my skin.”- Jessica
Jessica: And so the gal sitting there and she's like, Oh no! I wonder what this gal is going to say. I can't believe like, Oh my gosh, like, she just said that. what is this gal gonna say who you know is just covered multicolored hair, piercings, covered in tattoos, gorgeous and she looks at the woman and she says "These tattoos were on my heart before they ever came out in my skin."
Kara: Okay. Yeah.
Jessica: You know -
Kara: Like, how are you gonna argue with that?
Jessica: Like, you know, some, like my pieces, a lot of them are so sacred to me that I couldn't ever tell anyone what they mean, because they're so ingrained with my body that they might as well be my bones, you know? They're as much a part of me as my blood is; they're part of me and I think that it's really cool to see the world changing to be more accepting of body art because they're not seeing it. I think a lot of it comes from the stigma maybe comes from like the punk era where it was like just seen as this big rebellion like, oh, anti politics or Oh, anti-I don't want to conform and I'm just getting a tattoo to be unique. That was actually the biggest argument my dad had was I got a tattoo to be unique, so I could be like everybody else.
Kara: Oh geese!
Jessica: It's so funny because it's so not true but also kind of it is at the same time, at least for myself. I didn't want to be like everybody else. I wanted to wear my heart, my feelings on my actual sleeves, you know?
Kara: Right. Yeah.
Jessica: But it is so much more than that and it very much does become a part of who you are. I don't know. It's just a very interesting concept.
Kara: Yeah, I definitely agree and I've had moments like that too, just like that girl that your explaining. I mean, a lot of strangers which has come up to me and they've would say that to me. A lot of people who are like a little bit older, who already getting old when it gotten to that like punk era. So then they're already used to kind of how their generation was and then seeing all that, and they just start agreeing with it and having that stick with them over time. That's totally okay if you don't agree with it, but I've had somebody come up to me they was just like, basically the same exact thing, but they would dive very, very like derogatory about it. They would just like, you're so beautiful, why would you ever do that to yourself like you're so much more pretty without those piercings and that was actually a direct quote from my grandpa. I remember it perfectly. I think I was about 16 years old. And then I was at his house and I went to go visit him with my mom and then it was literally like, the first thing he said to me when I walked into the door as I was like, reaching down to help him and then he wasn't even trying to be mean to me, it was just what he was used to. He told me he was like, you're so much beautiful without those dang piercings in your face, you should just take them out and I told him, I was like, Grandpa, I like them. I like how they make me feel. I like how they make me look, I'm proud of them. I also did it to myself so it makes me even more proud which I'm always going to say never advised but----it hurt honestly, it hurt me coming from my own family knowing that they aren't agree with something that I was doing or certain way that I was looking and that escalated very, very quick because I was defending myself into my mother, that was wrong because I was talking back to my grandfather. And then I remember going to the bathroom and I just cried about it and then I went home after that, because I was embarrassed that that would even happen by my own flesh and blood, let alone not even be able to be backed up by my mother because she was worried about how someone else was feeling towards myself and towards her that she couldn't even sit for a second to recognize like, this is who my daughter is, this is what my daughter stands for regardless of your--- if you're my father, you shouldn't talk to her that way, you should accept her for who she is and love her no matter what and eventually, he did accept it. I'm sure still to this day, if I were to ask him, he would probably have the same opinion but he now knows that it's not appropriate to say those things to me, because he knows that I'm very passionate about it and I love it and it's what I'm doing with myself as a career.
Photo by Just Jessica June LLC
Kara: And he loves me anyway so---and I love him, which is just like we used to. So there's just like that very big, it's like a barrier between generations with modifications. They used to mean something years ago and generations ago or it transitioned into like a bunch of different kinds of meetings and now a lot of people get piercings and tattoos, not for sacred or religious purposes, but maybe because they just like it and that's totally fine, versus someone who gets them only for sacred and religious purposes. I can also relate to you about my tattoos, too. I only have one tattoo on myself that doesn't have a meaning, but I got it because I like it and three years later, I'm still happy I have it but a lot of my tattoos tell a story, like my son's name, for prime example is something that every single part of this tattoo, I can go in depth about just the colors. I do that myself, I'm a graffiti artist. That was something that I actually sketched up and then I had my tattoo artists do it for me. And then I told them the specific colors I wanted because my son is a Leo and then so when I think of Leo's, I think of lions. When I think of lions, I think of the sunset, the beginning of the Lion King and so like for blue,orange and red, yellows, and black, that's exactly what I was looking for because that was the vibe I was getting when I would think of my son. And suddenly I put that on, that's the color pattern that I chose for that and then it was also something that I drew myself -
Jessica: Love it!
Kara: Because that's something I am passionate about so yeah, it's just it's great. I love when people ask me about my ink because it gives me the opportunity to explain before anybody tells like that versus with someone who didn't know who I was, who didn't know I had a son that just saw that I had a random name on the back of my hand that was red and yellow, they would never understand how the depth that tattoo went into but that's just the beauty and the mystery behind body modifications that you never know.
Kara: You never know.
Jessica: It's really true. I think a lot of the stigma with modification comes with the fear of the unknown. Something I am thinking about a lot lately as we face the unknown here with the COVID crisis, you know, is a lot of uncertainty can lead to gut reactions that don't stem out of a place of---it's almost like they don't really---on the flip of every effect of hate is love and I think that a lot of the hateful remarks that come from a fear for the other person which you can't be afraid for the other person, if you don't love the other person on some level. Strangers on the street are probably not like, I love you random person but for mankind, is what I'm thinking about and every time like my dad has said something or not now, not now that I modified but before or my parents said something like that when they've said that, like your grandpa like, you were so pretty, why did you do that? It comes out of fear that you've changed and they don't know who you are now. I think that's actually probably very true is I grew up in the woods 30 minutes away from the nearest town and an hour away from the nearest town worth going to. And I moved to the city and I dyed my hair and I got a sleeve and I started getting piercings. I hung out with people who have colored hair and my fiance's in a metal bands and I remember my mom being like, are you still who I raised you to be and .....I am. I'm 100%, who she raised me to be. I'm all about, you know, here at Avanti, we're all about this, we're all about encouraging, empowering and educating people, and that's exactly who she raised me to be and so I think that sometimes, people see the stigma, and they don't realize that the stigma is the opposite of what it is like, you are colorful, and you are wild because you're brave and because you're confident and because you're empowering yourself so you can empower others and I think that probably the best reaction to at least for myself, and it's hard sometimes, I've gotten all the hateful remarks, just like anyone who's modified, has and if you have it, then like, good for you that means things are changing but I think the best reaction would be kindness. I know that for every time someone's grabbed my arm and asked me, how much I think laser removal is going to cost, that's what I love to say.
Jessica: And then there's what I can actually say and that, I just tell them the truth. Just like I would tell to anybody that this is my body and I thought long and hard about what I wanted to put on it and I didn't come to that decision lately and I do have spontaneous tattoos but that's between me and my maker, and as long as you can be honest and true and not let anyone---I guess you have like two choices in a circumstance. You can let yourself be in control with your actions, or you can let your emotions be in control of your actions and I've never lost by letting myself be in control.
Kara: Yeah, and I can definitely relate to that too. A lot of times, I mean, for me, just because I'm so used to it, I've gotten to the point where I don't get upset or I don't get hurt, I don't get offended when someone makes a negative comment about the way I look or do my tattoos, my piercings but it's definitely something that you kind of have to train yourself to do with time. Not all the time. Sometimes it can just naturally come to people, but for me, I was on this before I really did have to train myself to not get so quick to be angry at them because they might honestly not even be coming from a hateful place but just genuine curiosity, just like why? Like, why would you like I, you know, and that was kind of where my grandpa was coming from like. Grandpa, yeah, he didn't really appreciate the way it look, because that's not how women used to look in his time when he was growing up and also, you know, watching his granddaughter get older and making decisions for herself and stuff that was probably a hard pill to swallow. But for me, it got to the point where if people were stopping me on the street and you're being negative about any of my modifications, and they were asking me, why would I do that? Just stay really calm and just, like, kill them with kindness, let them know, be calm, be informative without coming off as you know, I'm spacing the word right now, but just like acting like you're above them, when you know, we're all human so someone stop me on the street, and they're like, Oh my god, how could you ever get any of those tattoos? You know, because they mean something to me. They'll tell a story about a certain part in my life and whether or not you like the tattoos or you ever plan on getting tattoos yourself. This is who I am as a person and this is my body and that's why I decided to do it and then like you said, I didn't like spring on any of these decisions lately. Guarantee, yes, I do have a couple of there. I've had more than countless times where I was spontaneous with the things that I've done to myself but that's between me and me and that's just kind of what it comes down to. It's just make sure someone---if they're walk you in is still don't agree with your decisions, knowing that they can kind of take some comfort in knowing that I wasn't --- you know, like, I'm still human, I still have feelings. I'm a mother, I take care of my son, and I'm a great mom, and I work and I do all these things and, it's just getting used to being judged is one thing but what you do is that is a complete other thing, you can sit here and you can be angry at the people who don't agree with you and that's totally fine and that's your business or you can realize that a lot of people most the time, they're just curious, even if they are being angry or hateful about it, sometimes they just want to know if you're getting so quick to getting defensive, because of those people who are just being mean, might take away the ability to be educated towards someone who was generally just curious and trying to learn.
Jessica: No, I agree. I think you hit it right on the head that, you know, out of every remark is curiosity, you know. Yeah, curious issues and when we see something that does not make sense to us, we're like, Why? Why would you?
Jessica: Why would you do that? How did you come to that decision? And I think I would encourage our listeners and myself that when you hear a remark, whether it's negative or just doesn't seem like it needed to happen, or any of that is to listen to the question under the remark, because I bet there is one.
Kara: Yeah. I mean, I'm definitely I am not going to lie like I used to be those kinds of people who would watch young moms and I would go, why? I would never like... and then here I am, just not even like a full three years later, after having that opinion and becoming a young mom myself. It's just it was their decision like it was my decision and I used to tell myself all the time, like I would never be a single mom. If I'm ever going to have a child that's going to be with someone who I know will take care of the kid together and we're going to be this big, happy family and we're going to live in a nice way like farm saw house white picket fence, and we're gonna have all these things for our child, but reality hits and you can't always get that and that's why I'm like starting to become really acceptive of the fact that I am a single parent is because everything that I went through all was pregnant and then while having my son, I told myself that I was never going to do because I never wanted to experience these things and there is a lot of emotions and there's a lot of pain and recovery and just a lot of self-acceptance and acceptance around your situation that do fall into being a single parent. Not gonna lie, I mean, a lot of times it is a lot easier for some people to be a single parent, but for other people who really did have that specific dream set into place, it is really difficult to try to come to terms with and so a lot of times when people ask like, why are you single parent, I could never do it like, I give you props tonight. I look at them and I'm like, I'm happy that you are in a situation where you can be happy and then you have the help from another partner who can take care of your kid for you. That's amazing, because that's what I always wanted and being able to see that other people are capable of doing that, that's one of the best things ever. But it got to the point for me personally, where that that wasn't my blueprint for my life and for how I was going to raise my child and that's okay. Sometimes you have to change your life to fit your blueprint or you have to switch your blueprint to be able to tailor it to your life and how things are going naturally and that's exactly what I had to do. I had to change my blueprint and that's not bad. That's just kind of what happens and I'm happy I love my son, like, he can have a dang good mom.
Jessica: You are. You are a fantastic mom. I think I tell you that all the time like, I think my mom's the best, I think you're the second best. That's how a good mom I think you are, you love your son and you just have so much grace and kindness and understanding with him and it's just really good to see.
Last pieces of wisdom from our interview with Kara
Kara: Thank you. Yeah, I was really excited about all the things that I'm learning with myself, and how I'm growing into a person and then being able to pass that down to him. I couldn't have asked for a special gift like a more special gift ever is being able to pass down all of my knowledge to a tiny little human that I created myself and to watch him grow up and turn into the person that he wants to be and potentially pass that down to his child if he ever has one and it's just, it's amazing, like humans work in very mysterious ways and it just really all comes down to honestly just like communicating with one another and just being kind and being gentle and being understanding, just knowing that if you can't relate to what someone else is going through or what they're deciding to do with themselves, that doesn't mean that you can't still be there and be supportive. And if you can't physically be there, spiritually be there and just understanding rather than trying to relate and then getting frustrated and then shutting down, and that really does fall into modification too. That's exactly what happened to my mom, like my mom and I would cry all of the time, because I was dyeing my hair and getting all these piercings and then I started getting tattoos and she was just like, why would you do this, and then it would make us fight and then that she really did a lot of reflecting on the fact that people do things for specific reasons. And so that made her start too. She got her nose pierced, she started stretching her ears, she got a tattoo because she watched me do and she realized, Oh, I can actually do that too, but for my own reasons, it doesn't have to be the same as somebody else. So that itself is really empowering, being able to inspire other people too and that's another reason why I decided I wanted to work in this industry.
Jessica: Exactly! I don't think my mom realized until later that the reason why I dyed my hair and pierced my nose and all that is because I saw her with colorful hair and she has her nose pierced and [inaudible 1:05:16] how cool she thinks tattoos are. You know, and I think that, yeah, that's a really great perspective. Yeah. We do what we see and we just got to remember that we're all people at the end of the day. So I think that's a really good place to wrap up for our audience. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today and to open up just about your experience, being a mom, your dreams, your information about stretching ears, your opinion on culture and all of that, like thank you. Thank you for being honest and you know, just taking the time.
Kara: Yeah, of course I'm really happy that I was able to do this. I was really excited. When you reached out and you texted me like, hey, I want to do an interview with you. I am almost just like "Absolutely!" I love going on tangents like this right? Just get to talk about what I'm passionate about, and what inspires me to do what I do and what I have been doing. So just thank you for taking the time to do this with me. I really appreciate it.
Jessica: Hopefully, the stores reopen so when you and who are listening comes in, we can do it with you.
Jessica: Alright, well have a great rest of your day.
Kara: Thank you, you too.
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