EP026: Zani's Journey of Self-Expression
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0:44 - Meet Zani
1:33 - Zani talks about her piercings
6:46 - Zani’s advice before getting a piercing
7:56 - “I think any form of modification is a way to let your inside shine out” - Jessica
8:02 - Jessica and Zani talks about listening to one’s inner voice to express oneself
11:10 - “Piercings and tattoos helped me find myself.” - Jessica
11:39 - Zani gives advice to everyone who is nervous to make a change for themselves
13:04 - Zani’s advice to the young ones who are new to modification who are having a hard time dealing with negative comments
16:20 - Zani shares her experience growing up in foster care
20:13 - Zani talks about the misconceptions associated with people who grew up in the foster care system
25:21 - Zani shares how empowering it is to have one’s own sibling in foster care
27:34 - Zani concluded the interview by giving advice to anyone who's facing any challenges at home
“Everyone has that inner thought in their head that are always telling them the most negative things ever but after a while, you got to stop listening to that voice” - Zani
“Everyone has that inner thought in their head that are always telling them the most negative things ever but after a while, you got to stop listening to that voice.” - Zani
Jessica: Hi friends today with Zani! She's a member of our Avanti community and I'm so excited to hear what you have to say about really personal expression and everything. So before I ask any questions, let's start by hearing a little bit about you.
Zani: Hi, I'm Zani Nevayaktewa. Yeah, I've gone to your guys piercing shop a lot to get a lot of my jewelry and you guys helped me replace my inverse labret which was really cool because it meant a lot. I have a very specific type that I like so you guys had like the best collection that I wanted to get.
Jessica: Oh, awesome! So it looks like you have that piercing, you also have your tongue pierced, your septum, any earring or anything?
Zani: I did have gauges, but I accidentally ripped out one of my gauges and I haven't ripped [inaudible 1:21] that ear.
Jessica: Oh! Aww.
Zani: Yeah. So it's been a while since I've had gauges in.
Jessica: What was your first piercing?
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Zani talks about her piercings
Zani: My very first piercing was my septum and it was because I originally wanted to get snake bites but my uncle was just like, "No, I will not have that" "That is horrible" like, and everything and I was like, well, you know, F him, I'm gonna get whatever piercing but then when I went into the piercing shop, I was just like, oh, maybe I really don't want snake piercing, like snake bites there and so I ended up just getting my septum but it was like the horseshoe type, which is easy for certain job interviews or if your work doesn't allow piercings, you can easily just flip it up and I was like, you know what, that's actually really smart and conventional and I remember I came home and my aunt was like, Oh, that's super cool. My uncle was just like---like he just had nothing to say but later he realized he was actually glad I chose that one because it's so easy to hide if I need to, but also, he just ended up coming around and liked it so that was really fun.
Jessica: [inaudible 2:32] for you.
Zani: Yeah, for me, because he knows I'm very stubborn person. If I really want to express myself in a certain way, like do something like that, then he already knows I'm just gonna go ahead and do it and ask later, even though I'm already in the process of doing it.
Jessica: I do and ask for forgiveness.
Jessica: What was your most painful piercing
Zani: Honestly, it has to be a long time ago about my nipples pierced that and doing them at the same time because I'm all about symmetry so it's like that'd be weird if I only got one and so it was like yeah, you know what, let's just do both, that's totally fine and you can't pull your body twice, I realize so that was very painful. The healing process was even just like barely a bump. I was just like, oh my god, no those are horrible.
Zani: Yeah, so that was honestly my most painful because otherwise, all my other piercings have always felt like just like a hard pinch and obviously with your tongue piercing since they do it like writing between the two muscles like all you do is salivate so it's like you just drool and you really feel nothing and I felt like that was like super crazy for me to learn when I got my tongue pierced. I was like, oh, all I did was drool. I literally felt nothing.
Jessica: My tongue piercing experience was different. I have both sides.
Jessica: It was like right there and I freaked it out. I'm like this is not a fun time.
Zani: Dude, I beg especially after you get your tongue anything like mouth-wise, you get it pierced and then you try and eat is the worse, especially after gaining a tongue piercing and you get food stuck under it and you're like, no, why?
Jessica: Yeah, exactly and I didn't realize really what twice the swelling really meant.
Zani: Yeah, same. Why did you give me that such long bar and I was like, Oh, that's kind of seems useless but then when it swells up, you're like, Oh, God, like, I'm glad now I have that because that would be very painful.
Jessica: At first you're like, I can't fit my tongue, my mouth because this bar is so big.
Jessica: And then you're like now I can't put my tongue in my mouth because my tongue is gigantic.
Zani: And then with it is like the healing process goes through, the swelling goes down and then you're like crap now I have this like a long bar in my mouth and then you have to come back in and at least hopefully you get like the right size bar.
Jessica: Yeah. It can be like I downsized my bar when we first all went into quarantine here in Oregon, so that was like two months ago, and -
Zani: Oh no!
Jessica: I know well, I downsized it but now, I've noticed that with tongues one thing that even though working here, like I didn't really anticipate is that you might have to downsize more than once.
Jessica: And you might have to downsize if you pierced your tongue twice at different levels, one side of my tongue was swollen and the other side of my tongue wasn't swollen.
Jessica: Oh! The bodies are interesting.
Zani: My inverse like having it so long because my lips swelling and then it went down and then I kept accidentally biting on it and I was like, I don't want chip it too so I had to go down like two times and because of big my lip is, they were just like yeah let's go any smaller because then it's just digging into your skin but then it's still like my uncle calls it a little, what is it called? It's like for golfing when you put the golf ball?
Jessica: Golf tee?
Zani: Yeah, that's what he calls it when I smile because it just sticks up into my golf tee.
Jessica: That's so funny. I had the same exact piercing and my lips are thin and so I went as small as you could go and it would still stick out and I would call it my rhino horn.
Zani: Oh, I love that!
Jessica: It's like out.
Jessica: But always dramatic and it would get stuck on straws.
Zani: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica: What advice would you give to someone before they get a piercing?
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Zani’s advice before getting a piercing
Zani: The advice that I would give is to really consider it. I know sometimes it's fun to just do it in the moment but then later you might have regrets or you're just like maybe I didn't really think this through and this was really a piercing I wanted. So and just think about where you want to get it first because there are certain areas where it's like more sensitive like I've heard some times like, the ears are more sensitive, obviously nipples can be pretty sensitive and my nipple piercings were my second piercing that ever gone so for me that was like, intense but also again, like everybody's pain tolerance is totally different too, but I see my main advice would be just like, really plan out what type of piercing you want and if you think that's really right for you, and sometimes some people will get a piercing and it's just like, doesn't really go with their personality I guess or go with like, how they are as a person so I feel like choose a piercing that speaks most to you, also.
Jessica: That's a really good advice, you know?
“I think any form of modification is a way to let your inside shine out“- Jessica
“I think any form of modification is a way to let your inside shine out“- Jessica
Jessica and Zani talks about listening to one’s inner voice to express oneself
Jessica: If you don't listen to that inner voice and you listen to external voices, or to people who have an external opinion of you that might not match up with who you really are, and you just end up feeling it's on your face, when you look in the mirror, you're not gonna see who you are.
Zani: Yeah, exactly. And I feel like that goes the same as like, whenever you get tattoos also, that's another form of your own expression that tattoos can either tell a story or just show off more of your personality too and so, even clothings like this, I feel like when you really express yourself, those things tend to really shine with your personality and really make you who you are and that's why for me, I've always been about just I wear whatever I want, because if it makes me feel good. I feel like that's all that matters and if that's the same as piercings and tattoos, it's just as long as it makes me so good, then I don't really care about others think because I'm expressing myself in the best way to make me feel good.
Zani: Yeah, that's awesome. That's great advice.
Jessica: Was that something that took you a while to learn or did you kind of just feel that way entering into piercings and tattoos?
Zani: I feel like it took me a while because growing up, I was always about trying to go with the trend, wear whatever the popular girls are wearing, just trying to fit in and I feel after a while, it's just like, F it. I'm just gonna do whatever fits me and I went through weird stages where I just wear a lot of boys clothes and I was just like, you know because I'm like at heart, a tomboy so it took me a long time to finally get into like, you know what? Certain girly things actually make me feel nice like dresses are nice and things like that and then when it finally came time for piercings and such. I really was like, I've always seen the girls with the snake bites unless originally wanted me to do it but then the more I thought about it, I was like, I don't think that was like I said, would be me and I felt like this septum was just so simple and so nice and it just was like, you know what? Yeah, that's like, I feel like that's what I really want because it's just what I'm always thinking about now and so with just expressing myself now it's like, I don't really care about trying to go with the trend. So when people see me with certain tattoos or piercings are now considered trendy, it's like, I'm not doing it because of that. I did this like a long time ago. So I feel like---
Jessica: You're copying me.
Zani: Yeah, exactly! I'm just like, I'm just doing---I did these things a long time ago because that's what felt right to me. Not because I want to seem popular or follow the in-crowd or anything and I felt like I've always been the type of person who was never a follower. Even though as much as I tried, I knew it felt wrong to me like, I don't want to do that. I'm like, my own person, I follow my own path and things like that.
Jessica: That's really cool. That's awesome.
“Piercings and tattoos helped me find myself.”- Jessica
“Piercings and tattoos helped me find myself.”- Jessica
Jessica: Yeah, I can relate to it too, I think piercings and tattoos helped me find myself. I was always like trying on different masks and when you make something that's a permanent or semi-permanent change, it's no longer a mask. It's like okay.
Jessica: It's actually like, brave like I'm now me.
Zani: Yeah, exactly!
Jessica: Oh, cool. Oh, what advice would you give to someone who is nervous to make that change for themselves?
Zani gives advice to everyone who is nervous to make a change for themselves
Zani: I say just, you only have one life if you think about it and so really, you just go straight forward, just go at it like head on. That's kind of what I did because I was like, I'm just not going to spend my time thinking about it or debating it. At some point, you just got to do it and just get it done and over with because once---it's like ripping off that band-aid on hair, which really hurts, but you're just like, Oh, I did it, you know, it's kind of like that, because then afterwards you're like, okay, I feel better like this is nice now. So I feel like just doing it, just do it right away. Kind of like Michelle said in that meme, just do it. It's gonna make you feel a lot better afterwards and you're just gonna feel a totally better person because then you feel more of yourself not where you want to train, act and present to people.
Jessica: That's awesome. That's really good advice, too. You have awesome knowledge.
Jessica: I know a lot of our audience is younger and newer to modification and they have a hard time dealing with some of the negative comments that they get, what advice do you have in regards to that?
Zani shares her experience growing up in foster care
Zani: I feel like I said, like how I said, I grew up in foster care and so people already have certain views about children who are in foster care and, also being Native American. There's already like, oh, I've heard from like, so many, like, people like, Oh, you don't want to become a statistic. You don't want to be this or that and I feel like, why should I play into how you think my feet like you saying that makes me think that you already expected my future to be like that. So that's how I also feel about when people comment, like would come out like the way how I believe looks about things I was just like, why are you just presuming I'm gonna be a certain way or I'm this certain way just because the way I look at the thing look at the thing.
Jessica: Yeah, there's so many pros to watching demographics and things, that there's not as much oppression moving forward into the future, but I also feel like a lot of people in a box, because it's like, well, statistically, this is what it is and -
Jessica: - that's not a person, that's a statistic based off of historical, cultural, sociological impacts, it has nothing to do with you today.
Zani: Exactly! And it's kind of like how in the past like tattoos and piercings would make you less. I feel like, like back then, you know, when people are trying to get hired or go for job interviews, who would be like, Oh, well, you have piercings and tattoos, you would have to hide those and or you would be less likely to get hired but nowadays, more jobs are accepting of people who have tattoos or piercings, colored hair, and who are even like LGBT. At my work, I work at a preschool and ours are very open to anyone who's LGBT or if you have tattoos or piercings. It's totally allowed, we're never told Oh, you have to hide those from parents and such and I feel like having jobs like that make more people who are like us who are very vibrant about our personalities and really show it in body modifications, it really makes it feel more welcoming to work something like that.
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, being a part of a more diverse group usually means that you think more creatively and-
Jessica: There was a parents streak that a lot of jobs are looking for. They're looking for the people who are thinking outside of the box, who have had to overcome adversity you know, and you're not going to always find that in people who are keeping that inside.
Jessica: Their hair, not being their true selves so that's what I like to see too. As we're moving forward into the future that you can go somewhere with bright like, I had bright blue hair yesterday, bright blue hair and it's awesome.
Zani: Yeah, it is and it's just great to see how now like I said, like things are just becoming more diverse and just changing. People are starting to realize like how you said, they want people who are more creative and diverse and can bring something totally different.
Jessica: Yeah, because if you have just enough people who are like the same, you're not going to grow nearly as you would if you had people who are different to challenge and expand.
Zani: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica: It's really cool. You mentioned growing up in foster care what are some---if you're feel welcome to share, what are some misconceptions you think that are associated with people who grew up in the foster care system?
Zani talks about the misconceptions associated with people who grew up in the foster care system
Zani: I feel like a lot of misconceptions is that the kids will end up being like their parents, like my mom. The reason why my brother and I got taken away was because she was using meth and my grandmother called DHS on her and so that's why but my brother and I turned out fine. We both graduated high school which my mom never did and he didn't go to college but I went to college for a little bit and another misconceptions is like especially when you're a kid in school like how I was, a lot of teachers expect you to either not be that smart for some reason or you're going to be like the bad kid. I had an old friend who was originally my best friend, her mom disliked me because I came from a foster home and because I was a little bit more outgoing and she would always tell her Oh, you're going to get into trouble if you stay friends with her and so she left me. She was actually my first friend I ever made when I got taken away, and moved to a whole new city and went to a whole new school. She was my very first friend so that really hurt to know that's how her mom thought of me and really convinced her to not be friends with me because they assumed I would do bad things in life and if they looked at me now, I really didn't.
Photo by Zani Nevayaktewa
Jessica: Yeah, look at that baby!
Zani: I turned out really great. I am a beautiful doctor now. And another misconception goes towards like foster parents even like, I know there are some who only do it for checks, but there's a lot more who actually do it because they really care for children, or how my foster parents got into it because one of their family members, their kids got taken away and they could only raise their kids if they were foster parents and so they decided to become that just to take care of them and make other kids' lives better because there are some children whose parents were just so bad at parenting that they didn't get the right love and nurturing. Having the right environment to live in and then they come into these foster homes where it's like the right environment where they treated with real love and are taught essential life, things that their parents cannot do, so there's actually a lot of great foster parents who do it for all the good right reasons so you shouldn't always think that all of the foster parents are just bad or mistreat kids even though there are a small percentage that is like that, but majority of them aren't so that's why my brother and I were so thankful that we got foster parents who were so loving and even when they met my mother, they could tell she was trying really hard, and trying to change all of her ways and she did, she got cleaned, and they were made sure when my mom couldn't get us back, that they took guardianship of us so that we could still keep a relationship with our mom, go visit her and have her come over and see us and they've made sure that we had everything that we needed in life to make us feel happy.
Jessica: That's awesome.
Jessica: My youngest brother actually my cousin, we adopted, we fostered him and then we adopted them.
Jessica: It being on the foster family side, I can see how the misconception starts because when you go even though we knew his whole history and everything like that, you're still given all of this information like, Oh, this, this, this and this could be wrong with them but yeah, like it shouldn't be this way and people get their kids to come to for the reasons that aren't always even valid or drug or alcohol abuse-related.
Jessica: Some of it is someone just assumed they were being treated wrong and in their state, DHS has to take the kid away in order to investigate.
Zani: Yeah, and the nice thing about Oregon now is that they finally, a couple of years ago, passed a law where siblings can't be separated so, at the time when my brother and I went to foster care, we were so thankful that we got to go to the same foster home and live there together while some other siblings at the time would be separated. And I feel like it's the most painful thing because they've recently found studies where kids who end up in foster care, tend to do a lot better if they have the support of their siblings who are with them. The city have been taken to different homes because then when that happens, they feel more alone and they feel more trauma and so that's why I'm glad Oregon finally passed the law to where siblings won't be separated when they go into foster care.
Jessica: Which seems like such a common sense thing that should have been in place.
Zani shares how empowering it is to have one’s own sibling in foster care
Zani: Yeah, I feel like if I never had my older brother, were how traumatizing it was for me, I don't think I would have gotten a better handle on it if he wasn't there; because he really was there for me. When I had my anxiety attacks, he would be there to calm me down, he knew how to just be there for me, because since they were new, they didn't know how I like things or how to calm me down the best way, so that's why it was great having my own sibling there.
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, your whole life was turned upside down. Everything you know was taken away and to take the one constant person who could be there would just be...it's one thinkable to be why that would be it even like the law that needs to be made. I'm so glad it was passed.
Zani: Yeah, exactly and yeah, it was just great just having my brother there and just having him because then you have someone there who really understands. For me, I feel like it was a little bit more traumatizing than for him because when we got taken away, it was actually a week before my seventh birthday. So that was like, even more messed up, especially when you get a letter from your mom from prison and she has to write out that happy birthday song and draw a little cake and that was like a super hard day for me to read that and so if I didn't have him there to help me feel better, I feel like it would just have made it a worth more bad of a memory the way it actually is now.
Jessica: I'm glad he was there for you. That's really cool especially knowing what I know now about the new laws and everything. Before I let you enjoy the rest of what is a beautiful Oregon day with your gorgeous daughter, is there any last bits of advice or wisdom you'd give to anyone who's constantly just feeling more comfortable in their own skin or is facing any challenges at home?
Zani concluded the interview by giving advice to anyone who's facing any challenges at home
Zani: I feel like for challenges at home, I feel the best thing to have is a support group. It doesn't have to be your own family. I found in life that my support group is honestly people who later became my family who weren't blood-related and having true friends that really understand you for who you are and those type people tend to make the best support groups and like I said, it doesn't have to be your actual family and that's what I've come up with so you shouldn't have an expectation that has to be your true support group and I feel like for people who are still struggling with self-image or wanting to go through with certain things, especially when it comes to getting a piercing or maybe a tattoo, just go at your own pace that makes you feel better. And so also, if you're really been like on the fence, I would just say, F it, just go for it because like I said, if it really calls to you, or if you really feel strongly like yes, that will represent me for who I am, then go for it because that should be the most important thing is expressing yourself and then having your true positive personality come out. Not to let others judgment be in the way of your happiness.
Jessica: That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, for sharing your heart and your daughter!
Zani: I know because she happens to wake up during the call.
Jessica: I hope you guys have a great rest of your day.
Zani: Thank you, you too.
Jessica: I hope to see you!
Zani: Yeah, probably I know for sure I might come back and try and get some new jewelry.
Jessica: Right. Enjoy your day, guys.
Zani: Yeah, you too. Thank you.
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