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0:25 - Meet Riley
2:39 - Riley talks about her first piercing
3:50 - Riley shares what does self-expression mean to her
5:37 - “Why I get piercings or tattoos is because I think it's such a beautiful way to express yourself.” - Riley
8:18 - Riley talks about her tattoos
12:15 - Riley shares her preconceived notions of what a person with piercings and tattoos is when you she was younger versus now
19:12 - Riley discuss about how thoughtful is the piercing process in Avanti
23:28 - “I feel like it's just become such a part of me and it makes me a little bit happier when I look in the mirror like I have that and that's part of me now.” - Riley
26:07- “Actually, my body is exactly what I say it is because I'm the person who's wearing it.”- Jessica
28:07 - Riley concludes the conversation by commending the platform for letting different people share and have self-expression to be talked about
“Putting my own artistic feelings and aesthetic onto the outside of my body is for me, self-expression so that I can look in the mirror and be proud of what I look like and who I am.” - Riley
Jessica: Hello friends! I'm here today with Riley, she's part of the Avanti community and I'm so excited to hear what you have to say about life and piercing and modification and self-expression but before we go anywhere, why don't we start by hearing a little bit about you?
Riley: Hello, everyone! I'm Riley. I just turned 20 last week and I am a sophomore attending Parsons University in New York. However, due to current circumstances, I am back home in Oregon with my family.
Photo by @rileyelske
Riley: I'm studying it's a major called Strategic Design and Management, which is kind of just a fancy way of saying the design of business or business design. So design strategies in the business world.
Jessica: That's cool.
Riley: Yeah, it's really fun. I'm enjoying it a lot.
Jessica: What do you want to do with that?
Riley: No idea, really. I have a lot of ideas that I would like to do with it. A lot of options that I know come out of it or art curating or even just like marketing and advertising, but I'm also really interested in fashion and fashion marketing or even costume designing in film or anything, so I really have no idea. Just figuring it out as I go.
Jessica: I remember when I went to college, it was very much the same and I thought I was going to go and do one thing and I ended up doing something similar to what I wanted to do, but not at all what I expected.
Jessica: But it all comes to be you're like, "Oh, this is a perfect fit."
Riley: Yeah, exactly. And I've had struggle because I went to community college first when I was in LA and then so I'm like changing around and so I feel I'm a little bit closer to what I want to be doing.
Jessica: I mean, in the more you experience, the clearer your picture gets anyways.
Riley: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica: So you're here on a body piercing platform, so why don't you talk a little bit about maybe your first piercing.
Riley talks about her first piercing
Riley: My first piercing I think, I was eight, it was just my little earlobes and all my piercings are on my ears and then I have a nose piercing but my first piercing when I was eight, I never got them when I was a baby. My mom wanted me to make the decision for myself.
Jessica: Oh! Cool.
Riley: So yeah, so I think it was around eight-ish is when I got my ears pierced.
Jessica: What was that experience? Can you remember it like 12 years ago?
Riley: It was at Claire's.
Riley: I think I was really terrified because I was scared it was going to hurt super bad but I didn't think it hurt at all. I thought it was weird that you could hear it with the gun, you heard that crunching sound and I absolutely hated that part, but I'm pretty sure I got diamonds in my ears because that's my birthstone.
Jessica: Oh! Very cool.
Riley: And then, I think my mom was like, "Do you want me to hold your hand, are you okay?" And I'm like, "I'm fine, I got this, I'm good."
Jessica: I'm a pro, okay?
Riley: Yeah. Exactly!
Jessica: What does self-expression mean to you?
Riley shares what does self-expression mean to her
Riley: Self-expression to me, I think that's kind of a hard one still, I keep saying that. Topics like I self-expressed through piercings or tattoos or anything, but I honestly think it's about putting your inside feelings just on the outside so for me, not saying that I'm necessarily an artistic person, but kind of putting my own artistic feelings and aesthetic onto the outside of my body is for me self-expression so that I can look in the mirror and be proud of what I look like and who I am.
Photo by @rileyelske
Jessica: Yeah, it's definitely a conduit for the need to create if it doesn't line up with maybe your skill set.
Jessica: I have a creative need but sometimes I wish I could express that with painting or drawing but my paintings and drawings never turn out exactly what I want but you know, be able to pick the colors and look at a picture and be like, this is my idea of art and then I look in the mirror and be like "Now, I am my idea of artist."
Riley: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica: It's also a huge part of I think becoming, just becoming, you talked a little bit about being in LA and going to community college and then that development process from little girl, to a grown-up, like, Oh, I'm eight now I'm ready to start taking my body into my own hands. And then from there, it's just, your body is yours. It's a great way to make your body yours.
Riley: Yes, very much so.
Jessica: So you talked a little bit about being interested in fashion? Why?
“Why I get piercings or tattoos is because I think it's such a beautiful way to express yourself.” - Riley
Riley: I think it kind of goes with the same way of why I get piercings or tattoos is because I think it's such a beautiful way to express yourself and I think we have fashion norms and fashion statements, but I also think it's just a continued way to extend someone's personality on the outside. I just I think fashion is so cool and I think it can be as crazy as you want or as team as you want and it doesn't necessarily...I have days where I'll dress not crazy, but my style will represent the 70s and I'll be super hippie or then I'll go into a punk rock thing, so I never think there's a certain set of style that you have to have, which I like. I like the fluidity of it and that it's super interchangeable. Yeah, I just think it's really cool and it's fun.
Jessica: That's awesome! That coincides with piercings specifically out of body modification because it's temporary.
Jessica: You can really make it as wild as you want, you can do big clunky jewelry or you can make it very minimalistic and delicate, which is kind of fun.
Riley: Yeah, it's super fun.
Jessica: Yeah. Before I knew Avanti, I also only thought that body jewelry was one kind of thing, it was like what you find at Spencer's where it's always steel and it's always a little bit too big.
Riley: Yeah. And you're , oh, I guess this is like what I should be wearing like -
Jessica: Right? You'd see people walking around with those perfectly fitted nose hoops and then I was always like, how?
Riley: Yes, yes, yes. And that's funny you say that because especially when I got my nose pierced right now. I have a stud in because my mom hates my hoop but when I got my nose pierced, she was like, I don't want you putting a hoop in because I hate when it hangs out of the nose, when it's not like that fitted thing so every time I've changed it like I've made sure to go in so that someone can fit it around because my mom was like, I won't condemn it if you have one that's just taking out of your nose. I am like eh it's there.
Jessica: Right? It's like I mean, it's fair. I think that aesthetic is fun but -
Riley: Yeah, it is fun.
Jessica: [inaudible 7:57] its own thing but yeah when I was trained at Avanti, I remember thinking "What?" There's not just one size, what is that misery?
Riley: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica: So do you have tattoos as well?
Riley talks about her tattoos
Riley: I do. Yeah, you can't I mean I'm wearing a long-sleeve right now but I have eight tattoos and they're like pretty small like I just have like this little -
Jessica: Oh, fun!
Riley: -which is my Taurus symbol that I have like little ones on my I have like a little one on my wrist, I have a hummingbird on my arm, I have the coordinates of my childhood house on my collarbone some really...they're pretty meaningful or I have two mountains in a wave on my head because I have two brothers and so all of them are special to me and representative of family or times in my life that I have been significant.
Photo by @rileyelske
Jessica: That's cool. Do you have a different mentality when it comes to approaching a permanent modification?
Riley: I did with my first tattoo, I got it on my 18th birthday and it was super thought out. I knew what I wanted to get but I spent months beforehand, figuring out the placement of it, size and everything and I guess with my piercings, I got all of them before I turned 18 so I had to ask my mom's permission and I had to lie and she had to go with me and I had to really think that out because of the facts. My mom had to go with me and she always had to say, Well, are you sure you want to do this? So I guess a little bit because it's on my body forever. I want to think about it more and research artists but I also did that with my piercings so it's a little bit in between.
Riley: Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm outside and it's raining so hard. I don't know if you can hear that or not.
Jessica: I hear it now that you said so.
Riley: I know, right?
Jessica: It's not raining here, but we're in Oregon are you?
Riley: I'm in Lake Oswego.
Jessica: Oh, I'm in Beaverton. It's probably -
Riley: I don't know which way the rain travels. Maybe you're getting it later. I don't know. It was nice. background noise. I don't know.
Jessica: Nice soothing nature sounds.
Jessica: For anyone who's listening who's not familiar with Oregon, it rains all the time.
Riley: Yes, all the time.
Jessica: And it can rain where you're at and be sunny here.
Riley: Yeah, that's so crazy. I was like, it looks beautiful behind you.
Jessica: It's all warm and sunny outside. My plants are sunbathing,
Riley: Like back here an hour ago too and then all of a sudden, it's downpouring now, so-
Jessica: It was really crazy in March, when the pandemic first hit like snow.
Riley: Okay, I wasn't here for that. I came home two days after, but I remember that because my parents were like, it's snowing here. Oh-kay?
Jessica: Yeah, it was super sunny and then I went to bed and I woke up and it was snowing and then it was sunny the next day and I'm like, "What? Where'd that come from?"
Riley: So crazy, you never know.
Jessica: You never know, it's Oregon keeping it. That's why everyone here is so laid back is you never.
Riley: You just never know and you're like an umbrella? Probably not. So I probably won't bring it maybe if it's in my car but other than that -
Jessica: What's the point?
Riley: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica: It's something you carry all day then.
Jessica: So, did you have any preconceived notions of what a person with piercings and tattoos is when you were younger versus now that you are a person with piercings and tattoos?
Riley shares her preconceived notions of what a person with piercings and tattoos is when you she was younger versus now
Riley: I think a little bit. I was super grateful. I think my parents are a little---they're a little in between with the piercing and tattoos, I obviously got pierced under 18 so I had that my mom's pretty well, but there are certain piercings that she's just still doesn't feel are appropriate, which I understand so but I think when I was younger, I mean, I remember I did a Halloween costume in fourth grade and it was a punk rocker and I had a fake eyebrow piercing and a big nose piercing and my mom completely condoned it. She thought it was awesome, but she's like, if you ever do that in real life, so I think I kind of had this notion that it was like people have this, but I can't have it.
Riley: It was okay, that's great for some people and they're allowed to do that, but I can never do that, that's not me, that's just not, that wouldn't look good on here even with a nose piercing I'm like, I would never do that because that's great for that aesthetic, but that's not me and now that I'm older, I'm like, it's for any aesthetic or for any person and nose piercings, and like facial piercings can look like completely different on one person then on another person so I think that's where it's kind of changed. When I was younger, I never really---I don't know if I thought I would be, as pierced and I mean, I'm not like totally pierced. I don't really have any other face piercings but like the tattoo thing, too, or even with how many ear piercings I have. I never really thought that. It just kind of happened, I am seeing pictures and I was like, Oh, that's pretty, like on Pinterest or something. I was like, Ooh, that looks pretty like maybe I'll do that.
Photo by @rileyelske
Jessica: Well, I think ear piercings are underrated. They are a serious modification, in my opinion. I have my doubles and a stretch lobe but I can't do any cartilage because I'm too finicky of a sleeper and I know I couldn't [inaudible 14:14]
Riley: Oh yeah! I have two cartilage, I have two helix piercings up here and they’re okay. I've only had one issue which is when I was sleeping one time the entire back went into my ear and I had to pull it out the front. It's so disgusting. But luckily, they don't hurt me that much but this one, I have my rook pierced.
Jessica: Oh, fun!
Riley: And I love that one. It's one of my favorites but that was the most like out of any tattoo or piercing that I've gotten, like the most painful. Hands down.
Jessica: Yeah. That was brutal.
Riley: Hands down. And I love it and it's super cute, but I mean, when I got it pierced and then when I got it changed from the barbell to the hoop, it was super painful, but now it doesn't cause me anything.
Riley: I'm so thankful because I have so many friends who you said like they're so finicky with sleeping and they get infected super quickly, but I think I have bionic ears or something so I just kept getting my ears pierced because I knew they would heal correctly.
Jessica: Yeah, well, it's a hard one to heal. Just because there's so much that can go wrong with it and, sleeping on it can just easily, you know, your pierced like this, but so many times I see people come in and they're like, "My helix is out like this." And I'm like, "Oh, no!"
Riley: No, and then okay, is there anything you can do about it when that happens, like you can't -
Jessica: You have to pull it and repierce it.
Jessica: Yeah, I know.
Jessica: People when they're like, "I don't have many piercings. I just have a couple ear." I'm like, "No, like, you have piercings like-"
Riley: [inaudible 16:02] same difference.
Jessica: Those and they take upwards of six months to even a year to heal.
Riley: Oh! I didn't know it was technically that long.
Jessica: Yeah, they take a minute.
Riley: They take. Yeah, a minute.
Jessica: A minute.
Riley: I kind of forgot because I have had these since my sophomore year in high school and so I think it like I haven't gotten any new piercings in a while so I kind of forgot how that healing process works, but it is.
Jessica: Yeah, there's just a lot of blood flow so it takes a minute longer.
Riley: Just a minute. Just like is a little minute.
Jessica: I did like what you said about growing up and feeling piercings weren't for you because I can relate to that. I grew up in a very conservative household and I mean, kind of. My dad's a pastor,
Riley: Oh, okay.
Jessica: And my mom used to be like, [inaudible 17:00] in high school, so it was definitely two ends of the spectrum where it's like this conservative homeschooled family but we were alleged to pink hair.
Jessica: But not any modifications.
Riley: Right, okay, sure.
Jessica: Just going on there, but I remember feeling very similar to you. It was this cool, awesome aesthetic and I wanted it for myself, but it felt out of reach.
Jessica: So then anytime I go into a tattoo or a piercing place, I was an invader which is a weird feeling to have.
Riley: Yeah, I get that and that's funny you say that you could have pink hair but no modifications and my mom is like the complete opposite. I've never dyed my hair and even now I'm like, Oh, I think I want to do purple or something or just the ends and she's like, no one's like, Oh, all right.
Jessica: That's so funny. I mean, you do have beautiful hair.
Riley: Thank you! I know and I'm like, ah! I have like so much. I'm such an over thinker that I'm like, if I dye it, then I'll never get back to go to the natural color and then I'll have to keep up with it. And it's all the thing, but then I see hair like yours, which is so ready and beautiful.
Jessica: I mean, it is true. You don't really go back. I'm actually a natural redhead.
Riley: Oh, really?
Jessica: I really [inaudible 18:28] So if I want any color, it has to be a colored color because I just naturally am orange so there's no coming back from that, you know, anything else is like, well, I was already discovered.
Riley: A very good way of looking at it.
Jessica: It's how to explain it to my parents. I'm already orange.
Riley: Yeah, exactly. You already have a color. It's another one,, changing it a little bit.
Jessica: It's been a minute since you've had a piercing but if you remember the process, what did you think the process was going to be like versus what it was actually like?
Riley discuss about how thoughtful is the piercing process in Avanti
Riley: Well, so I have six lobe piercings, which is what I all got at Claire's. I got all my lobe piercings done at Claire's and so when I made the switch from doing it from a gun to a needle, I had no idea what that was going to look like so when I went to Avanti, and I actually went in and they sat me down, and they're like, okay, where do you want the placement of it? And then they draw the little dot and they're like, do you like that? Do you want me to move it? It was just so thoughtful, and there was so much more energy put into it, that it actually felt like a real experience instead of I'm just going to go in and get a needle in my ear and then leave, which is what it was when I got it with the gun at Claire's and so I think just like that whole switch made me change and so it was just the thoughtfulness of it, I think and I was like, this is actually an artistic practice that these people are doing and they care about how this was going to look on me and how it's going to heal and what it's going to do so I thought that was really awesome and that's why I love starting to get pierced after that with an actual needle and going in and doing something so I was like, okay, even if I'm not completely sure with what I want, like, I know they'll be able to help me, which is what I didn't think I had it Claire's so it was like, Oh, I have to have it here and then they're just going to do it and then I am gonna be done, you know?
Jessica: Yeah, I've been pierced at Claire's as well and then also really many places with little piercing guns. I've been [inaudible 20:45] but going into a studio, like Avanti and that co-creative process. I agree. Like it is so different to go from , Oh, it's a teenager with a nail gun to here, let's create this together and I don't whenever you come in or anyone comes in. I'm always like, what do you want? Like -
Jessica: We get excited, we get invest in our clients. I was talking to one of our sales associates, Anastasia, a week ago and I was like, what do you miss about Avanti? She's like, I miss our customers because you guys come in and you share bits of your life and it feels like friendship and so that's what's hard about this, I guess, this whole pandemic is I am like, where are you?
Riley: Oh, that's very sweet. Yeah.
Jessica: Yeah, I just want to speak to that on the other end of the counter. It's as much of that co-creative process you know, for me and for anyone in our piercing room as it is for you coming through the door.
Jessica: Which is fun, like who gets to say like, Oh, I have a co-creative art project with these random people.
Riley: Yeah, I mean, you probably have like stories to tell for days about people who come in so I think that's awesome.
Jessica: Yeah, it's a very humbling experience, I think, and in order to go through pain to feel okay with yourself says a lot for it. Something like that just that sentence, you know?
Riley: Yeah. Wow, that sentence -
Riley: For sure.
Jessica: I mean, you spoke to it, with getting your ears pierced and kind of like, taking ownership of like, this is who I am and I'd be curious to see how your view of yourself has changed now that person who was super cool is you. Like what was that like?
“I feel like it's just become such a part of me and it makes me a little bit happier when I look in the mirror like I have that and that's part of me now.” - Riley
Riley: I mean, I don't think I'm a cool person. No, I just think I'm 12 all the time, so I don't really think of myself that way necessarily. And even sometimes, like, I'll kind of forget, I have my ears pierced because I'll keep it. I like changing out my earrings a lot but even now, for the past two months, I left all my earrings in New York, so I haven't been able to change anything now. So it's like, sometimes I'll forget, because I don't like pay attention to them, because I'll just leave like the same ones in or whatever so it's kind of weird that sentiment because I'm never like, wow, I look cool today because I feel like it's just become such a part of me at this point and I guess like out of anything, it just makes me just a little bit more happy when I look in the mirror like, it's just like a little bit, "Oh! I have that!" and that's like, part of me now.
Jessica: That's cool. This is part of me now. It's true.
Riley: Even when I got my nose pierced, I had friends I was like, do you notice anything like about me and they're like, I thought you've had that like forever, I don't know what you're talking about, because I think it was a part of my personality before I got it. I wanted it so bad and they were like, oh, I thought you already had that and I'm like, Oh, all right.
Jessica: I love that. Yeah. I think like one of my favorite quotes was from this gal who spoke like on my orientation day at college, and she was talking about her hairdresser who'd been confronted by an older woman about her tattoos and she said, these were on my heart before they came out of my skin and I think that's pretty true statement just to...what I'm hearing from you and my own modification story is very much you see people for who they are, and your modifications are extensions of that person.
Jessica: It makes it really easy to not see it anymore, which I think is why society is changing so much to be more accepting.
Riley: Yeah. I think that's a very beautiful statement. I still think you're going to get judgmental people everywhere need to come back with that statement. It's like, well then why couldn't you just keep it on your heart? But then it's also like, you know, for me, it's always been, I just want to be happy with what I look like, too. So like, being a not that I'm not like I wasn't happy before, but like being able to modify it, just like add things to it [inaudible 25:25-25-27] what you're saying about having control of my body and my choices in that regard.
Jessica: Yeah, you're a little bit muffled.
Riley: Oh, no!
Jessica: Oh, no you're back! Okay. I did hear everything that you said.
“Actually, my body is exactly what I say it is because I'm the person who's wearing it.” - Jessica
Jessica: Oh no, before I ask anything else. I just wanted to like add to that because that is a beautiful truth that you shared And I think that especially being you know, female presenting and everything, there's so much stigma on what your body is and what it can and can't be and so this has always been a really nice way to be like, actually my body is exactly what I say it is because I'm the person who's wearing it.
Jessica: It's not any it's not a politicians', churches', anybody's opinion, not even your parents, it's yours.
Riley: Yeah, exactly and that's still something I feel like I struggle with a little bit. I feel like I've been called [inaudible 26:26]getting piercing because of that, but hopefully, [inaudible 26:32] maybe.
Jessica: Its all a process, you know?
Jessica: Have to live the questions for yourself, you know?
Jessica: And it takes years to figure it out. Sometimes you -
Jessica: And you never really true...I feel like learning yourself and growing yourself takes your entire life so
Riley: Yeah. I feel like I'm reborn and new person, like every five years, but it's like nice because like the only thing that stays is my piercings or my tattoos or certain physical features. I'm like, emotionally I'm a different person, but I can still be the same.
Jessica: They're like little mementos from the past.
Riley: Yeah. I'm like, Oh, okay, that's nice. Yeah.
Jessica: Like, I also feel like I'm 12 inside so it's, like -
Jessica: A 12-year-old but I did this, this and this.
Riley: Actually, you're like, I'm a great 12-year-old, I'm a very productive.
Jessica: Definitely self-esteem boost, like, all right.
Jessica: Same as I thought it was a minute ago.
Riley: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica: So thank you so much Riley for you know, joining the call and sharing your heart.
Riley: Thank you so much for having me.
Jessica: Yeah of course. I'm looking forward for when this is over and you're gonna be in the studio.
Jessica: Before I let you go and enjoy your day. Is there any last bits of truth of perspective you'd like to share?
Riley concludes the conversation by commending the platform for letting different people share and have self-expression to be talked about
Riley: No, I'm just so happy that you're doing this platform in this time. A lot of people can't go and have self-expression to be able to talk about it, or about it have communication. I think it's so sweet and I think it's so sweet. you're reaching out to all of us.
Jessica: Thank you! It's an amazing experience to learn from so many people and I love that sense of community of like -
Jessica: We can see the big Avanti family even when you can't see past...you have to be six feet or more apart.
Riley: Right. Which is not great for your business.
Riley: Thank you so much.
Jessica: Well, I hope you have a great rest of your day.
Riley: Thank you, you too!
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