Interview With Ali Pope

Ali Pope is a piercer at Native Rituals Tattoo and Party Emporium in Oak Forest, Illinois, one of the most highly rated body modification shops in Illinois. Additionally, they happen to be one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. They are a super caring, passionate person, with an awesome personality, sense of style, and a fierce passion for fitness and the body modification industry. Basically, everyone should aspire to be Ali when they grow up.

I had the privilege of asking Ali a couple questions about what they do and how they feel about it, and I’m excited to share their answers with you!

What is your earliest memory of being interested in body modification?
“Probably like....when I was 8 or 9, I remember getting in trouble for drawing on myself because I liked how it looked. I honestly can't remember a time where I didn't want to alter how I looked.”

What was the first body modification you can remember wanting, vs. the first one you actually ended up getting?
“Hmmm....I remember wanting like lots of tattoos on my arms, but I got my earlobes pierced at like.... 13, I think.”

What got you into the idea of piercing professionally as a career?
“I started doing piercings on myself (DON’T DO IT) and did a lot of research online, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn, plus I've always loved jewelry of any kind. I pushed it to the back burner for a while, and then when I started going to good shops and wearing good jewelry, I got more hungry to learn and work in the industry. It's the only thing I've ever been truly passionate about.”

Triple helix piercing

Did you go through an apprenticeship process? If so, where?
“I apprenticed at The Crypt Tattoo Company (RIP) in Arlington, TX under Cody Loman from May 2014 [to] June 2016.”

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to learn as a piercer?
“Honestly, probably learning how to tell people no, or to tell them ‘hey, this didn't come out perfect, can I pull it and redo it?’”

Did you ever have an interest in a different career before you decided to go into piercing?
“Yeah, I was actually working on my degree in biology with a minor in genetics when I was apprenticing. I wanted to do research. I've also looked into tattooing but I can't draw to save my life so that's not a path for me, hahah.”

Inverse vertical labret

Do you have any people that you would say inspired you to start your career, be it a body modification artist or someone else?
As far as starting, definitely my mentor, Cody. Luis Garcia at NoKaOi is another one, and Courtney from Saint Sabrina's has always been an inspiration too. As far as getting better and pushing myself, I could go on for days.

What are some of your favorite people to get tattooed or pierced by?
“Hmmmmm... My friend Audra Blalock is one of my favorites for getting tattooed, also Derek Noble, who has been doing my back tattoo. Colin O at Laughing Buddha in Seattle is one of my favorite people to get pierced by, but it's been so long since I've had work done.”

Do you have a memory of a particularly unique situation you’ve experienced through piercing?
“Ummm.... There's a ton of really unique people and situations I've encountered, one of my favorites has to be a client who I did nipple piercings on. Her ex husband always talked shit on her breasts (heartbreaking, I know), and so, to celebrate her divorce, she got them pierced. It was a really cool moment.”

Floating navel piercing

Do you have a favorite jewelry brand that you find yourself drawn to with clients or your own jewelry choices?
“Hmmm. I wear a lot of body vision (BVLA) and Anatometal. They're probably my top favorites.”

What do you love about your shop? Do you have any dream shop that you’d like to guest spot or work at someday?
“I love the sense of family at my shop; I love every person that I work with. I have the freedom to help the business grow and implement new ideas and branding. I would love to work or guest at several shops! Infinite or NoKaOi in Philly would be so cool, as would Born this Way in Knoxville, TN. There are more I'm sure, but I've also been lucky enough to guest at some of my dream studios this last year.”

A lot of piercers try to act tough when it comes to pain, whether that’s to make the customer feel better, or just look “cool” in general, but it’s no secret that a lot of mods aren’t always fun to get. What’s the most painful/ intense spot you’ve gotten pierced or tattooed?
“Hmmmm. I've had a lot of painful tattoos. My spine, kneecap, and tailbone were all pretty awful. I haven't been pierced in a while, but my philtrum was probably the most painful of those.”

Helix piercing (w/ gem cluster)

Do you feel like trends happen in the piercing world? Do you see any new ones sprouting up?
“Totally! For jewelry, dainty, minimalist rings are huge right now, and I feel like small gold chains are coming back as well. Rose gold and opal has been really consistently popular for a while now. As far as piercings overall, daith piercings are huge, and conch piercings with the intent of wearing hoops are also really popular.”

Do you have any tips on etiquette as a customer, i.e. how not to be super annoying while getting a piercing?
“Please don't touch your piercings. Especially if they're angry or irritated. It's not good for the piercing and isn't hygienic in general. Bringing a friend is cool, but there is no reason to have a posse of 6 people if only one of you is getting work done. Usually, there isn't enough room in the piercing room anyway. Also, please tip your piercer! A lot of people seem to not realize that this is good etiquette, but it's really really appreciated. Oh, also: this should go without saying, but please don't be rude about pricing. Good work isn't cheap, and cheap work isn't good. I'm a skilled technician and use the highest quality jewelry available. It's extremely disrespectful to say things like ‘wow, that's a lot for just a piercing’ or ask for deals after I've quoted you on a beautiful gold piece or an involved ear project. Other than that, I love my clients, there isn't a such thing as a stupid question, and I love talking about this stuff. I'm not going to jump down your throat if you use the wrong word or don't know the name of something. Anyone who does is a jerk. ;)”

Tragus piercing

Do you have any cool stuff coming up, like guest spots or new projects?
“Hmmm, we've had some changes at my home studio, so I have been changing a lot of how things are done, and putting together our fall collection of jewelry. I'm really excited!! Other than that, I'm not travelling for a hot minute.”

Hey, thank you so much for doing this with me! Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“Not really, I'm glad I got to blab on about this. I love my job and I'm so lucky to get to do what I do.”


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