Tastemaker Profile: Brian Keith Thompson - World's Top Piercer
How fashion’s fixation with multiple piercings has made studios, such as Body Electric in Los Angeles, more sought after than ever before.
When I first step into Body Electric off Melrose Avenue, I am overwhelmed by the sound of loud buzzing. There are 5 people getting tattooed behind the reception desk. I sit down next to a FedEX delivery man (still in uniform) and a 40-year-old mom (reading a Pretty Little Liars script)— typical Hollywood. Minutes pass by, and the studio continues to fill with people of all creeds, from all walks of life. After 20 minutes of ardent people-watching, I sit down with Body Electric’s owner, Brian Keith Thompson.
Brian is unique in that, while he owns a tattoo shop, he’s not a tattoo artist. The former marine, turned business owner’s personal 30+ clients a day, including stars like Scarlett Johansson, Beyoncé, Bella Thorne and Pia Mia, come in because of his skill as a piercer, and a sharp eye for trends. This year: multiples and upper lobes; last year: the septum. According to Brian, this influx is happening now more than ever because of social media, “Trends take off faster and are more short-lived now because of social media. Tattoos are like a marriage, piercing like a mistress. You can change it, you can get rid of it, and alternate it- as jewelry styles change you can adapt and flow with those changes. A tattoo is a tattoo. Thompson claims, “You will be dated by the tattoos you get if you are doing it for a trend.”
When you first take a look at Brian, it seems like he has defies moderation- covered in tattoos and decorated with diamond gauges. Yet his unyielding faith in cleanliness and unruffled demeanor set the tone of the shop. Brian watches everything closely, creating an invincible calm. He also follows piercing rules by the book, “I don’t do any weird, unusual things. I do what heals. I don’t— well I don't want to say ‘I don’t’ because I have been to prison, so obviously I broke the rules a little bit— but, when I’m into something I don’t break the rules.” This idea is paramount to Body Electric’s success. He has tapped into today’s consumer and maintains a salubrious environment, while still one that is off-beat.
Brian notes that humans love piercing because, “You can physically change your appearance the way you want to, and nobody has control over it. There are not many things in life that people have that control over.” And although ultimately he is the one who has control over the needle, he takes all of his piercees’ anxieties into consideration. “There is a connection. You are putting an object into someone’s body. You are guiding them through a nervous time, a scary moment. A lot of people get a little anxious before a piercing; it’s completely natural. I get anxious before I get pierced. It is a normal feeling, but it is a feeling you shouldn't run from. It’s a feeling you should embrace because you don’t get to feel it very often.”
When I consult him on my anxiety to get punctured, he puts me right at ease, “Girl, let’s check it out.” He brings me to his jewelry case, and shows me the four selected designers he carries at the shop, “I only carry the best.” Swaddling my ear while sizing up my face shape, hair color, and skin tone, he deftly curates the canvas that is my left ear. Congruent with my personal style, he picks a small gold hoop for my upper lobe, and asks me if I want to do something a little more adventures and recommends my conch (inner ear). Susceptible to anxiety, I’m surprisingly relaxed.
I whisper, “In the moment right?” as he leads me into the back workroom. Confident, he utters back, “Let’s get it done, dude. Let’s get pierced.”
TOP PIERCING TIPS:
· One of the best ways to freshen up your look is to add or update the holes that already exist. Your appearance can dramatically change with a luminescent inner ear stud.
· As of now, clients are coming to Brian for daith, upper cartilage, and conch piercings. Daith piercing (the innermost cartilage fold of the ear) does not only look beautiful but has been proven as acupuncture pressure point, helping alleviate migraines.
· The movement of trends is fast paced. Last year, half of his day was filled with nipple appointments. Now, with 90’s athleisure seen on our sidewalks and catwalks, the belly button trend could make a comeback. Maybe not the butterfly charm aesthetic that the trend originally paired the piercing with, but a more simple and minimalist style ring. In addition, the smiley is making a comeback- a piercing of the small piece of skin right over your front teeth. The smiley piercing is the rework, more clandestine version of the prevailing septum.
· On Making piercing less painful, Brian suggests trying not to think about it as much and placing mind over matter.
· Brian says one of the most Painful places to get pierced, in his personal experience, would be the nipples. But that, luckily, the pain is short lived.
· If you’d like to go for the least painful piercing, the earlobe will always be the way to go.