Brian Keith Thompson, Body Electric

Brian Keith Thompson, Body Electric

We're constantly talking about a number of trends in style, beauty, wellness and more. This month, we chatted with Celebrity Piercer and owner, Brian Keith Thompson of the famed Body Electric, which is Hollywood's destination for tattoos, body piercing and jewelry! We wanted to know more about trends that are taking place in body piercing, how he came into the business, who he has worked on (Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone are just a few as well as who he'd love to include within his client list. We also want to know what we should look for, as those that may be getting piercings at their local studio.

ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us how you got into the world of piercing? 

BRIAN KEITH THOMPSON: That’s actually a funny story. I was getting tattooed at Body Electric and, after five years of frequenting the place, it came up for sale and I bought it. I needed a job, so I started piercing. I didn’t realize I would actually fall in love with it and actually be good at it; I was just doing it to kind of pass the time and get the respect of the fellow employees by having something other to do than just make money and run the business.
And the better I got at it, the more I loved it; the more I loved it, the better I got at it.

AM: What is Body Electric, when did it start, what services are offered there?

BKT: Body Electric was started March 16, 1992 by a tattoo artist from Switzerland. I became the proprietor on June 11, 2006. I’ve owned it for 11 years. The services we offer are tattoo, body piercing, and jewelry sales. We don’t do anything other than those three things.

AM: Why is Body Electric such a destination that has a number of celebrities flocking to it?

BKT: I ask myself that question every day. I think it has to do with a lot of different things: (a) it’s been around for a long time, so it's kind of a pillar in the Hollywood tattoo community; (b) consistency and trust: like any business—be it a restaurant, retail story, tattoo-piercing studio—
you need to have consistency. And that consistency needs to be maintained month after month, year after year. And you need to maintain trust with your clients. If your clients trust you and you can maintain that trust, you can maintain your business and you will be there year after year. If you erode that trust, it’s just a matter of time before you’re closing your doors for good.

AM: We’re always talking about trends. Are there trends in piercing we should keep an eye out for as we continue into 2018?

BKT: Yes. Multiple dainty constellation-style piercings decorating the ears is very in right now—multiple locations, but doing it small, dainty, and with taste. Also, I think that asymmetry is going to continue to be a very popular trend. A lot of my clients aren’t wearing the same earring in both the first holes of their lobes. I’m seeing this a lot more. I’ve been an advocate for asymmetry for quite some time and I love to see that it’s catching on and people are embracing it, because you can have two different looks: your left ear has one look, your right has another. To me, that’s really cool to have that change of pace.

AM: For those who are looking to get their piercing done that won’t do so at Body Electric, what should be looked for in terms of sanitary work spaces and processes?

BKT: Start researching online. If you find a studio that doesn’t have a website, that’s the first red flag. If you find a studio that has a sprinkle of bad reviews, but the majority of them are good, that’s not a reflection on the studio. It’s usually a reflection on the clients.

If you see a lot of five-star reviews and then one star and then a fifteen fivestar reviews and another one-star, those are probably a specific client's attitude problem or just their taste—not liking the particular studio. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. (And why would you want to?).

If you see a studio that has nothing but two- and three-star reviews, one after another, and people are just voicing their concerns, that is a sign that maybe you should investigate further. Maybe walk into the establishment. If you walk in and it looks cluttered, it doesn’t smell good, the floor looks dingy, the employees look like they are really pissed and they don’t want to help you, just turn around and go find somewhere else. You will regret it if you don’t.

A clear sign of a functioning, good business is the employees are happy. If you walk in and everybody is miserable, that’s the sign of all signs. You’ll get a gut feeling. You’ll know when you’re in the right location. Everyone has a different taste and style. A studio that you like, someone else may not like. It doesn’t mean that you’re wrong or they’re right. It’s just your taste—you like this particular studio and that’s fine, too. But definitely look at the website. Find a piercer or a tattoo artist that likes your style.

Look at their portfolio. Do they do the style of work that you like? Do you see it in their portfolio? If they just tell you that they do a certain style of work and they’re good at it, that’s not enough. Somebody who is really good at a particular craft is going to have photos of that craft and if they’re doing it well, they are going to have multiple, different options for you to look at. A true professional is going to have this photo evidence readily available.

Not all artists use printed-out portfolios anymore. I don’t even have one. It’s mostly digital now. My portfolio is my Instagram. And that's okay. So just check their Instagram out. If you see things you like and you see that they can handle it, that's the best way to go forward, I think.

AM: Is there any recovery or upkeep that needs to be kept in mind after piercing a body part?

BKT: Absolutely. There’s months of aftercare and keep-up. I’ve said many times that getting a piercing is an instant gratification, but it can take months—sometimes up to a year—to heal a specific body part. And you have to have this in mind when you get pierced. “Do I have the time to care for this? Do I have the maturity to care for this? Do I have the patience for it?" All
of these factors in and sometimes it can be a "slow boat to China," but if you're patient and thorough, you can heal it and move on.

“... I think that asymmetry is going to continue to be a very popular trend. A lot of my clients aren’t wearing the same earring in both the first holes of
their lobes. I’m seeing this a lot more. I’ve been an advocate for asymmetry for quite some time and I love to see that it is catching on and people are
embracing it ...”

— Brian Keith Thompkins

I would also say that if you're starting to get pierced, start with no more than three at a time. Heal those successfully and then move on. Doing too much too soon can just add to the problems that you may have healing. 

AM: What celebrities have you worked on and who would you like to work on that you’ve not yet done so at this point?

BKT: I worked on Jennifer Lawrence multiple times, Emma Stone, FKA Twigs comes in quite often. I’ve done multiple piercings on her. I’ve pierced Beyoncé numerous times. I just recently pierced Adele. That was really cool. Those are a few of the celebrities I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

I was watching Saturday Night Live this past Saturday and Natalie Portman was hosting. I was losing it when she did that rap. There are a few close-ups of her and...funny, that's how much I
think about work... I'm watching this at home and thinking, "Wow, I'd like to pierce her ear.” I don’t know if that sounds weird or not, but sometimes I do that. I just see an ear and I think “Wow, that’s a really great look. I’d like to pierce that.” I told my girlfriend that I hope I get to pierce Natalie Portman.

Read more from the Feb Issue and see At the Body Electric in mag.