I first met Loreia at the UKAPP 2022 conference and immediately knew she was an incredible person. A hardworking, passionate piercer who owns Unknown Pleasures Piercing in Stuttgart, Germany and travels the world attending and teaching at international conferences. Loreia was kind enough to spend an evening talking with me about her origin story, her career path and her amazing insights into why we do what we do. Loreia is a powerhouse of a person and I am eternally grateful to know her.
Gemma: When did you first become interested in body modification and piercing?
Loreia: It was really early but sometimes you’re not aware that you’re interested in something until later when you find the label for it. As a child I really loved to play around with looks.When I drew myself, also as a little child, I drew myself with a lip ring. I really liked to draw punks and people with coloured hair. So my interests go very far back.
When I was 13, my first piercing was a nose piercing and I just loved it. I really felt badass and from that time, my passion was growing. Early on in my life I became interested in corset training. I really love the way it shapes my body. So I guess this was really my first body mod experience because I had my first corset when I was 15 or 16.
Later, I started playing around with needles.
I wrote my bachelor thesis about why people try to change their appearance. Body modification is not just things like horns, implants, scars or tattoos and piercings. But also like dyeing your hair and playing around with your figure. Clothing could be kind of a temporary body mod because you can totally change your appearance, your height etc.
G: I had no idea about your bachelor’s thesis, what was your experience in education?
L: Yes, I have a Master’s degree in philosophy. My Bachelor thesis was about why people are changing their appearance and what are their motivations behind it. Of course, I examined the classic bodymod scene that we are in, like tattoos and piercing but also the fitness industry, plastic surgery, cosmetics, diets etc. All the things you can do to really change your appearance. I looked at it from a philosophical point of view. It was pretty interesting.
And for my Master thesis, about 5 years ago, I wrote about how to become the person you are – I had a deep dive into Foucault’s philosophical view of the world. Also, Nietzsche a lot. And I looked at the question of how you can live your life as a piece of art. The topic was: “How do I become what I am? – Self love and self care by Foucault based on the Nietzsche’s philosophy of the art of living.
I guess the first step was looking more at the physical appearance and how society affects this – so more an outside observation, and the second step was the personal state of mind and looking at your point of view of the world – inner observation.
G: I have this conversation a lot about how body modification is not just the extremes like tongue splits and branding. There’s so many ways that people modify their bodies. It’s fascinating, humans are strange creatures.
L: Humans are totally strange creatures but so is society – because society labels what is good and what is bad and what is nicely looking and what is not. You cannot complain about the person with the horns when you have lip filler and a boob job, you know what I mean? Because you’re kind of the same!
G: Breast implants, absolutely fine. Horn implants, that person now can’t have a job.
L: Indeed. And it does not have to be this “extreme” look – fun fact: I grew up in the north part of Germany where I experienced people who were a bit more open minded to different looks and I moved to the south about 16 years ago now. Back then I tried to find a job just for the summer and I applied for a job in an ice cream parlour. I had blue hair at that time and people were like “no fucking way you’re working here with that appearance”. This was kind of funny and shocking at the same time.
The thing is, we are living in an oppressive system. Doesn’t matter if we are aware of it or not – we are.
And not everybody is able to free their minds and also to accept themselves as they are and their needs and how they want to be. Maybe because they never learned to, maybe they are afraid to face their truth and not to fit in this system anymore.
The result of that is that they often have a lot of anger, stress and real tension. I see people and they are maybe fascinated by someone who is living their life modified in some way, and I guess an inner voice tells them “you are not able to, or you’re not allowed to [have that piercing or hair colour or tattoo]” and then the anger really hits and this stored bad energy comes out.
I really believe if people would, take care of their needs, like really see what they want and what they want to be and what they need and what they don’t and not give that much of a fuck about what societies want them to be – we would live in a more peaceful world.
G: What was it like growing up in northern Germany? Was your alternative aesthetic accepted?
L: I was an outsider. I grew up in a very religious family so I’m the black sheep. My parents split up when I was 13 and they sent me to a boarding school. Before that I really had a hard time at my school. In the boarding school I had a fresh start, I didn’t want to be there but It was the best thing that could happen to me when I look back now. It was a boarding school for talented kids, there was a wild mix of gifted children and sports elite.
G: What was your career path like?
L: When I was in the boarding school, at 18 I thought “fuck this shit. I’m out of here. I don’t need any education at all.” I started an apprenticeship and after a year I met my now life partner. Because of different things that happened before in my life, I needed a fresh start so I moved to the south of Germany where I could continue my apprenticeship in another place and start a life with my partner. But over the summer I decided to throw that path away, finish school and go to university. I had to finance myself and I started to do different mini jobs. I worked at Lush for a while, I worked in a creative market for paintings. I also did a lot of photo shoots, make-up and modelling.
This went on and I became friends with a photographer and his girlfriend. She worked in a BDSM dungeon and I started working there with her while I studied. There, I actually started playing around with needles and also learned to work sterile because when you do, for example, a catheter, you really want to be sterile.
This is where I really began to be interested in piercing and a friend of mine in Munich at that time, she said she could show me some piercing things, as she worked in a piercing studio there.
I’m totally self taught and this is also why I aim for more and for higher and for better. I had been to several studios in my area, but I didn’t like how they treated me as a customer. I knew I should be definitely better.This is how I came to professional piercing, I guess.
After a while I had the idea in my mind to open up my own shop and when I have an idea I’m normally going to do it.. So I reached out to a nail salon, actually that had a spare room in the basement and that’s how I opened my shop.
G: I love that you became a professional piercer because of your experience in the kink world because those two industries are so intertwined.
L: I had the luck that sterile working was a natural thing for me because the ladies in the dungeon came from a medical background and so I was aware of the dangers working with needles and blood. This was a good start for me. Before I opened my piercing studio, I read a lot of anatomy books and internet forums. I was always on the hunt for better quality, nice looking jewellery and equipment. I did a lot of research but it was not that easy.
My first contact with other professional piercers was the BMXnet conference in 2012. There I also met Mark from Neometal and he introduced me to safe jewellery and materials. I was so proud when I brought back my first little bag of high quality piercing jewellery.
Back in those days I also met Thomas Stolte, online first, who worked with jewellery from Industrial Strength – I emailed him and he was super friendly, super kind and he really helped me to get things going. He explained to me what to look for and what to aim for and how to make a proper order. To place an high quality order back then was a bit like trying to cast a spell – you had long lists with ordering codes and put it all together by yourself including all the specifics of colours, gauges etc, crossed your heart three times that you did it all right and waited like a child for Christmas to get these shinies. Today everything is a lot easier with the online systems and lower wait times.
G: Tell me about your conference experiences.
L: The first conference you are going to, is often the one that has the most impact because you don’t know shit and then you’re aware that you didn’t know shit. Jane Absinth phrased this really nicely, she said when she was at her first conference, she really wanted to go back and just burn her whole studio. I really understood that.
I’m really grateful for the many people I have met through conferences and for the ideas that have helped me to grow and find my path in the community to better my career.
In 2015 and 2016 I was a scholar for the APP conference and it was my first time going to the “big one”. I applied first for the Al D scholarship [now legacy scholarship]. I was refused in the last round and I applied for the No Excuses Scholarship, which I got. Las Vegas was really, really overwhelming for me. It was really tough shit, but more on a personal level (is there anything “real” in Las Vegas?!).
I’m really grateful for the peers that made it possible for me to attend twice as a scholar to the APP Conference. I really worked hard to get to that moment. But at the beginning of 2016 my mother had passed away and I had to attend to those matters, the community came together and I was granted the scholarship for a second time.
Conferences are very important, networking is very important, but most important are the conversations you have in between and after classes. I’m an extroverted introverted person (INFJ) but I actually met my best friend for life, Jane, at my second APP conference in Las Vegas.
She met me sitting a bit aside at the pool party and we started nerding out all evening. We got into some really deep talks about everything. This is what I appreciate about conferences: you have the opportunity to speak with people over days about topics that are in your daily life and maybe they can also change your point of view or give you a bit more inspiration
G: What was the No Excuses Scholarship?
L: I really wanted to desperately go to Las Vegas and I was so sad that I was denied from the APP at the last moment. I guess it is my personality but when I don’t reach a goal, I get motivated to try and try again. Back then, to apply, I had to send a huge PDF with my reference letters and answers about who I got inspired by in the industry and why, and who am I and why do I need this and why do I need to go. So a committee of piercers decided that they wanted me to go. I thought it would be like the Al D scholarship and I would be part of a volunteer team but it wasn’t. I wanted to be there to work so I sneaked myself into the volunteer group and said “I’m here so I am working.”
G: Was that your first time outside of Europe?
L: Yes and I am very grateful for the scholarship because it was a shit ton of money I had to spend for the flights so this was a really huge deal for me back in 2015. I had my shop, of course but I also did my studies and worked at the dungeon. I worked at my shop, appointment only, but I wasn’t booked all the time. I had to work out how to have enough money to manage all that.
G: It sounds like you’ve always been one of those people that has a goal and will work endlessly to achieve it.
L: I guess it depends on what you’ve experienced in life. And if you have been able to make some decisions. When I graduated, I could have studied political science because I was very good at it and it would lead to a career. But I thought, I won’t do that, I will study philosophy to do what I am really interested in because I can earn money in whatever way I want. There was a point in my life where I decided I just wanted to do the things that fulfil me. I will not sell myself and will not do stuff that I don’t want to do because I experienced that a lot in my childhood and also in my teenage years And so, when I made the move to the South, I built myself a new life.
Of course, this sounds really powerful, but you know, sometimes you have to be powerful to keep yourself alive and protect your sensitive self.
G: You’re an incredible woman. How did you get involved with the VPP (Verband Professioneller Piercer)?
L: The VPP was the brainchild of Thomas Stolte and me. I was aware of the Ask a Professional Piercer group on Facebook and I wanted to do something similar in German. In this conversation, the idea was born to start an association that isn’t only about educating piercers but clients as well. I really love the idea to connect people, share some knowledge, grow with each other to set some standards and to avoid trouble for the client
We spoke to Andre about the idea and we started writing down our standards and guidelines. But to start an association, you need more people to be on board. So this is where other people came in to start the process.
G: You also host Now We Talk seminars at your studio, how did that start?
L: Actually, the NowWeTalks are clients aimed. Piercers are totally welcome, but they are client focused. I started with the hashtag #pussybling, because I did a lot of vulva piercings and I was so sad because I had so many wonderful women sitting with me who never ever had a proper look at themselves. I explained to them their anatomy and then explained how beautiful they are. Then I thought, okay, I have to do something. The first NowWeTalk was about vulva piercing and what is possible but most of the work I do is around educating clients about anatomy.
It’s more for empowerment. I host female identified-only evenings but I also had a version where couples could come in, so that both can ask questions. It was really really nice, I started inviting other speakers like Andre or a friend from my philosophical study to talk on different topics and it grew from there
G: Especially in the UK, education around genital anatomy is so lacking. It’s really amazing that you are empowering people to learn more about themselves.
L: What I realised pretty early, and this is something I’m really grateful for, I was able to listen to Elayne Angel and also speak with her – she always talks positively about genitalia and anatomy. And this is really something that I grabbed and started doing myself. I had more than one client who was tearing up because nobody had ever spoken that nicely about their anatomy before.
G: I think a lot of people with vulvas are made to feel like their anatomy is “wrong” because it doesn’t look a certain way.
L: A client of mine, she came in with inverted nipples and she was really nervous about getting them pierced. We had a few appointments where we discussed it and when she finally had the piercings, I really had to stop her from running out of the piercing room to show her friends. She was so proud! At her aftercare appointments she said “I should have done this so much earlier. I’m so confident.” I really love what piercing can do to you and how it can help you to really find peace and find beautiful things in your body.
G: There’s a lot of crossover between empowerment, piercing, kink, reclamation, gender identity etcetcetc. Can we talk about the links between your career as a Dominatrix and a Professional Piercer?
L: I had the luck to work in a nice BDSM studio with a lot of really awesome ladies – a matriarchal bubble. And what I learned there for life, is to embrace yourself and embrace the way you are. That you don’t have to be ashamed of your body, you don’t have to be ashamed of your feelings, you don’t have to be ashamed of your sexuality. I had the wonderful opportunity to learn all that and this shaped me. It taught me that naked bodies are just bodies and of course, it can be arousing when you’re in a private setting but beside that, it’s just a body, you know?
And this acceptance of bodies and being totally okay with however you are, is what I try to give to my clients of whatever gender. It also taught me about accepting that you don’t have to be friends with everybody, you don’t have to be like everybody, but you can accept the differences and you can see what you have in common and work with that.
The bottom line for both industries is acceptance and taking proper care of people’s needs. You’re the one in power, as the piercer or as the Domme. You are the one who is leading and who is responsible for a safe environment, for a safe experience. You guide a person through the process. And these are totally different processes but you’re guiding them through it.
You have to be really aware of your responsibility and to make the experience as nice as it can be. And “nice” can be defined differently, of course. In the piercing room, I do not want my client to feel pain at all. I try to breathe with them, I try to guide them, I really like to calm them. But when I work with my guests, of course it’s different but it’s all about trust. It’s not like, “oh yeah, I’m a sadistic person, so let me stick needles into you.” That is not what’s happening in either room.
In any setting, as a professional, you need to be aware of yourself and the different aspects of your personal needs and also your work environment needs.In both. In the piercing room or the dungeon room, you’re totally confronted with people that already have an opinion of you without knowing you.
For example, I’m highly educated. But when you tell random people that you are a piercer, people often assume that I must not be educated. I was a problem child with dyed hair who pokes people for fun, because there is no other option possible career-wise.
G: I never considered it that way, but it’s true. When you tell people you’re a body piercer, they immediately make an assumption about you.
L: So I work piercing appointments only and of course people are asking me what I do the other days. A new client came in and she was referred by a friend. She heard that I work as a nurse when I’m not in the studio. I was like, “I do, but not as you think.”. It’s funny what people make up because they really, really need to put you in a box. It’s something we definitely have to stop because it helps nobody to have predefined opinions of someone.
G: How has the body modification scene changed in Germany?
L: Well, it changed for good. This is what I can say. In Germany, there are more followers than leaders. People are more inclined to keep working and piercing the same way they have for the past 20 years and not update things. There’s also more education available for clients and I’m really happy to see how in the last few years things have changed. The new generation of piercers are aiming in the right direction and connecting to each other
There was a time when piercers only connected to shit talk others piercers. And this is something I never liked. It’s now one of the VPP guidelines: “Der VPP kann nur als Einheit bestehen – dementsprechend ist kollegialer Umgang untereinander die Grundvoraussetzung. Dies beinhaltet konstruktive Kritik anzunehmen, wie auch geben zu können ohne dabei persönlich zu werden.”
“The VPP can only exist as a unit – accordingly, collegial interaction with one another is the basic requirement..This includes accepting and giving constructive criticism without becoming personal.”
Unfortunately there are a lot of people offering body modification services in Germany, using bloody and graphic IG posts and live streams to promote. Please, please use your brain and stop this! This can really fuck up things for the whole industry. Bodymod is more accessible in Germany but it’s not necessarily a good thing – so it is always important to choose the person that is allowed to modify you wisely!
I had a conversation about this at the APP conference, that all Germans are so modified and all are so extreme. We’re not. It is just as always: what you’re looking for, you will see.
G: Especially in American and UK media, we’re presented with this “extreme” image of the German alternative scene. If it’s some freaky fetish hardcore shit, it’s probably German.
L: Actually this is something that gave me a hard time as a young woman to be okay with identifying myself as a FemDom, because I had all these false impressions/assumptions in mind. I was trying to find who I was but basing that on these impressions of what I should be (or better what I definitely do not want to be).
There’s social constructs everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you go to the supermarket, if you’re thinking about how life should be, if you’re thinking about how a relationship or sex should be. Or how the alternative scene should be – you face these ideas and impressions that have been constructed for you.
I’m quite often asked why I don’t have a lot of facial piercings when I am a piercer. I have piercings for aesthetics, and this is, at the moment, the aesthetic I’m aiming for. More subtle, I still know my shit, I know how to modify your body more than you can imagine. I just choose right now to modify myself more subtly for my own aesthetics.
Humans have this concept of people in their mind, and we really have to lose it because it doesn’t make sense at all. Preconceptions give you a hard time, but it also gives the other person a hard time.
Another example, when I started piercing, I just worked one day a week because of all the other stuff going on and because we have a health insurance policy that says you’re not able to work that much as a student or you lose your health insurance. A lot of piercers, and this is something that really happened often in my career, would question if I am a “real” piercer because my studio was only open one or two days a week. They’d say I would never sell only high quality jewellery because the customers wouldn’t want it. They’d tell me that appointment-only studios would never work.
People really had this concept in their mind, how the (piercing) world should be and how it works. And didn’t believe that there would be anything outside of that.
I’m a living, happy example of being able to work two to three days a week with my clients in person in my shop. I’m happy that this allows me to really concentrate on my clients and connect with them and also be a little bit of part of their lives. I have a good work-life balance where I can focus on myself and my needs as well as those of the people around me.
G: That is really fucking aspirational. You do a lot of ear curation projects, can you tell us about that?
L: This is the beautiful thing about body piercing, self expression can be wherever you want. It could be genitalia work, getting your navel pierced, facial symmetry, heavy mod work. But it can also be a finely curated ear with specific pieces and placements to suit that person’s anatomy. This is really beautiful because you can help people to be how they want to be and they are deciding the path. They decide what and they decide how to treat themselves for just being themselves. And as a piercer, you are a part of that.
This is what I really love, I really love this kind of piercing client that is going for a concept. An artistic curation.
I’m on the high sensitive spectrum. I can really feel what people feel. In both of my careers, I can enjoy the joy that people are having. And it’s really like flowing through me. For example, a client gets really excited about a piece, I’m really getting excited about a piece. I’m really thankful for all the trust that people put in me and my work and also my taste.