In the midst of all the board shorts and khaki of Marina Del Rey, Luci Doll can be found piercing and curating jewelry designs every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday at Aesthetic Ambition. Accessorized with dozens of piercings and tattoos along with bright neon pink hair, seen held up by a stylish array of colorful barrettes, her vibe is warm and inviting.
The 31-year-old is a Venice Beach native and Otis College of Art and Design graduate. Her face and ears are covered in jewelry. She started piercing about seven years ago after she decided that the corporate design world wasn’t for her.
“The local shop near me was looking for a piercing apprentice, and I was like, That sounds rad, I’ll try it,” said Doll. “I just immediately fell in love with it as soon as I started.”
Doll was entering a historically hyper-masculine field of work. According to Beverly Yuen Thompson, author of the book “Covered in Ink,” only 20% of tattooists and piercers nationwide are women.
Doll explained the body modification world is historically male due to its origin in the gay kink community in the 90s.
“A lot of the elders in the community — in our industry — are from that time, and that’s why it’s kind of stayed on the male-dominated side,” said Doll. “But that’s definitely shifting.”
That shift is happening not just in local piercing shops, but in one of the most influential organizations in the industry: the Association of Professional Piercers.
Alicia Cardenas, an Indigenous artist, served as President of the APP from 2005 to 2008. Today, four of the eight members on the APP Board of Directors are female.
“I kind of started getting into it right when it started getting more into the equivalent of male and female piercers in the industry,” said Doll. “And when I was doing my apprenticeship, my mentor was very intentional with showing me female piercers that were good and respected.”
When she’s not at Aesthetic Ambition, Doll teaches piercing workshops at the Fakir Piercing Foundation in San Francisco. According to the foundation’s mission statement, the piercing workshops offer an intimate opportunity for students to be taught how to do “skilled, safe, aesthetically pleasing, and sophisticated body piercing” by experienced instructors.
“I went to all the courses before, like while I was learning, and they invited me back to teach,” said Doll.
Doll’s love and passion for body piercing shines, and it becomes clear that it’s more than simply a job to her.
“I would say the most psychologically rewarding part is helping people kind of become more comfortable and confident with themselves,” said Doll. “You wouldn’t even think just ear piercings could have so many emotional stories attached to it.”
Photos by Erika Zaro