A glimpse into one Calgarian’s unique profession
Nia Kulbaba, head piercer and manager at Tribal Expression, comes face to pelvis with one genital piercing a day on average. For her, this occurrence is typical, at least no less than any other modification she conducts day-to-day.
“After eight years it’s nice to do something other than a bellybutton ring, and when you can actually help people feel more confident in the bedroom, that’s something that’s really important,” says Kulbaba. “I think everybody should feel that way and love their body. That’s what I help people do.”
While other little girls in her small, Southern Manitoba hometown grew up wanting to be dancers, actresses, or models, Kulbaba always knew she wanted to do something different.
“My mom is heavily tattooed, and when I was 12 she was like, ‘You should get a piercing, you will really like it.’ And from there I was hooked, it must have been passed down in the genes.”
However, despite her passion for her work and dedication to her practice, the skill-set required in this ‘unique’ profession did not, at first, come so easily to Kulbaba.
“The hardest thing was learning how to hurt people, how to get inside their bubble and actually hurt them,” she says of her first years training as a piercer.
“(Clients) don’t know you, they’re just assuming that you know how to do this properly. They’re putting a lot of faith in you.
“You just try to become their best friend and make them feel as comfortable as possible, tell them everything’s going to be ok, assure them that they will live through this, and they’re usually happy in the end. You just got to tell yourself that they’re paying you to do it! This is what they want!”
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it! As one of the only shops in Calgary that provides genital piercing, and with both male and female clients seemingly preferring female piercers to men, Kulbaba seems to have found her niche in this city.
“I did not want to sit in an office from nine ’til five – I wanted to be surrounded by art, I wanted to be surrounded by people that are more like me and who have the same interests as me.”
And although she explains her job is far less glamorous than it appears — an hourly cycle of sterilization, bookings, and blood spatter, the fact of the matter is, it’s never boring.
“Sometimes by the end of the day I’ve talked so much that I can’t properly put sentences together,” says Kulbaba. “Everybody has a new story and if you’re on everyone’s level it’s like every 20 minutes is different.”