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Teen Student Podcast Challenge Winners Talk Tattoos


Every year, NPR brings you some of the best podcasts from young people around the country through the Student Podcast Challenge. Students write, record and edit a podcast about anything they want - insects, hometown mysteries, historical events or - in the case of two high school students from Cicero, Ill. - tattoos. Here's NPR's Sequoia Carrillo.

SEQUOIA CARRILLO, BYLINE: Who do you think of when you picture someone with tattoos? The answer is different for everyone. And it's the central question that Julian Fausto and his cousin Eric Guadarrama asked in their podcast.


JULIAN FAUSTO: All right, listeners, listen. So I'm going to start off from the beginning. So basically, ever since I was younger, I knew since pre-K that I wanted tattoos.

ERIC GUADARRAMA: Whoa, for real - that long? Sorry to cut you off, but before you continue, who influenced you?

FAUSTO: A lot of people actually did, but I'm going to tell you the main ones - rappers like Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, MGK, but the main influences actually came from WWE - wrestlers such as, you know, CM Punk.

GUADARRAMA: Continue your story.

FAUSTO: All right. So every year, I asked my mom for a tattoo as a birthday gift. And yes, I know that is illegal since I wasn't even a teenager at the time. But I didn't know because I remember seeing a photo of Lil Wayne with tattoos. So long story short, after years - and I mean a lot of years - of asking for a tattoo, I finally got one for my 16th birthday.

CARRILLO: This year, Julian is a senior, and Eric is a junior. And they've grown up together their whole lives. Their podcast goes on to talk about the stigmas around tattoos and why some people even regret them. They do give a balanced argument, but it's clear that Julian and Eric really love tattoos. One big reason - Julian is an artist, and he wants to draw all of his own tattoos and maybe even give them to other people one day. I talked to them about this recently at Julian's high school, J. Sterling Morton East.

When did you start drawing?

FAUSTO: Not to sound cringy or corny, but like, since, like, day one, basically.

GUADARRAMA: I mean, I used to draw, too.


GUADARRAMA: But then - but when I saw his drawings, I'm like, damn, I need to stop, bro. Like, I was good at drawing - you can ask him - but not too good. Just looking at his stuff is like, I'm so amazed. Like, so I just focused on my own things.

CARRILLO: Eric kept pulling out his phone and showing pictures of the original designs Julian had drawn, dating all the way back to middle school.

FAUSTO: So that's Bart Simpson, and then on my eyebrow, it says Chicago. Then I got a cross, and then after that, the heartbeat thing. And on my, like, chest, I had a girlfriend that I was dating back then (laughter). We're not with her anymore, but (laughter)... And yeah, I had to start to somewhere.

CARRILLO: They said they liked tattoos from such a young age because everyone they loved had them. It was a very normal, comforting thing.

FAUSTO: I looked up to people that have tattoos, so that made me want to get one. And my mom has tattoos, and everyone in my family has tattoos.

CARRILLO: Eric and Julian's moms are sisters and actually got their first tattoos together when they were 13. They got them done in a friend's basement. But when Julian's 16th birthday rolled around, he wanted a professional one. So he drew it himself, researched an artist online, drove to Indiana with his mom - because in Illinois, even with parental consent, you have to be 18 - and now he's ready for more.

FAUSTO: My goal by the end of college is to have my neck down, and then - I'm not getting any on my face, but I do plan to get some, like, behind my ears, some - you know, something along those lines.

CARRILLO: They're really expensive.

FAUSTO: Yeah, they are.

CARRILLO: Yeah (laughter). So that's, like, an investment.



GUADARRAMA: That's why we got a job for it.

CARRILLO: Eric and Julian hope their podcast and their story will encourage people to not judge a book by its cover - or a person by their tattoos.

GUADARRAMA: Like, you see a 17-year-old kid with Chicago on it, it doesn't mean that he's in a gang, you know? Like, let's normalize having tattoos. It's not anything means a gang because that's not what these are, you know? So yeah, that's the reason why most of these people don't even want to get tattoos because they're afraid they're going to get checked. They're afraid many of the things going to happen. So if you see somebody with a tattoo, you know, just pretend like it's not even there. Don't think too much about it.


CARRILLO: Sequoia Carrillo, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sequoia Carrillo is an assistant editor for NPR's Education Team. Along with writing, producing, and reporting for the team, she manages the Student Podcast Challenge.