My video shoot with Tati Gabrielle for Elite Daily's Take Me With You series isn't going as planned. Three hours in, and she's already held my hand, fanned my face, and kept me from fainting on camera. We're at West 4 Tattoo in the West Village of New York City, where the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina actor is adding a fresh piece of ink to her collection. As Tati Gabrielle gets her tattoo — a pair of mirror-image Bird of Paradise flowers on her right forearm — she tells me with complete confidence her pain level on a scale of one to 10 is a five. Meanwhile, my simple piercings leave me a sweaty, anxious mess.
I chickened out of getting a tattoo alongside Tati hours before, taking what I thought was the easier route by getting a couple of cartilage studs in my right ear. As the second needle punctures my skin, I tell Tati my pain level is also a five. Then, with my producers, the camera operators, the ear piercer, Tati, and her tiny 4-year-old chihuahua named Nas surrounding me, everything goes black.
For someone who plays such a villainous character on TV (Prudence, cunning leader of the Weird Sisters on Netflix’s hit show, which debuted its second season on April 5), what Tati does in response to my mortifying panic attack might surprise you. As I come to, she helps lift my legs, feeds me M&Ms to level out my blood sugar, and even puts Nas on my lap for some extra pupper comfort. Yes, it's as generous and caring as it sounds. (And yes, this was as embarrassing for me as it sounds.)
After my breakdown, Tati settles back into her chair, and the tattoo artist, Young, gets back to work. Tati sits pretzel-style with Nas cuddled up in her legs when I notice her bright red socks. On each of them is a big, happy face smiling ear to ear. They remind me of Tati herself.
I feel like I'm in a time in my life where, both spiritually and in reality, I'm leveling up.
Tati says her brother likes to call her “psychotically chipper.” From the experience (and it was an experience) we had together, I completely get why. The woman has dozens of needles piercing her skin and she's casually snacking on Champagne-flavored macarons and discussing the meaning of life, art, family, and Sabrina with me. "I'm an extremely optimistic person," she says, laughing. "I guess my friends would describe me as goofy. I'm very silly, sometimes without even trying. I have friends that have told me they're laughing at me, not with me. But not, like, in a mean sense, but just like, 'Aw, Tati.' I'm like, 'What! What did I do!?'"
The Bird of Paradise flower has special meaning to Tati because it's her zodiac flower — she's an Aquarius, born in January. The flower symbolizes thoughtfulness and joy. To her, the two flowers reflecting each other in her tattoo show "the reflection of past self [and] future self, or the divide between reality and the imagination." But it's bigger than that for her. She tells me, "I feel like I'm in a time in my life where, both spiritually and in reality, I'm leveling up. I'm coming into myself as a woman and I feel like I'm growing into the next cycle and the next phase."
In my research, I also find out that the Bird of Paradise flower represents the ability to have a good perspective on life. I know Tati does, but she didn't need the tattoo to tell me. It's engrained in who she is already.