Zoe Weisman and Natasha Newman-Thomas are seniors at the School of the Art Institute.

Liz Armstrong: What made you want to get a grill?

Zoe: I always wanted braces. I never had them and I think they’re really hot.

Liz Armstrong: How much did those cost?

Natasha: Between $400 and $500. My mom has wanted gold teeth her whole life but feels she’s past the point where it would be OK for her to have them, so she said she would pay half because I was living out her dream.

Liz Armstrong: Where did you get them, and what are they made of?

Zoe: Mine is really ghetto. It’s from Da Hot Zone in Logan Square. It’s white gold with diamonds molded to my teeth. You boil the wax, put the grill in, bite down, keep it like that for a while until it hardens, and there you go.

Natasha: I got mine at a custom jeweler in Oakland about two years ago. It’s fake, not copper but something like that. I molded it with wax. They make a mold of your mouth like they would at the dentist, then they keep it on record in case you want to get more. Then you choose the design that you want–you can get really elaborate stuff, or not.

Zoe: There are some that cost $20,000.

Natasha: They can also etch photos into them–

Zoe: And do names–

Natasha: And words. I would kind of like to have some like that.

Zoe: I’m saving up for fangs. That’s what I really want. Donald Fagen fangs.

Natasha: We both love Steely Dan. Maybe I’ll get tops that say WALTER BECKER and you can get bottoms that say DONNY FAGEN!

Liz Armstrong: Donald Fagen doesn’t have fangs!

Zoe: He just looks like a vampire.

Liz Armstrong: What kind of reaction do you get when you wear them?

Natasha: One time I left mine at a Steak n Shake and when I drove back to get it all the employees sang the song “Grillz” to me. This baby and I have gone through a lot together. I’ve lost it and dug through like eight bags of trash for it.

Zoe: I was at the barber shop recently getting braids and some guy was looking at my grill and not saying anything. I was like, “What?” And he said, “I’m not mad, it’s cute.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andrea Bauer.