One of the biggest trends in tattooing is getting a portrait of your favorite celebrity. It's a seemingly perfect homage to an artist, musician, or influential thinker that you respect. There is no bigger dedication to that person and all that they stand for than getting their mug inked on your body for the long haul.
But with that decision comes a ton of risk. Celebrities are humans after all, and are privy to the same faults that we all suffer from. They have moments of weakness where they do regrettable things, while other times, they do some straight-up evil shit.
That's why I think getting a portrait of a celebrity is a huge risk, and one that I could never see myself making.
Celebrities at some point in their life are going to be embroiled in some sort of controversy. Some have more ridiculous controversies than others, but if you're going to be in the public eye so much, something bad is bound to happen. It's just a part of life. But because you are a celebrity, your life is constantly under a microscope, and people are more quick to come down harshly on you than ordinary people.
Now imagine that you have a tattoo of that celebrity. (Or maybe you don't even need to imagine.)
I don't think anyone would have expected Paula Deen or Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld) to be at the center of a controversy involving racial slurs, but here we are today. They were both highly respected and beloved celebrities in their own right, and people definitely had tattoos dedicated to them. Admittedly, there are probably way more Kramer tattoos, but I digress. If you got those tattoos before their controversial statements hit the news, you could look like an absolute pillock today for respecting them enough to get body art dedicated to them. It will lead to a lot of conversations like this...
"No, you don't understand, I got this Kramer tattoo BEFORE he said the n-word!"
What an uncomfortable situation to be in. If you don't explain yourself, you could come off like you support the actions of a man who clearly had an off night, and said some very regrettable things. No one wants to have to explain away their tattoos, you should be proud of them.
But celebrities can surprise us. There are many sides to celebrities that we don't understand and don't see. Even though they are more in the public eye today than ever, they still have private lives that can startle us.
Let me speak from a personal standpoint. I'm from Baltimore and I'm a huge Baltimore Ravens fan. A few years ago, when the Ray Rice scandal broke, I was in shock. I had actually met Ray Rice and he did volunteer work for a charity in my community. I thought he was a swell guy, and low-and-behold, he beats women. Things can change in an instant, and you can go from a beloved hero in the community to a scumbag domestic abuser. If I had gone through and gotten a Ray Rice tattoo or something, I'd feel like a complete jackass.
Perhaps no celebrity has endured this fall from grace like Bill Cosby. Until very recently, Cosby was seen as a comedic legend, an upstanding goofball who helped raise awareness for the black, middle-class community. His sitcom was iconic and instrumental in changing the perceptions of African Americans throughout the country.
Then a ton of sexual abuse allegations were levied against him, and all of that was erased.
But you have to understand that Cosby was a hero to many. In both the comedy industry and the black community. A litany of people looked up to Cosby and many people brandish Cosby tattoos. Unfortunately, since his legacy has been tarnished by his unfathomable actions, these people need to live on with their regrettable tattoo forever. Their hero let them down, and they must forever don the face of an accused rapist.
Surprisingly, sometimes celebrities rise like a phoenix from the ashes to turn their tarnished legacy around. There is no better example of this than Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson was convicted of rape charges in 1992 and served jail time for the crime. There is perhaps no act more vile than that of rape, yet somehow Tyson has atoned for his sins, and is now back in the public eye. People seem to have forgotten all about these acts, and it's okay to look back at his career as just a boxing legend.
So how do you transcend this? How do you make it past all of the awfulness that's associated with your name? Is it simply to do a cameo in a funny movie? Or participate in a Comedy Central Roast? What makes people forget about all of the hideousness associated with your legacy?
I'm not quite sure yet, but what I am sure of is that's it's totally cool to walk around with a Mike Tyson portrait, and no one will bat an eye.
If you are thinking about getting a tattoo of a celebrity, just know that it's an incredibly risky thing to do. Celebrities are people and people will let you down. That might just be the cynic in me speaking, but I'd rather not have to rely on celebrities acting perfectly all the time.
You know who you can always rely on — yourself. Get a tattoo special to you, get a tattoo that tells your story, not some celebrity who could drop a racial slur at any given moment. You are in control of your life, you can't rely on celebrities to represent who you are.
I say you get a portrait of yourself.