“I was working on Sixth Avenue and West Fourth Street in a kind of dingy, grimy tattoo parlor,” recalls tattoo artist Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy of the time he first met Rihanna, almost 10 years ago. “It was right when ‘Umbrella’ came out. I met her, I tattooed her, then I went home and googled her name.” Now, of course, he’s a bit more familiar with the fashion icon. “She’s the shit, man. Her style is fucking dope.”
The duo’s first tattoo together, a Sanskrit verse etched down Rihanna’s right hip and thigh, is not her most visible or well known. That honor goes to the henna-inspired hand tattoo, or the gun beneath her right arm, or even the jaunty “Shhh . . . ” on one bossy finger (all done by Bang Bang).
But it’s a tattoo that launched a thousand more. Since that first encounter, Bang Bang has been responsible for a sizeable percentage of well-known celebrity tattoos. Cara Delevingne’s delicate and ferocious pointer-finger lion, Adele’s graceful scripted “Paradise,” even Justin Bieber’s “Forgive”—all were done by the dude-next-door, celeb-by-accident tattoo artist.
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