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Over the past several years, celebrities like Justin Bieber, Rihanna, and Miley Cyrus have made a significant impact on the tattoo industry. They’ve helped bring tattooing into the mainstream and have made artists like Bang Bang, Jonboy, and Dr. Woo recognizable names to the general public. A celebrity can help elevate and expose the career of an artist and we’ve seen a number of artists go from known within the industry to recognized by media companies such as Vogue, Buzzfeed, and Bustle. However, while tattooing a celebrity can do a lot of good for an artist, these experiences can get them in hot water if they’re not careful. Tattooing a celebrity or a public figure often has a unique set of restrictions, which prevent an artist from running off to the press about the experience. Many stars require tattoo artists to sign a non-disclosure agreement, a contract that is seldom discussed within the industry at large.

A non-disclosure agreement (or NDA as it’s often called) is a legal contract between at least two parties that “outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict access to or by third parties.” NDAs vary between countries and some states, which is something that a tattoo artist should be mindful of. 

As celebrities have acquired more tattoos and the experience of inking public figures becomes more commonplace, artists are required to understand the legal conditions of an NDA. “A lot of my celebrity clients prefer to maintain their privacy and try to keep their personal lives out of the media,” says London Reese, who has inked Julia Michaels, Pete Davidson, and Ariana Grande. “I am often required to sign a non-disclosure agreement or NDA before tattooing them.” Reese goes on to say that NDAs are protection for celebrities and they prevent artists from running to the tabloids with any personal information that is shared during the tattoo experience. Although celebrities are in the public eye, at the end of the day they’re still people just like anyone else and many form intimate bonds with an artist. “A lot of these clients become friends, so I’m keen to respect and protect their privacy,” explains Reese. 

Beyond going to the press, an NDA can also impact an artists ability to share the experience of tattooing a celebrity on social media. While almost any artist would jump at the opportunity to share a tattoo they did on a celebrity, because of the incredible impact it can have on their business, tattooers do need to be careful and respect their client’s wishes. “Some of my clients don’t mind when I share their tattoos with the world, but I always ask for permission,” shares Reese. “Their lives are always under a microscope and I’m mindful of that.” 

When it comes to tattooing celebrities, NDAs will likely always be in the picture and it’s important for artists to be aware of their rights. Tattooing a celebrity can be an amazing and career-altering experience, however, no one wants to get in hot water with a star’s lawyer. If you’re an artist and you have the opportunity to tattoo someone in the public eye, read the contract thoroughly and ask for permission before sharing the experience on social media. And at the end of the day, be conscious of the fact that every celebrity is different—some will want to keep the experience a secret while others may allow you to be interviewed about the tattoo by a place like INKED Magazine.