Ariana Grande learned the hard way this week that mishaps can come with getting a tattoo in a foreign language.
After posting a picture of her brand-new “7 Rings” tattoo on Instagram, Grande quickly came to the very public realization that the characters actually translate to “tiny barbecue grill."
She laughed it off, professing her love for "tiny bbq grills," but the incident raises the question: What are the dos and don'ts of getting ink that relates to another person’s culture? From misspellings to microaggressions, Dr. Kevin Nadal, a professor of psychology at the City University of New York, told InsideEdition.com what to keep in mind.
“One of the things that’s really important for us to learn from this lesson is that if you’re going to get a tattoo, it’s important for you to do your research and find out what that tattoo really means,” Nadal said.
The pop star took to social media Tuesday to announce her new tattoo supposedly commemorating her song “7 Rings,” but fans and critics alike were quick to point out that “七輪” or “shichirin” actually translates to “small Japanese charcoal grill.”
“Taking somebody’s language and using it as a form of art without doing any research just goes to show how careless she was,” Nadal said. “The fact that she didn’t have any advisers or friends to tell her that that tattoo meant something else just goes to show that perhaps she’s not familiar with the culture, so it shouldn’t be something she should view so lightly.”
Grande explained she omitted the additional characters in the correct translation because it was too painful to get the entire phrase tattooed, but revealed on her Instagram Wednesday that she did alter the tattoo to a slightly more accurate translation following backlash with the help of a tutor.
While Nadal appreciated Grande correcting her silly mistake in the face of feedback, he said the decisions she and others like Nicki Minaj, Justin Timberlake and David Beckham made to get tattoos of symbols or icons from cultures that do not belong to them is in a larger theme of cultural appropriation.
"Cultural appropriation is so problematic in our country because we have people from dominant Western groups that take things from other cultures, and it's so symbolic of the colonization and the imperialism of the United States – that they feel they can take things that aren't theirs and they can claim them as their own," Nadal said. "Practices and traditions that are very sacred in certain countries and cultures [shouldn't be] viewed as art or as something that can easily be copied and mimicked."
Nadal said that taking iconography from Asian cultures can be especially harmful since the group is oftentimes the victim of exoticization.
"This is when people say things like how Asian people are like orientals, they're like rugs, they're like objects," He explained. "Exoticization is very problematic because what it does is it puts Asian Americans into a category in which they are not American enough. They're different, they're foreign, they're viewed as being cool and interesting as opposed to being part of the group."
Nadal suggested that to avoid a hurtful homage to a culture, one should always avoid religious, tribal or spiritual icons and do more research as to how the tattoo might be perceived by people of that culture.
"You need to understand the history, understand the importance of respecting others' culture," Nadal said. “There’s a way to appreciate a culture that’s genuine.”
And if in doubt, Nadal said to ask yourself the question, "Why is it that you want to get a tattoo of a different cultural group, that you have no affiliation with? Why not get something that might match one of your identities or a group you might belong to, or something that is meaningful to you?”