God’s with Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj is one of the few foreign celebrities to get their Chinese tattoos right.
The characters “上帝與你常在” (shangdi yu ni chang zai) on her arm mean “God with you always” and are not only the correct traditional Chinese characters, but they have also been done by someone (presumably Chinese) who knows what they’re doing.
The Trinidadian-American on Lil Wayne’s Young Money Enertainment obviously has some knowledge of China – which is more than can be said for some of her fellow Western celebrities who have had Chinese tattoos and got it wrong.
Further evidence that she knows where Asia is on the map is that she describes herself as a “harajuku Barbie” – referring to the cool kid look from Tokyo. The rapper’s fervent fans call themselves barbz or barbies.
Nicki has got one up on Britney Spears, who had a flower with the character “mystery” stenciled near her navel, probably thinking that in Chinese it would be even more enigmatic.
Justin Timberlake has the character “qu” (曲), which means “song”, but also “bent, crooked or wrong.”
The Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter has a shark on his left bicep, accompanied by the characters “hai shen” (海神), which could refer to the god of the sea, but is an unusual mix of Greek and Chinese mythology.
Since Dennis Rodman (“Ink not mink”) broke the mold in the 1990s the NBA up to 35 percent of NBA stars have some kind of Chinese-themed motif tat.
Marcus Camby of the LA Clippers wears his heart on his sleeve and has the Chinese characters “strive for the clan, the family” on his right arm.
Allen Iverson, one of the most decorated NBA players, in terms of tats and stats, has the character for “loyalty.”
One of the few NBA players to have lived in China, Chris Anderson briefly played for the Jiangsu Nangang Dragons in 2000.
He wanted the character for “good” on one arm and “bad” on the other – accurately summing up his character and performances. Unfortunately, something got lost in translation as the character he used for bad also means “nausea”.
He’s not the only one to get it wrong. Basketball player Shawn Marion calls himself “The Matrix” and wanted to tell the world by inscribing it in Mandarin on his leg. But failed. To Chinese it reads: “Demon bird camphor”.
In the cult TV program, Lost, the lead role played by Matthew Fox had a four character poem written by Mao Zedong (毛泽东), which translates as: “Eagles high up, cleaving the space.” Fox’s screen life followed art when the show’s plot incorporated the tattoo, which he had inked before filming began.
Another celebrity inspired by Mao is boxer Mike Tyson, who had a picture of the leader drawn on his bicep after visiting his mausoleum in Beijing.
David Beckham has one side of his torso etched in traditional characters, written top to bottom, with the Chinese saying: “Death and life have determined appointments. Riches and honors depend upon heaven.”
Like Beckham, Angelina Jolie, has a one-world approach to her collection, mixing tattoos from different cultures to create her skin canvas.
In addition to the Tennessee Williams quote “A prayer for the wild at heart, kept in cages”, she has “strength of will” in Arabic, “know your rights” in English and a Chinese-style dragon and tiger on her lower back.