News of Pete Davidson's latest body modification has taken people by surprise after Kim Kardashian revealed that her current boyfriend got her name branded onto his chest. The reality TV star revealed the details on The Ellen DeGeneres Show after being asked about a new etching that people had spotted.
"He has a few tattoos," Kardashian said referring to a few symbols and sayings that Davidson has gotten in honor of his new love. "But... the 'Kim' one... isn't a tattoo, it’s actually a branding."
Kardashian went on to explain that Davidson decided to get a branding instead of a traditional tattoo because he wanted something even more permanent than ink. "He's in the process of getting rid of his arm tats and his neck tats, so he's, like, 'I don't want to be able to get rid of it or to cover it up, and I just wanted it, like, there as a scar on me,'" she said.
According to professional piercer and cosmetic tattoo artist Caitlin Cartwright, getting branded isn't so uncommon.
"A brand is a permanent mark on the body using heat," she explains to Yahoo Life. "There’s the traditional form of heating some sort of tool in a shape and pressing against the skin, but now there are specific pens and various tools that you can use very similarly to a tattoo machine. I have a cauterizing pen that I’ve been learning on, it burns tissue to leave a mark, which you can essentially draw with."
Body branding has a long history, as it's been used to mark enslaved people and fugitives as property since ancient Roman times. It's also associated with markings of cultural significance and even became relevant during the investigation of NXIVM — a sexual cult disguised as a self-help organization.
Regardless of the historic uses and misuses of body branding, Cartwright explains that it can still be a culturally appropriate practice.
"All body modification rituals have been around since the dawn of time," she says, "so I would say it’s culturally appropriate to modify your body in any way as long as you respect the ritual itself and where it came from."
She adds that "branding is definitely becoming more popular now that there are all kinds of tools to use," and it's no longer just a process of putting heated stainless steel onto the skin.
And while there are limitations as to what states consider branding legal or illegal, Cartwright expresses the importance of finding an artist qualified to do body branding.
"Branding, just like any other modification is opening skin and creating a risk for infection. It is absolutely safe as long as it is with an experienced, professional artist. The one thing I always see after a celebrity brings attention to a modification is a lot of uneducated artists 'going for it' without taking the time to truly learn the skill," she says. "I urge all interested in modification to do research on who they go to and make sure to understand the healing process to ensure a safe and beautiful result."
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