LONDON – Ms Kimberley Westgarth says she was so disgusted by American rapper Kanye West’s recent anti-Semitic comments that she is getting rid of her tattoo of him.
Two years ago, the 24-year-old architecture student had her upper left arm inked with an image of West’s face, with tears of blood flowing from his eyes.
“I loved his music and, at the time, I did like him as a person. I liked what he stood for, how he stuck up for the bipolar community,” she said.
“I did idolise him, but obviously people change, so I want him off my skin.”
West, now known as Ye, sparked outrage in December by declaring his “love” of Nazis and admiration for Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
His rambling, hours-long appearance with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Jones’ Infowars live stream saw him kicked off Twitter.
It was the latest in a series of anti-Semitic comments that have seen the troubled one-time titan of fashion and music’s commercial relationships crumble.
For Ms Westgarth, the comments hit home hard as her best friend is Jewish.
But she is not spending a penny to get the tattoo of him removed. Naama Studios in London’s upmarket Marylebone district is doing it for free.
It is providing her with 12 sessions of laser treatment over the course of a year under a special programme it runs called “Second Chance”.
The initiative was set up to provide the free removal of tattoos that have come to be a constant reminder of an individual’s painful past.
These could be tattoos about gang membership, a stretch in prison, a toxic relationship or hate symbols.
It has now been extended to include those of West. Already, about 100 people have got in touch with Naama Studios via its website, said owner Melina Lawson.
Two people have been selected and are receiving treatment, she added.
“It is a journey for the clients, especially with any history of their tattoo, especially if they don’t like the tattoo or what it represents to them any more,” said Ms Lawson.
“It can be a bit sensitive to the clients, but as they progress into the treatment, they start to change themselves. They can see that it’s being removed. They can be something else.”
The total cost of removing a tattoo is on average £2,000 (S$3,300), but varies according to the size and the number of sessions required.
But the social impact of a removal and the positivity it can bring to a client is much bigger than money, said Ms Lawson.
Ms Westgarth said: “I was so pleased. I’ve been looking to get it removed for about a couple of months and everywhere was so expensive.
“So when I saw this opportunity, I leapt for it. And to get it done for free – I can’t thank them enough.” AFP