Celebrity Tattoo Artist Keith McCurdy Sues Ex-Staffer For Stealing Clients

Keith McCurdy, who achieved fame tattooing celebrities, files charges against a former employee.

A detailed view of the tattooed back of Andre Gray of Watford during the Premier League match on March 03, 2019 in Watford, United Kingdom.
Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

Keith McCurdy, who achieved fame tattooing celebrities, files charges against a former employee.

For over a decade, Keith McCurdy’s tattoos have been symbolically adorning a variety of celebrities, making his body art designs both costly and famous. McCurdy owes his celebrity attention to Rhianna, who discovered him 11 years ago, before McCurdy opened up his own tattoo parlor. Back then, McCurdy was tattooing his decorative designs at a shop on West Fourth Street in Lower Manhattan. Rhianna originally entered McCurdy’s old store looking for a piercing. By the time she left the shop, she had McCurdy tattoo a beautiful, decorative print on her lip composed of several Sanskrit lines, according to the New York Times.

Since Rhianna discovered him, McCurdy has worked with several different celebrities. Katy Perry took him on tour with her at one point. During the tour, McCurdy worked on both her tattoos and also tattooed members of her crew.

In 2014, McCurdy opened the shop he still owns today, Big Bang Tattoos, located on Broome Street in New York’s Lower East Side. The following year, he had a memoir published by HarperCollins called Big Bang: My Life in Ink. The entertaining book offered up plenty of stories about the celebrities and some of the other customers he has worked on. Since opening his shop, McCurdy’s success has boomed, and he has tattooed some of the most famous celebrities in the world.

When McCurdy opened his shop, he began hiring and training tattoo artists to help him meet some of his new demand as an artist, since his popularity continued to grow. Now, he is suing one of his former employees for stealing his clientele.

McCurdy, in a Supreme Court lawsuit, claims his former employee, Haava Karabudak, a Turkish national, tricked him so that he would assist her with getting a work visa. McCurdy initially agreed to help Karabudak as long as she remained in his employment for three years, according to USA UK News.

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“However, in March 2019, when there was almost a year left on her Visa, and while she continued to work for Plaintiff, Defendant began surreptitiously soliciting customers in a scheme designed to steal Plaintiff’s customers and secure them for herself,” the court papers state, according to USA UK News.

At some point, Karabudak began to cancel a variety of McCurdy’s appointments behind his back. Not only did Karabudak cancel appointments without McCurdy’s permission, but she also told those customers to go to a different tattoo studio, where she was secretly working without McCurdy’s knowledge. As a result, McCurdy filed a lawsuit against Karabudak for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. McCurdy is seeking $153,859 in damages.