SANTA ANA, Calif. — A self-described family man with a distinctive back tattoo felt humiliated after Cardi B allegedly misused his likeness for her sexually suggestive mixtape cover art, his lawyer said during opening arguments Tuesday.
Kevin Michael Brophy is suing the Grammy-winning musician in a $5 million copyright-infringement lawsuit in federal court in Southern California. His attorneys say Brophy’s life was disrupted and he suffered distress because of the 2016 artwork.
Brophy’s lawyer A. Barry Cappello said photo-editing software was use to put the back tattoo, which has appeared in tattoo magazines, onto the male model used in the mixtape cover. The image shows a tattooed man from behind with his head between the rapper’s legs. The man’s face cannot be seen.
Cardi B, who is expected to testify during the trial, is fighting the allegations and said an artist used only a “small portion” of the tattoo without her knowledge. She had previously said the cover art — created by Timm Gooden — was transformative fair use of Brophy’s likeness.
“Their life has been disrupted,” Cappello told the jury as Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, watched from the defense table. He said the image disturbed Brophy along with his wife, Lindsay Michelle Brophy, who he says initially questioned her husband if it was him in the cover art. The couple has two young children.
Brody has said he once considered his back tattoo featuring a tiger battling a serpent to be a “Michelangelo piece” that has since become “raunchy and disgusting.”
Defense filings have pointed out that the model who posed for the photos was Black, while Brophy is white.
Cardi B’s lawyer Peter Anderson said Brophy and the mixtape image are unrelated. He said the model did not have tattoos on his neck, which Brophy does.
“Brophy’s face wasn’t on the mixtape,” Anderson said during his opening statement. “She was already popular. It has nothing to do with Brophy.”
But Brophy contested in court that everyone who knows him believed he was on the mixtape cover. He said the offensive image was something he would never approve.
Brophy said he sent a cease-and-desist letter to Cardi B’s representatives to remove the tattoo, but he never received a response.
“For me, it was something I took a lot of pride in,” Brophy said about his tattoo. “Now, that image feels devalued. I feel robbed. I feel completely disregarded. There’s a lot of things I would like to be spending time on. But the only way to get this removed was to come here to this courtroom.”
Cappello said Gooden was paid $50 to create a design but was then told to find another tattoo after he turned in an initial draft. He said Gooden googled “back tattoos” before he found an image and pasted it on the cover.
Last month, Cardi B pleaded guilty to a criminal case stemming from a pair of brawls at New York City strip clubs that required her to perform 15 days of community service. Earlier this year, the rapper was awarded $1.25 million in a defamation lawsuit against a celebrity news blogger who posted videos falsely stating she used cocaine, had contracted herpes and engaged in prostitution.