Arguably, celebrity tattoos are the whole reason why tattooing is so popular and so widely accepted today. A few decades ago, the art of tattooing was firmly lodged in the underworld, with just a few exceptions.
A tattoo was seen as evidence of a ‘racy’ or dodgy past, and an indication that someone wasn't’t quite ‘respectable’. Exceptions might be made for someone who had spent time at sea, for example, but tattoos, especially on women, were always a bit controversial. Celebrity tattoos changed all that.
When celebrities started getting tattoos and flashing them publicly, it did a lot for the public’s perception of tattooing. After all, celebrities are the closest thing we have to royalty – they tend to function as role models for the rest of us, for better or for worse.
When the concept of tattooing was first brought to Europe by seventeenth century explorers, tattoos were difficult and expensive to get, so only a few lucky members of the upper classes had them. Later, when tattooing became more accessible, it was devalued.
In comparison, the celebrity tattoos that Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera sport are a bit less intriguing – though these girls are still very young, and have time to acquire a few more choice designs!
That having been said, Aguilera has made a pretty good start, with multiple small tattoos – from the ‘Xtina’ on the back of her neck, to tiny Hebrew/ Spanish expression of love on the inside of her elbow, Christina Aguilera’s tattoos are small and atypical enough to keep us guessing.
If Robbie Williams is the King of celebrity tattoos, then the queen is undoubtedly Angelina Jolie, famous for her multiple tats – at least a dozen, at last count.
Critics are quick to point out that Jolie broke one of the cardinal rules of tattooing – she incorporated the name of her former husband in a prominent tattoo design on her upper arm, and then had to undergo a painful and tedious laser tattoo removal treatment after they broke up (she had more tattoos removed).
Angelina Jolie’s tattoos can also be a bit of a challenge for movie makeup crews to cover up – putting all that aside, though, they are a creative and fascinating expression of her individuality and personal philosophy. Examples include a saying in Arabic that means “will” or “determination”, and the phrase “know your rights” in gothic letters across the top of her back.Melanie C, one of the 5 Spice Girls, is a celebrity with a big love for tattoos. At least, she used to be, lately there have been some signs that she is regretting her tattoos.
Mel C has about 10 tattoos on her body, primarily designs with an Eastern origin. She's got a lotus flower, a tribal phoenix, a Chinese dragon, a Celtic cross, a Celtic armband, a star tattoo, an English writing tattoo and 2 Tibetan writing tattoos.Justin Timberlake is a celebrity that is no stranger to tattoos either.
He has 6 tattoo designs on his body, including a cross tattoo on his shoulder, a guardian angel tattoo on his back, some Chinese characters and an Aquarius tattoo.
Depp’s other tattoos include a tribute to his mother and his daughter, a skull on his ankle with the words “Death is certain”, and, most puzzling, the number 3 between his thumb and index finger!
These and other celebrity tattoos are great examples of how the art of tattooing can be adapted to individual taste and expressions of personality. Celebrity tattoos have been instrumental in the rehabilitation of this ancient art, making it attractive and acceptable for the rest of us.