Art of Being a Star
By Emily Feimster
For decades, tattoos were considered a lowly act of rebellion found only among groups like servicemen, bikers, and criminals. Having one came with a sizable amount of shock value. Rock musicians caught on and found that sporting a tattoo made a statement - it rejected the morality of the times. But even as early as the 1980's, tattoo artists only recall a handful of high profilers getting the skin art. Now tattooing is becoming mainstream and is considered by many to be a form of art. So what changed? Perhaps Hollywood had something to do with it? Big surprise.
Just over 10 years ago, Cher was in the height of her career as a prominent musician, television personality, and Oscar winning actress and the pop icon was more than willing to flaunt her body art. Cher and her tattoos became big news - it brought tattooing out of the closet so to speak and there has been a mass following ever since. These days, the trend goes far beyond rock stars and is now embraced by movie stars, sports figures, and super models.
Gallery of Celebrity Art
Stars flaunt their creative body designs. See pix»
Top Tattooed Female Stars
Gals into the permanent expression of self. Count them down.»
Freak to Mainstream
Tatoo Fun Facts:
In 1936, Life magazine
estimated that 10
million Americans, or
approximately 6% of
the population had at least
By 1996, there was an
estimated 15,000 tattoo
parlors operating in
the United States,
according to a U.S. News
& World Report article,
which said, on the
average, an establishment
is being added in the
country every day.
The National Geographic
News stated in April 2000
that 15% of Americans
were tattooed (or
approximately 40 million
estimated in March 2002
that 1 in 8 Americans was
The Harris Poll, 2003,
estimates that 36% of
those aged 25-29 have
one or more tattoos
According to the American
Society of Dermatological
surgery stated in 2002 that
50% of the 10 million
Americans who get a
tattoo eventually want it
"The fact that a generation of movie stars is getting tattoos is helping to erase the stigma attached to them as a lower-class thing," says Vince Hemingson, producer of www.vanishingtattoo.com which features an extensive list of celebrity tattoos. "Celebrities are the new royalty in pop culture and they have extraordinary influence."
Some of Hollywood's top actors have gone under the needle. Check out this list of previous Oscar winners with tattoos! Julia Roberts, Jodie Foster, Jessica Lange, Geena Davis, Marisa Tomei, Whoopi Goldberg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, and Charlize Theron all sport the ink. Could it be the secret to their success? As for the men, how about Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Sean Penn, Cuba Gooding Jr., Billy Bob Thornton, and Ben Affleck. Having a tattoo or two certainly hasn't hurt their careers.
It could have even brought some luck to the undefeated "Lord of the Rings" bunch. Nine of the actors including Viggo, Orlando, Sean, Ian, and Elijah got the same tattoo - an elvish design meaning "The Nine" (for the 9 members of the fellowship of the ring). Director Peter Jackson also got a design for the number 10 as the honorary 10th member of the Ring.
Grammy award winner Melissa Etheridge has a white tattoo on the back of her neck that says "skin," the name of one of her CD's. She said in an interview, "There's just something about a tattoo. I can see how people want to get more of them." But will the fact that so many people now have tattoos make it less appealing to those Hollywood trend setters? "I don't think so," says tattoo historian Hemingson. "I think the trend, if there is a discernible one, is for celebrities to get 'custom' tattoo work that in some way symbolizes something important to them as opposed to walking in off the street and picking out a piece of flash off the tattoo shop walls."
Here's a list of celebrities who have chosen to get a little more personal with their tattoos:
Robert Downey Jr. has an image of himself as a superhero
on his bicep and his son's name Indio nearby
Scottish actor Ewan McGregor has a heart and dagger
tattoo featuring the names of his daughters Clara and
Esther, and his wife Eve's name is on his right arm
Minnie Driver has a rose tattooed on her buttocks
Heath Ledger has a tattoo that he designed himself on his
right bicep showing the center of the universe with the
sun, earth, and moon. He also has a "KAOS" bracelet
tattoo on his left wrist for his three sisters (Kate, Ashleigh,
Olivia) and his mother (Sally)
Musician Usher has the word "Usher" with a sword going
through it on his left arm and his brother's name "James"
on his upper left calf
Heather Locklear has her husband's name Richie Sambora
on her groin
Christina Aguilera has "Xtina" on the back of her neck
Country singer Tim McGraw has the word "Faith" for who
you know who on his arm
Justin Timberlake has his initials tattooed on his ankle and a
large angel on his back with the word "Guardian" above it
Alicia Keys has the words "Think 4 Urself" on her lower
And then there are those celebs who professed their love permanently in ink who now probably wish they didn't. Pamela Anderson had "Tommy" tattooed on her finger, but now it says "Mommy." Who knows if Tom Arnold still has his large portrait of Roseanne tattooed on his chest? Let's hope not. When Johnny Depp was dating Winona Ryder he had "Winona Forever" on his arm, which he later had changed to "Wino Forever." The queen of tattoos Angelina Jolie had "Billy Bob" on her arm, which she had painfully removed by lasers after they split. It couldn't have been as painful as seeing those two together, though! Billy Bob followed suit and had Jolie's name removed from his forearm. "I had it covered up with an angel and it says 'Peace'. It's like, basically, my way of saying, 'No hard feelings'," commented Thornton. Sean Penn can feel his pain in more ways than one after it's been rumored that he had his ex-wife's name "Madonna" removed. Now Jude Law might want the name of a good doctor since he has the words from a Beatles song on his right forearm as a tribute to his wife, er, ex-wife Sadie.
Be it in Hollywood or in the rest of the country, there is no doubt that tattoos are making their way onto the skin of many Americans. Some say they bring good luck, they may even provide protection, or they may just be another way of professing one's love and dedication to a significant other. Clearly the latter aren't aware of our country's divorce rate! For celebrities, getting tattoos seem to be as popular as getting them removed. Considering the enormous physical pain involved, this is one Hollywood trend you don't want to follow!
Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith are featured in over 100 print publications and other media outlets with cutting edge celebrity news and insider scoop. Have a burning showbiz question?
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