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Famous Ink: The Stories Behind Celebrity Tattoos

Updated: Jun 20


Blog article image cover on Celebrity Tattoos featuring Rihanna, Beckham, Angelina Jolie and Harry Styles

For decades, celebrities have captivated the public with their glamour and talent, serving as both aspirational figures and sources of entertainment. As a result, celebrities have cultivated a fascination that transcends their professional accomplishments. One such area of fascination comes from the ever-evolving world of fashion, specifically tattoos. In this blog post, we'll delve into the captivating world of celebrities with the likes of Harry Styles, uncovering some of the intriguing stories and profound meanings behind the ink that adorns their bodies.


David Beckham

David Beckham GQ Magazine photo wearing a white blazer and turtle neck
Image courtesy of British GQ, Photo credit: Matthew Brookes

No exploration of celebrity tattoos would be complete without mentioning David Beckham, the former football legend turned style icon. Beckham's body is adorned with inked artwork, ranging from family tributes, such as the names of his children and his wife, Victoria, to symbols representing his personal journey, with the two often converging.

 

There’s an inherently biblical theme to many of his tattoos; many are distinguishable by their Renaissance style. Notable pieces include the guardian angel-like figure in a sacrificial pose located on his back, with his sons’ names above and below, which many understand to symbolise David’s role as their protector.


David Beckham after a football match with this sacrificial angel tattoo on show.
Sacrificial angel tattoo. Image courtesy of Men’s Health, Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Similarly, amongst his right arm-sleeve is another angel figure with the words “In the Face of Adversity” tattooed in cursive script above. It’s widely considered that this design alludes to the affair accusations that circulated in 2004; the same year in which the tattoo was done.

 

Continuing the Renaissance style, on top of Beckham’s left shoulder is a depiction of Cupid flying Psyche towards the heavens. The design is inspired by the Renaissance work of 15th-century artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau; however, Beckham had the image altered so that Psyche was somewhat covered, as opposed to the original image where she’s naked.

 

In an interview conducted by Business Insider back in 2018, renowned London-based tattooist Mark Mahoney, who has tattooed the majority of Beckham’s body art, was quoted saying Beckham was the “ultimate tattoo customer” and “he picks good stuff, he's got great skin, he feels absolutely no pain".


Left: “In the Face of Adversity” angel tattoo, photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images; Centre: Cupid and Psyche tattoo. Photo credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images. Images courtesy of Men’s Health; Right: “Psyche et L'Amour”/ “Psyche and Love”, 1889, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Image courtesy of Wikipedia


With over 60 tattoos, we can’t feasibly explore each one in this post alone, but it’s fair to say that Beckham's body art serves as a visual autobiography, providing a glimpse into his experiences and the meaningful connections throughout his life to date.


Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie British Vogue photo
Image courtesy of British Vogue, Photo credit: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Academy Award-winning actor, Angelina Jolie is renowned not only for her acting prowess, filmmaking, and humanitarian work but also for her extensive tattoo collection.

 

Each tattoo on Jolie's body represents a piece of her intricate life puzzle. The Buddhist Pali incantation on her shoulder blade serves as a protective mantra for both herself and her adopted son Maddox. It is written in Khmer script which reportedly reads: “May your enemies run far away from you. If you acquire riches, may they remain yours always. Your beauty will be that of Apsara. Wherever you may go, many will attend, serve and protect you, surrounding you on all sides."

 

Notably, Jolie used to have her ex-husband’s name, Billy Bob Thornton, tattooed on her left arm above an image of a dragon, though following their divorce in 2002 had it removed, and the area now displays the coordinates of the birthplaces of her six children: Maddox, Zahara, Shiloh, Pax, Vivienne and Knox, reflecting her sentimentality and endless maternal love.

 

Jolie's tattoos also reflect her spiritual beliefs and strength, depicted through her central back tattoo, an original 'Sak Yant' – Sak Yant is a traditional Thai tattoo which is deeply rooted in Thai culture and believed to possess magical and protective qualities. Sak Yant tattoos are typically administered by Buddhist monks or trained practitioners and often incorporate ancient script, geometric patterns, animals, and deities.


Left: Buddhist Pali incantation tattoo, Photo credit: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock; Centre: coordinates tattoo, Photo credit: Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock; Right: Sak Yant. Photo credit: Nancy Rivera/Ace Pictures/Shutterstock. Images courtesy of In Touch Weekly


Angelina Jolie getting her Bengal tiger tattoo
Sak Yant tattoo Bengal Tiger. Photo credit: Getty Images STR

Angelina got her first traditional Sak Yant in 2004; a 12-inch Bengal Tiger on her lower back, which is said to represent her Cambodian Citizenship, which was granted in 2005. Each of these tattoos was done by the same Sak Yant Master, as is the tradition, and in these instances, it was the famed Sak Yant Master, Ajarn Noo Kanpai.


Angelina Jolie at a film premiere with her arm up and tattoos on show
Tennessee Williams’ quote tattoo, and “XIII V MCMXL” tattoo. Image courtesy of In Touch Weekly, Photo credit: Shutterstock

Many of Jolie’s other tattoos depict references from history and literature, such as a quote from Tennessee Williams’ 1941 play, Stairs to the Roof, which reads “a prayer for the wild at heart kept in cages”; the tattoo is etched onto the inside of her left elbow. On the same forearm she has the Roman numerals “XIII V MCMXL”, representing the date 13/5/1940, which is a tribute to the speech “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” given by Winston Churchill.


Rihanna

Rihanna at the British Vogue red carpet event
Image courtesy of British Vogue, Photo credit: Christopher Polk/NBC/Getty Images

Rihanna is a globally acclaimed singer, songwriter, actress, and fashion icon. Rising to fame with her distinct voice, innovative musical style, and charismatic stage presence, it's little surprise that she’s fast become one of the most influential and successful artists in contemporary pop.

 

Known for her fearless approach to self-expression, Rihanna has become a cultural icon, celebrated not only for her artistic prowess but also for her philanthropy and commitment to promoting inclusivity and diversity in various industries.

Her creativity is represented in her collection of tattoos. Perhaps some of the most synonymous are Rihanna’s hand tattoos; on her left hand she has a henna inspired design around her thumb, which was later added to with a traditional Maori tattoo, done using traditional methods of a mallet and chisel. Rihanna has added more to this area over time, the majority of which has been done by American tattooist Keith Scott "Bang Bang" McCurdy.


Photos by: Theo Wargo/WIREIMAGE and Taylor Hill/GETTY


Rihanna with her rib tattoo on show
The Goddess Isis tattoo. Image courtesy of People, Photo credit: Jon Kopaloff/Film Magic

Rihanna's ink is a bold celebration of her journey and identity, and this is demonstrable none more so than by perhaps her most iconic tattoo, the Goddess Isis, which is placed across her ribcage. This tattoo was completed in 2012, and is understood to be a tribute to her late grandmother, who had died that very year.

Isis is the esteemed Egyptian Goddess of love, healing, fertility, magic, and the moon. She was also the most worshipped deity in Egyptian culture.

 

However, Isis is not the only goddess celebrated by Rihanna. A tribute to the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti is also inked on the side of her ribcage.


Rihanna's Queen Nefertiti tattoo on her side ribcage
Queen Nefertiti tattoo. Image courtesy of Instagram/@badgalriri, Photo credit: Terry Richardson

However, Isis is not the only goddess celebrated by Rihanna. A tribute to the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti is also inked on the side of her ribcage.

As the wife of King Akhenaton, Queen Nefertiti was prolific in changing Egypt's traditional polytheistic religion (worship of/belief in multiple deities), to monotheistic (belief in only one God), worshipping instead the Sun God known as Aton.


Among Rihanna’s first tattoos were a Pisces symbol behind her right ear, and musical notes – a treble clef and sixteenth note – on her inner right foot, which has since been covered by a falcon in the shape of a handgun that she tweeted symbolised: “Falcon: a light that shines in the darkness! Never close their eyes during sleep."


Photos: Taylor Hill/WIREIMAGE Jun Sato/WIREIMAGE Taylor Hill/GETTY


Each tattoo is like a note in the melody of her life, representing both triumphs and tribulations, and we’re sure there’ll be far more to come from Rihanna!


Music artist Harry Styles at Vogue red carpet event
Image courtesy of Vogue, Photo credit: Getty Images

Harry Styles

Perhaps a close contender to rival Beckham, Jolie, and Rihanna’s array of tattoos, Harry Styles is a multifaceted talent renowned for his success as a singer, songwriter, and actor. Initially catapulted into the spotlight as a member of the globally acclaimed boy band One Direction, Styles has since made his mark as a solo artist, showcasing his distinctive voice and eclectic musical style.


Beyond his musical and acting endeavours, he’s also celebrated for his distinctive fashion sense and his unapologetically authentic and inclusive approach to his public persona. As a cultural icon, Styles continues to captivate audiences with his creativity and charismatic presence across the entertainment industry.

                                                        

Styles’ creativity extends to his broad collection of tattoos, with his body art becoming a testament to his personal and artistic journey. Adorning his skin with a diverse array of designs, his tattoos range from small, intricate symbols to larger, more elaborate pieces.


Harry Styles Rolling Stone Photoshoot
Image courtesy of Rolling Stone, Photo credit: Ryan McGinley

Arguably one of the most iconic tattoos, Harry has a large butterfly on his stomach. Though there’s been no real acknowledgement as to its meaning from Harry himself, many have speculated the transformative symbolism of butterflies is the reasoning. However, Liam Sparkes, the artist responsible for the tattoo amongst others of Styles’ body art, revealed that it was inspired by the film Papillon, a classic French film about two men’s escape from prison.

 

Other notable tattoos are the two swallows on his chest. Swallows are often associated with travelling and return, which Harry confirmed in a 2012 interview with Us Weekly, "I got two swallows on my chest. I like that kind of style of tattoos, like the old sailor kind of tattoos. They symbolise travelling, and [One Direction] travel a lot!" Harry’s penchant for nautical-themed tattoos is continued with a large ship on his bicep, and an anchor on his left wrist which is a cover up of a previous scripture tattoo.


Harry Styles at a music awards ceremony
Image courtesy of Life and Style, Photo credit: David Fisher/Shutterstock

Styles' tattoos also include tributes to family, including many for his sister, Gemma, along with the initials “A” and “G” on his shoulders as tributes to his sister and mother, Anne. Each tattoo seems to carry a unique significance, weaving a visual narrative that reflects both his individual experiences and the broader evolution of his life and career. Styles' approach to body art mirrors his eclectic and unapologetically authentic persona, making his tattoos an integral part of his public identity.


In the world of celebrities and their tattoos, ink is more than just a form of body art – it's a medium with which to tell stories, a reflection of personal journeys, and a celebration of individuality. David Beckham's body tells the tale of a remarkable career and enduring love; Angelina Jolie's tattoos serve as spiritual and maternal expressions of strength; Rihanna's ink mirrors her musical journey and fearless authenticity; Harry Styles’ body is a canvas of transformation and unconventionality.

 

Exploring the stories and meanings behind these celebrity tattoos helps us gain a deeper appreciation for the art form and the rich narratives etched into the skin of such popular icons. In a world that often seeks conformity, these celebrities boldly embrace individuality, turning their bodies into canvases that speak volumes about their lives, passions, and the intricate tapestry of the human experience.

 

Have you ever had a tattoo inspired by a celebrity and/or their work? Are you looking to get one done maybe? If so, send us an email to info@ktrewtattoo.com or enquire using our booking form.

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