by Kaleigh Fasanella,Yahoo Entertainment Special Features
When remembering Amy Winehouse, it’s impossible not to visualize her vast and beautiful collection of body art. The iconic pinup woman on her right arm, the lightning bolt on her wrist and the name “Cynthia” — inspired by her paternal grandmother — are just three of 14 known tattoos the legendary singer had that gave people a glimpse into her world.
Two of the “Rehab” singer’s most meaningful tattoos — including the famous pinup piece that was etched on her upper arm — paid homage to her grandmother Cynthia, whom Winehouse was very close with until she lost her battle to breast cancer in 2006 (the same year Winehouse released her second album, Back to Black). Cynthia was also a singer and hugely inspirational to her granddaughter. So it’s no wonder Winehouse wanted to honor her life with some bespoke body art.
“She was a kind of beacon for Amy,” said the singer’s former tattoo artist and good friend, Henry Hate, in a past interview. “It was only later on in our friendship [when] she showed me a photo of Cynthia in her youth and I could see she had been a real head-turner,” he added. Given their strong connection, some believe Cynthia’s death contributed to Winehouse’s drug and alcohol addiction — a disease that took the talented young Londoner’s life in 2011, at just 27.
While we’ll never know for sure, there’s a solid chance Winehouse got these tattoos for her grandmother as part of the grieving process. (Almost like her way of saying goodbye.) After all, tattoos were a major form of self-expression for the British vocalist — another outlet, just like singing — so it’d definitely make sense if that’s what she did, even if it was done subconsciously.
“Looking at Amy Winehouse’s tattoos, and as a huge fan of her music, I believe that she was an extremely passionate soul who literally wore her heart on her sleeve,” says Beverly Hills-based tattoo artist Katrina “Kat Tat” Jackson. “I feel that her tattoos were not premeditated or thought out for years, but rather spontaneous and representative of her strongest emotions at the time that she got each piece done.”
Moreover, licensed psychologist Karen Bridbord says she has seen myriad people get tattoos to help heal from grief and loss. “The tattoo process is a journey where the recipient keeps alive what is no longer through one’s own physical body,” she explains. “It’s a way to hold on to — through physical representation — who or what is most important to them.”
In Winehouse’s case, it seems she wanted to hold on to her grandmother Cynthia — a woman who fully encouraged her to be the unforgettable artist she was and remains to fan.
Of course, Winehouse is far from the only celebrity who’s used body art as a way to work through adversity and express themselves mentally and emotionally.
Ariana Grande — who reportedly has over 50 tattoos now — got a tribute piece for her ex-boyfriend the rapper Mac Miller, who died suddenly of a drug overdose in 2018. In a similar vein, Lady Gaga honored her father with some ink shortly after he underwent open-heart surgery in 2009. (Thankfully, he lived to see it.) Then there’s Demi Lovato, who had “Stay Strong” famously tatted on her wrists after getting out of rehab, where she was treated for self-harm and bulimia in 2010.
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