There’s A Touching Story Behind One Of Amy Winehouse’s Most Iconic Tattoos

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Amy Winehouse, by anyone’s standards, is an icon.

The late singer cultivated and curated an individual aesthetic that was as charming, daring and unique as her voice.

The winged eyeliner, beehive hair and trademark tattoos have become synonymous with Amy Winehouse and her work – but one of her pieces of ink has a particularly personal poignancy.

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On her left upper arm, Amy showcased her rockabilly style in a tribute tattoo of a pin up girl, designed by a London-based artist who goes by the name Henry Hate.

In an interview with the Guardian, Hate explained the ink was an homage to Amy’s paternal grandmother, Cynthia.

He narrated the process of design, saying:

She was looking for a cruder, traditional tattoo with not a lot of detail and none of the modern styling. She used phrases like ‘va va voom’ and images of Sophia Loren, along with other dark-haired, earthy pin-ups from that era to get across what her nan had been like. She was a kind of beacon for Amy.

It was only later on in our friendship she showed me a photo of Cynthia in her youth and I could see she had been a real head-turner.

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Cynthia was also a singer, who had dated the English jazz saxophonist, Ronnie Scott and encouraged Amy to pursue a career in music.

Californian-born Henry Hate, whose real name is Henry Martinez, claimed, ‘I didn’t realise at the time it would be one of the most recognised tattoos on the planet.’

He went onto befriend the young, talented soul singer – and inked seven of the 14 tattoos in Amy’s arsenal.

Recalling his first encounter with Amy, the tattooist said:

She came into my shop one Monday about 20 minutes before closing time. I had just finished and she was alone. She was about a foot shorter and 60 pounds lighter than I had thought: petite and quite shy too.

I remember thinking it was strange because I had just bought her CD Frank because I liked the track Stronger Than Me.

While many have emulated Amy’s look, her tattoo artist is adamant he will never cave to any request to copy her Cynthia tribute tattoo, and calls out ‘the pieces of shit whom pirate the piece for profit’.

Hate is happy to help Amy’s fans memorialise her in their own original tattoo designs, however – and he inks a lot of tributes to Winehouse.

He said:

I often get people coming in asking for an Amy-inspired design. Her fans travel from all over the world to get me to tattoo her autograph.

But I will never do the pin-up image on anyone else. I do give people her autograph or the two hearts that used to be on her shoulder.  I always have to ask myself if Amy would have approved.

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Henry, as her tattoo artist, was privy to Amy’s creative nature and privileged to be her friend.

He told the Guardian about the times she was in his chair, remembering:

Tattooing someone is a very intimate experience and she told me all kinds of stories. We talked about addiction and to me she was no different than any other 25-year-old who experimented with some of that stuff. But then I didn’t see her for a year or so when she was with Blake.

As a recovering addict myself, I know you don’t ever get an out-of-jail card and you have to learn to manage your demons. You are always masking over some kind of pain in there so you have to separate yourself from those elements in your life.

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Amy Winehouse tragically joined the ranks of the fated talents in the 27 Club after suffering fatal alcohol poisoning in her Camden home in July 2011.

The exhibition, Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait will open tomorrow at the Jewish Museum and runs until September 24 2017.


Francesca Donovan

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.