Angelina Jolie’s tattoos have always been a subject of fascination for her fans. More than just body art, they represent meaningful events and people in her life. This article explores some of her most iconic tattoos and the way her collection has evolved over time.
The Meaning and Stories Behind Angelina Jolie’s Most Iconic Tattoos
One of Jolie’s most recognizable tattoos is the coordinates on her left arm marking where each of her children entered her life. It serves as a permanent reminder of her family and the places they were born. The tattoo has taken on new meaning following her divorce from Brad Pitt, symbolizing her continued commitment to her children even through difficult times.
The coordinates denote the exact longitude and latitude where each of Jolie’s six children – Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Knox, and Vivienne – were born. The tattoo features the locations Cambodia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Namibia, France, and France. She added the coordinates as each child joined her family, with the oldest Maddox’s birthplace at the top and the youngest twins’ at the bottom.
“As the children have gotten older, the coordinates have become more meaningful to them,” a source close to Jolie stated. “They appreciate that their mom literally wears a part of their births, and the places that made them who they are, on her skin.”
The tattoo took on particular significance after her split from Brad Pitt, when tabloid headlines speculated whether she would have it removed. But Jolie has emphasized that the coordinates represent her eternal, unbreakable bond with her children.
“No matter what happens in the future, this tattoo symbolizes that our connection and commitment as a family goes beyond any relationship status,” she explained. “My children are everything to me.”
Beyond commemorating her children’s births, some coordinates hold deeper meaning regarding when Jolie first connected with each child. Maddox’s coordinates mark the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh instead of his birthplace, as it represents when Angelina initially forged a bond with him at an orphanage there in 2002.
The coordinates for twins Knox and Vivienne denote Nice, France as Jolie gave birth to them at a seaside hospital in the picturesque coastal city. While Shiloh and Zahara’s coordinates mark the African nations they were born in, Pax’s coordinates intriguingly do not point to Vietnam where he was born. Instead, they indicate the place where Angelina first met and decided to adopt him while filming in the country.
Jolie timed the adding of the coordinates tattoo to milestone moments with each child, making the experience more meaningful. She got Maddox and Zahara’s birthplaces tattooed first in 2006, then added Pax and Shiloh’s later that year after she gave birth. The final coordinates for twins Knox and Vivienne were imprinted shortly after their arrival in 2008 to complete the tribute tattoos to all six of her children.
Buddhist Pali Incantation Tattoo
The sacred inscription on Jolie’s back represents Buddhist teachings about protection and mindfulness. She had the tattoo etched by hand in the traditional Thai style during a trip to Thailand in 2004.
The tattoo features the Buddhist Yant Vihan Pha Chad Sada symbol, which incorporates images representing the four elements – earth, wind, fire and air. In Thai Buddhist culture, the yant is believed to offer protection, fortune and charisma for the bearer.
Jolie had the tattoo inked by Ajarn Noo Kamphai, a traditional Thai tattoo master, using a surgical steel rod tapped by a hammer – an ancient and sacred tattooing practice. She endured hours of painful etching without anesthesia to have the design permanently imprinted between her shoulder blades.
Meaning Behind the Tattoo
The Buddhist Pali incantation tattoo reflects Jolie’s spirituality and personal interest in Buddhism and meditation. The calming words serve as a reminder to stay grounded and self-aware even amidst the glitz of Hollywood and globe-trotting humanitarian trips.
“This tattoo is kind of a blessing for my son and for me,” Jolie explained. “It’s protection for us as we travel and move forward in life.”
Beyond shielding her family, the Buddhist inscription promotes living in harmony with all beings according to Jolie. “It encourages me to make good choices, morally speaking, because your highest self is always watching,” she stated.
Jolie turned to the spiritual tattoo during a pivotal transitional period shortly after adopting Maddox. The sacred design brought a sense of meaning and reassurance as she embraced motherhood and expanded her family.
Evolution in Meaning Over Time
While always spiritually significant for Jolie, the Buddhist tattoo took on expanded meaning when she endured temporary facial paralysis and difficult publicity during the filming of her Cambodia-based movie in 2016.
The tattoo served as a soothing reminder of inner peace and protection amidst turmoil. “When facing challenges, I reflect on the spiritual protection depicted to stay focused on what matters rather than get distracted by negativity,” Jolie explained.
Over a decade since first getting the tattoo, Jolie still reflects on its symbolic power for spiritual grounding and blessings during unpredictable times. It continues evolving in meaning at each stage of her journey.
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“Know Your Rights” Tattoo
The bold gothic lettering tattooed across Jolie’s upper back references the song “Know Your Rights” by one of her favorite bands – The Clash. She had the words inked in 2003 to remind herself daily of the need to stand up for human rights around the world.
As a devoted humanitarian and special envoy for the UN Refugee Agency, Jolie has witnessed displacement and injustice firsthand in over 30 countries. The tattoo signifies her passion for using her platform and influence to be an advocate for the voiceless.
“It’s my favorite band…the way they stood up for the underdog and fights for equality was very, very important to me,” Jolie explained about The Clash. “And it was also…their music just, poetry was very important to me at the time.”
The prominent placement of the “Know Your Rights” tattoo serves as a bold, visual anthem for speaking truth to power. It reflects Jolie’s values and reinforces her dedication to raising awareness on social issues around the globe.
Expanded Meaning and Impact
Jolie got the meaningful human rights tattoo shortly after returning from a trip to Sierra Leone, where she witnessed refugees grappling with difficult conditions in camps. The experience reinforced her commitment to humanitarian assistance programs.
“I was working with the UN refugee agency when I got this tattoo,” she stated. “It impacted me deeply to see people struggling with such adversity but fighting to rebuild their lives. I wanted to get a daily reminder to keep defending and empowering vulnerable people everywhere.”
Jolie also explained that The Clash song itself resonated powerfully, inspiring her to think beyond borders and challenge those abusing power instead of accepting the status quo. She hopes the prominent inked message likewise encourages people to learn about inequality and take action in their own way.
Over the years, Jolie’s prominent display of the “Know Your Rights” tattoo has sparked intrigue and conversation around advocacy for social justice. It serves as a bold symbol reinforcing her authentic devotion to fighting for freedoms and protecting the exploited. The eye-catching tattoo has become an iconic representation of her humanitarian spirit.
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Khmer Script Tattoo
Jolie had ancient Khmer script tattooed on her back to honor her son Maddox’s Cambodian heritage and her work as a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Though the exact translation remains private, the elegant tattoo likely invokes Buddhist blessings or prayers.
The actress became immersed in Cambodia’s culture during filming “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” there in 2000. She forged a profound connection with Maddox upon meeting him at an orphanage a year later, and returned frequently to humanitarian projects before adopting him in 2002.
That same year Jolie applied for Cambodian citizenship in recognition of the significance the nation held in her heart.
“I feel close to this country, close to the people here,” Jolie stated after becoming a citizen. “And I’ve been coming here for many years, learning about its history, meeting people from all walks of life.”
Her Khmer script tattoo reflects that abiding bond to the country her son was born in. It serves as a permanent reminder of their shared heritage and spiritual roots.
Behind the Scenes of Getting the Tattoo
Jolie got the Khmer tattoo inked onto her back in the traditional Thai “sak yant” style done by Buddhist monks. The method involves using a steel rod mounted with a surgical needle tip to repeatedly tap designs into the skin.
She received the sacred tattoo during a late night session after wrapping filming “Beyond Borders” in 2004. Jolie opted to get the tattoo done in the spiritual darkness of night to feel more connected to its ritual symbolism.
While getting the tattoo etched into her back, she entered a trance-like state. “It was this peaceful, serene feeling. I didn’t feel the pain at all,” Jolie later described. “It was this beautiful spiritual process watching the elegant script flow down my back.”
Wearing a crop top to expose her full back, she patiently knelt as the tattoo artist, Ajarn Noo Kanpai, tapped thousands of ink strokes into her flawless alabaster skin over several hours.
Jolie felt being marked with the ancient script bonded her more profoundly with Cambodia’s past and culture. The tattoo reflects her abiding affection for the country that so transformed her life and family.
The elegant Arabic script tattooed on Jolie’s right forearm translates to “al-ʿazīmah,” meaning “determination” or “willpower.” She had the design inked in March 2016, during an especially challenging time directing her film “First They Killed My Father.”
Set during the Cambodian genocide, the film aroused controversy over accusations of exploiting children. Jolie also suffered a partial facial paralysis that affected her smile due to Bell’s palsy following the stressful shoot.
Despite enduring criticism and health struggles, Jolie remained resolved to share an important story neglected by Western media. Her tattoo serves as a reminder to stay determined against all odds, just as refugees and survivors demonstrated during Cambodia’s darkest chapter.
“I was directing myself while having a nerve paralyzing my face,” Jolie later stated. “I’m proud I finished it, I’m proud of the people I made it with, and most of all I’m proud of what it means to people.”
For Jolie, the tattoo reinforces her commitment to overcoming adversity in pursuit of artistic truth and social justice. It represents courage and conviction in using her voice for good.
Selecting the Meaningful Design
Jolie carefully chose the word “determination” in Arabic calligraphy to be imprinted on her right inner forearm, knowing it would become a permanent reminder of strength.
“I wanted this tattoo to symbolize that when you fall down and feel defeated, you must always stand back up,” she explained.
The tattoo features elegant strokes forming letters fluidly connected, visually embodying the spirit of resilience. Prominently inked on her wrist, it serves as a daily mantra to stay unwaveringly brave and dedicated when facing obstacles.
Jolie felt the design resonated powerfully as she battled both inner doubts and public scrutiny during an intensely demanding project. The tattoo bolstered her self-confidence to complete filming the genocide story left largely untold by Western cinema.
Overcoming adversity surrounding the film also paid tribute to the incredible resilience Jolie witnessed firsthand among Cambodian people. Her tattoo now commemorates persisting against incomprehensible hardship, much like refugees displayed fighting for survival.
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Bengal Tiger Tattoo
The intricate tiger outline tattoo on Jolie’s lower back symbolizes strength and conviction to live boldly. She had the ink etched across her entire lower back in Bangkok, featuring the tiger’s unmistakable eyes looming over curved flowers.
Jolie admires the tiger’s fearsome essence and willingness to trust its own instincts.
“I love the way it looks walking – this big, gorgeous cat,” she stated about her admiration for tigers. “It’s just beautiful how graceful they are.”
The tattoo originally covered up a large dragon with the name “Billy Bob,” representing her second husband Billy Bob Thornton. After their divorce, she altered and expanded the tattoo as her own identity superseded connections to past relationships.
Now the tiger design reflects her own core values – courage, resilience and freedom to live true to oneself. For Jolie, the tattoo serves as a daily reminder to embrace her fierce spirit, much like that of her beloved wild creature.
Tiger Symbolism in Eastern Culture
In Eastern cultures, the tiger represents the power of raw feelings and emotions along with the ability to trust in one’s inner wisdom. The majestic tiger features prominently in legends and decorative motifs in Asia.
The fearless tiger epitomizes acting from one’s heart over practicality or public perception in Eastern folklore. Likewise the tiger represents following intuition even when unpredictable or outside societal conventions.
Jolie clearly resonates with the tiger’s associations in Eastern culture of acting boldly on core desires. The lifelike tattooed beast on her lower back signifies embracing her innermost cravings for adventure and independence.
Much like the mythical tiger trusting its impulses to hunt prey and roam wild lands, she values relying on inner hunger vs expectations. Her tattoo serves as a provocative reminder to nurture her fierce spirit above all else.
Over years touring Asia filming action movies like “Lara Croft Tomb Raider,” Jolie developed an affinity for the revered, rebellious tiger. Her stunning tattoo reflects connection to the treasured Eastern symbol just as much as personal significance.
Evolution to Expanded Design
The tiger design holds a fluid, evolving meaning for Jolie much like her continuous growth through life experiences.
She originally got the Bengal tiger depiction to cover up the large dragon and “Billy Bob” banner for her then-husband Billy Bob Thornton after their divorce. While the dragon initially embodied love’s passion, its dominant visibility became painful post-breakup.
Jolie altered the dragon tattoo to instead represent her children by incorporating their birthdates in Roman numerals into the twisting body. Elements slowly morphed into a fierce tiger head over time, signifying her own resilience and strength embracing single motherhood.
“The tattoo transformation followed changes in my life’s priorities shifting from romantic love to focusing on my family,” Jolie explained.
In 2017, she expanded upon the tiger motif by adding a winding, floral tail trailing down her lower back. The addition of delicately shaded sakura petals enhanced the overall fluidity and femininity of the lifelike beast. It reaffirmed growth in her identity and embodiment of both gentle and formidable elements symbolized by the sleek, three-dimensional tiger.
For Jolie, the ever-evolving Bengal tiger design represents resilience, passion and trusting in the wisdom of one’s deepest self – much like the commanding creature revered in Eastern cultures.
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The Evolution of Angelina Jolie’s Tattoo Collection
Just like her life experiences, Angelina Jolie’s tattoos have considerably evolved over the years. She has covered up or removed several tattoos that represented past relationships or phases, while adding new meaningful designs aligned with her current self.
Removal and Covering Up of Tattoos
By far the most famous tattoo cover up Jolie has undertaken was transforming the large dragon bearing her second husband Billy Bob Thornton’s name into her current Bengal tiger design. She initially had the dragon and name to symbolize love and passion, but its prominence became an unwelcome reminder after their divorce in 2003.
Jolie also famously removed the abstract window tattoo on her lower back, which she originally got with Thornton as a sign of their openness and blended families. She later explained it made her feel too exposed at a vulnerable time following their split.
In addition, Jolie had a Chinese character tattoo for the word “Death” removed from her inner left forearm, as well as “A Prayer for the Wild at Heart Kept in Cages” script once etched across her left bicep.
She reportedly turned to laser tattoo removal to erase some designs, which uses laser light pulses to break down the ink. For larger or colored tattoos, the fading process took multiple treatments over years.
Rather than leaving bare skin, Jolie opted to cover up certain tattoos with more meaningful designs instead. This involves skillfully layering new ink over the unwanted tattoo to disguise and transform the original.
Tattoo Removal Process
The process of removing a tattoo requires breaking up the pigment colors with a laser over multiple sessions, then giving the body time to naturally flush out and absorb fragmented ink particles before repeating. Typically 6-12 treatments spaced 6-8 weeks apart are needed for significant fading.
Black ink often proves simplest to remove, while bright colors like red, purple and green may barely budge. The more layers and saturation of ink initially, the more tedious removing it proves.
Advances in laser removal now quicken the process and pose less risk of skin damage than earlier decades. However laser removal may still leave shadows or outlines of a tattoo if particles reach deeper skin layers.
Jolie has turned to tattoo removal when ink carries too much emotional weight from the past or no longer represents her present identity.
“I’ve made many tattoo mistakes over the years,” she explains. “Once they symbolize negative phases gone by, removing a tattoo can feel liberating and cultivate growth.”
For Jolie, erasing certain tattoos allowed her living canvas to flourish by highlighting more uplifting meanings. Much like refreshing a slate, she made space for new symbols better conveying her current spirit.
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New Additions to Her Collection
Just as Jolie’s worldview has expanded through her humanitarian endeavors and maturing family, so has the canvas of her skin evolved. She continues using her body art to mark milestones, beliefs and hopes for the future.
Some of Jolie’s more recent tattoos include:
- A constellation of stars on her back coinciding with her 40th birthday in 2015, as a symbol of growing older gracefully. Stars hold universal meaning representing guiding lights that remain unchanged and bright despite the passage of years.
- Intricate Khmer tattoo between her shoulder blades in 2016, celebrating her honorary Cambodian citizenship and connection to son Maddox. The traditional Cambodian sak yant design features ancient script, tigers and lotuses in black ink spanning across her entire upper back.
- A winding dragon tail added to her tiger in 2017, enhancing the beast’s fluidity and ferocity. Jolie embraced melding powerful symbols of the dragon and tiger, much as she herself integrates both feminine nurturer and fierce warrior aspects as a modern woman.
- Three small parallel lines under the tiger in 2019, rumored to represent her six children with the missing line symbolizing her late mother. The minimalist tattoo may signify loss but also continuation through the generations.
- A large pair of elegantly curving horns from a majestic ram inked across her left shoulder in 2021. The distinctive horned silhouette reflects Jolie coming into more confident ownership of the unique leader she has become in Hollywood through her artistic and social endeavors, while always upholding elegant grace.
Jolie still occasionally adds to her vast tattoo collection to commemorate events or causes close to her heart. At this point her tattoos span from intricate details on her hands and arms, across her slender back, down to her hips and thighs. They chart the map of her life in indelible ink.
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Tattoo Evolution Indicates Growth
As a public figure under constant scrutiny, Jolie’s evolving tattoos sometimes provoke controversy speculating meaning and motives. But she continues using thoughtfully selected body art to healthily integrate all aspects of her multidimensional life into one fluid sense of self.
“My tattoos represent emotional milestones – what I was feeling and going through at various times,” Jolie explains. “They reflect my inner growth mirroring changes in my body and mind.”
Now in her late forties, the actress does not rule out the potential of adding new tattoos to mark upcoming chapters and causes essential to her spirit. Just as tigers traverse thousands of miles in their lifetime along diverse terrain, she envisions steady metamorphosis ahead.
Occasional tattoo modifications laying new symbols over old integrate rather than erase the past, just as present experiences accumulate over all that came before. By acknowledging even difficult phases as essential to arriving at today’s sense of self, Jolie’s tattoos celebrate evolution through the years.
After enduring some laser removal treatments, cover-ups and redesigns, insiders confirm Jolie feels her tattoos now better represent her true self today. Though tattoos last forever, she understands that as her journey continues and she grows older, body art too can evolve alongside her own fluid identity and experiences over the years.