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We been knew but Demi Lovato’s tattoos are the definition of ink inspiration. The 26-year-old has a total of 19 tattoos (and more, if we count the small tweaks she’s made over the years), with each having its own special meaning. From Roman numerals for her family members’ birthdays to quotes that remind her to “stay strong,” it’s no secret the “Tell Me You Love Me” singer has had some difficult moments in her life, but her tattoos are examples that she’s come out of the other side better and stronger.
But what are the meanings behind each of Lovato’s 19 tattoos? We did the work to find out. From the lips she tattooed on her wrist as a teenager to the beyond-cute smiley face she has on her pinkie, not all of Lovato’s tattoos has a significant meaning, but they’re each a part of her story and complete a bigger picture. Big or small, Lovato’s tattoos provide both real-life and tattoo inspiration.
There’s no doubt Lovato has been through a lot in her life—much of which has played out in the spotlight. And though she’s going through a difficult phase right now, with her recent overdose in the summer, we’re pulling for her and wish her the best. We can’t wait to see what inspiring tattoo is next. Until then, check out her full tattoo collection ahead.
“Free” on Her Finger
Lovato’s most recent tattoo is the word “free” on her finger. She tattooed the word on the side of her pinkie in June 2018, soon after revealing she broke her sobriety of six years in her song, “Sober.” In solidarity with Lovato, the singer’s hairstylist, César DeLeön Ramirêz, manager, Lauren Einbinder, personal assistant, Kelsey Kershner, makeup artist, Jill Powell, and bodyguard, Max Lea, also tattooed the word on the fingers. Lovato and her team tattooed the word in Madrid, Spain during the singer’s Tell Me You Love Me Tour.
Lips on Her Wrist
In July 2011, Lovato tattooed a pair of red lips on her wrist, which was a matching tattoo with her friends, Hannah Beth Merjos, Ivey Ensley and Lauren Pietra. (Ensley and Merjos have the tattoo on their collarbones, while Lovato and Pietra have it on their wrists.) The tattoo is of Ensley’s lips. In an interview on Live with Kelly and Michael in 2012, Lovato called the tattoo, which she received on a tour bus on Warped Tour, a “stupid decision.” ‘It was just a spur of the moment, stupid decision,” she said.
Lovato has also joked that the lips look like a vagina, which offended the tattoo artist, Ashley McMullen, who claimed that Lovato was drunk, rude and didn’t pay for the tattoo. “Cool post @ddlovato, thanks for getting the tattoo covered up I did for free that you specifically asked for. Not to mention you didn’t even have the courtesy to offer me any money in the first place,” McMullen wrote on her Instagram.
Lovato, who later covered up the tattoo (more on that later), apologized, while criticizing McMullen for tattooing her when she was underage and drunk. “I wasn’t going to acknowledge your bitter Instagram comments but since your side of the story has picked up some headlines, I would like to share my thoughts and send you a proper apology,” Lovato tweeted.
“You Make Me Beautiful” on Her Side
Lovato’s first tattoo were the words, “You make me beautiful,” from Bethany Dillon’s song, “Beautiful,” on her side. Since she got the tattoo when she was 16, Lovato has updated it with more and more detail. In 2011, Lovato tattooed two feathers underneath the lyric. In September 2016, she made the tattoo into a dream catcher by adding more feathers and beads.
Roses on Her Forearm
To cover the lips tattoo on her wrist, Lovato tattooed a rose on her forearm in 2015. “Bye bye 💋 and hello 🌹.. Thank you SO MUCH to my brother @GEESPOTAT2… It looks beaaauutiful and I LOVE it!! 💉💉💉 #RIPvaginatattoo #kidsdontdodrugs,” she wrote on Instagram. She made some additions to the tattoo in September 2016. Those additions included a second rose, some shading and leaves that reached around to the other side of her arm where she had a tattoo for her father.
Lion on Her Hand
In August 2017, Lovato tattooed a lion face on the back of her left hand. The tattoo, which was done by celebrity tattoo artist Bang Bang, is a symbol for the singer’s astrology sign, Leo, as well as her 2015 song, “Lionheart,” which talks about bravery and courage. The tattoo is also said to be inspired by her late dog, Buddy, whom Lovato called her “little lion heart.”
Smiley Face on Her Finger
One of Lovato’s tiniest tattoos is the smiley face on her finger, which she received in August 2016. For Lovato, the tattoo, which is on the tip of her pinkie, is a reminder that life is short. “Cause life’s too short not to tattoo your pinky 😂,” she wrote on Instagram.
“Buddy Was Here” on Her Foot
After the death of her dog, Buddy, in September 2015, Lovato tattooed the words, “Buddy is here,” in child-like handwriting on the inside of her left foot. (Lovato has also sold merchandise with the phrase on her Future Now Tour.) Buddy, a maltipoo who was killed by a coyote in Lovato’s backyard, was a gift from her ex-boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama in December 2014.
Roman Numerals on Her Side
In October 2014, after her New York stop on her Demi World Tour, Lovato tattooed five Roman numerals on her side. The five tattoos, which she received from Bang Bang, represent five of her loved ones’ birthdays: her mom, Dianna De La Garza, her older sister, Dallas Lovato, her younger sister, Madison De La Garza, her stepfather, Eddie De La Garza, and her estranged father, Patrick Lovato. “I was very conflicted when he passed, because he was abusive. He was mean, but he wanted to be a good person. And he wanted to have his family,” Lovato said in a YouTube video for her 2013 song, “Father,” which is about her father.
Africa on Her Arm
For her 21st birthday, Lovato traveled to Africa to the Maasai Mara Region of Kenya for a volunteer trip with the charity, WE. The trip, which happened in August 2013, was so life-changing that Lovato tattooed an outline of Africa on the inside of her arm in December 2013. “I went [to Africa] for my 21st birthday. I went to Kenya and it was just a very, very inspirational journey that I feel like really had a huge impact on my life,” she told iHeartRadio. “And, I would’ve gotten Kenya but then people would have been like, ‘What’s that?’ So Africa’s a little more distinct.”
“III” on Her Wrist
In December 2013, Lovato tattooed the Roman numeral “III” on her wrist in memory of her father, Patrick Lovato, who died in June 2013 after a long battle with cancer. Though Lovato was estranged from her father for most her life, the tattoo is still a tribute to him and his favorite number, 3, which is the number of his favorite NASCAR race car driver, Dale Earnhardt.
“It’s the Roman Numeral three. It means a lot to me because my dad, it was his like number,” Lovato said in an interview with Craig Ferguson in 2013.. “He passed this summer and I wanted to do something positive.”
“Now I’m a Warrior” on Her Back
On her upper back, underneath her neck, Lovato has the phrase, “Now I’m a warrior,” tattooed. The phrase is a lyric from her 2013 song, “Warrior,” which talks about Lovato’s struggles and how she’s overcome them to become stronger. The tattoo was done by Bang Bang in May 2013. “I have a song on my album called ‘Warrior’ and it’s a very, very meaningful song to me,” Lovato said in on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in 2013. “It’s really heavy, the lyrics, but it’s an inspirational song as well. It’s a negative thing turned positive. I’ve been through a lot and I’m really really honest on this album. And this is a song that was really difficult for me to write, record, and now release. [The tattoo] was kind of like a tribute to releasing the album as well as overcoming some really really difficult things in my life.”
Birds on Her Forearm
Lovato has a series of birds tattooed on her forearm. The design for the tattoo, which features 12 birds flying and was done by Kat Von D, later appeared on the cover of her 2013 book, Staying Strong: 365 Days. Lovato chose birds for the tattoo, which she received in November 2012, as a symbol for freedom. She was inspire to get it after an Alcoholics Anonymous program. “I love the freedom that birds represent and I didn’t specifically have a huge reason why I got 12 of them,” she told iHeartRadio in 2013. “But one day, one of my friends that I was at Sober Living, I was living in her Sober Living house, and they asked, ‘So why’d you get … How many did you get?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve,’ and I was like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t mean to do that.’ But it’s like, it was kind of like a God thing, like I worked the 12 steps, so as I got that while I was in Sober Living, apparently it was really meant to be.”
“Let Go” and “Let God” on Her Feet
As a Christian, Lovato tattooed the words “Let go” and “Let God” on her feet in September 2012. Each phrase is tattooed on a different foot above her toes.
“Faith” on Her Arm
In December 2011, Lovato tattooed the word “Faith” on her wrist. The tattoo, which on her right arm and below her elbow, is a matching tattoo with her friend Lauren Martin, whom she met in treatment at Timberline Knolls.
“Rock N Roll” on Her Finger
One of Lovato’s tiniest tattoos are the words “Rock N Roll” on her finger. She shares the tattoo with her friend, Hannah Beth Merjos. And though Lovato has expressed regret about the tattoo, she’s still a fan of it as of now. “I’ve thought about it [tattoo removal] before, because when I get older I don’t know if I’m going to want to have ‘rock and roll’ on my middle finger. But whatever, I’m young and I can rock it now and when I get older I can worry about that later,” she said in an interview on Live with Kelly and Michael.
“Peace” on Her Finger
In late 2011, Lovato tattooed the word “Peace” on the side of her middle finger of her left hand. Because of its location and her fingers rubbing together, the ink on the tattoo has worn off a bit, with the last “E” being barely visible.
Cross on Her Hand
In June 2011, Lovato tattooed a cross on the side of her right hand, below her pinkie. The tattoo is a nod to her faith as a Christian. In an interview with On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Lovato revealed that she chose that location so fans would see it when she held the microphone and remind them that she’s a devout Christian.
“Stay” and “Strong” on Her Wrists
In March 2013, after three months in rehab for her eating disorder and cutting, Lovato tattooed the words “Stay” and “Strong” on her wrists. Each word is on a different wrist, forming the phrase, “Stay strong,” when they’re put together. The phrase later became the title of Lovato’s 2012 MTV documentary. The location was also chosen to cover up Lovato’s scars from when she cut herself.
“The message is for me. It says, ‘Stay Strong.’ So every day no matter if I’m putting on my shoes or putting on my makeup, I see it every day, to stay strong.,” she told 20/20 in 2013. “It was very symbolic for me to be able to be able to cover that up and also replace it with something else that’s permanent so that I’ll never be able to forget the support that I had when I went in [to treatment].”
Feather Behind Her Ear
In June 2010 on a Warped Tour bus, Lovato tattooed a blue feather behind her ear. “I have a feather behind my ear, and it honestly doesn’t mean anything,” she told HollywoodLife in 2010. “I just think it’s cute. It’s a light blue feather, but it looks more like a leaf, so I gotta fix it.” She later fixed the tattoo in June 2011 to make it look less like a leaf and more like a feather.