Lady Gaga’s performance at the 88th Academy Awards on Sunday was nothing if not haunting, and the singer celebrated the powerful “Til It Happens to You” tribute by getting a tattoo on her shoulder of a symbol of unity, one that matches the same ink many of the sexual assault survivors who joined Gaga on stage that night also had done. Lady Gaga’s new tattoo is the product of a collaboration between Jacqueline Lin (one of the survivors on stage with Gaga) and tattoo artist David Allen. Lin's design was inked on the back of Gaga's left shoulder by David Allen (who is no stranger to tattooing strong women), and features two intersecting images symbolizing unity inked in black. The 29-year-old debuted the meaningful ink in a video she uploaded to Snapchat this week, explaining, “At rehearsal the survivors and I made a pact.”
The song Lady Gaga performed at the Oscars was one she co-wrote with Diane Warren for the CNN documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which explores the serious issue of rape and sexual assault on college campuses across the United States. Gaga, a victim of sexual violence herself, was joined onstage by 50 other survivors of sexual assault–male and female–all of whom stepped out of the shadows and joined hands during the chilling tribute. It was obvious that Lady Gaga put everything she had into that performance, and she now has a permanent tattoo inked in honor of that powerful moment and its important message.
Lin, a design and computer science major at Stanford University, is an outspoken voice for social justice who designed the tattoo as a symbol of strength. "The tattoo was made for and dedicated to survivors," Lin says. "It is a unity symbol inspired by the loops of our DNA structure and our universal infinity sign. I combined inspiration from Lady Gaga's favorite flower, the white rose, to breathe life into an organic and growing symbol. The final image embraces a fiery shape to give us power and strength everywhere we go."
Lady Gaga’s unity tattoo was inspired by the strength and support of the men and women who joined her on stage during the Oscars performance, and many of them have since come forward to reveal their own unity tattoos they had done in solidarity. Following the emotional onstage tribute, Lady Gaga admitted that the whole experience was tough, especially since she herself has been a victim of sexual violence, and said, “[It was] the fear of knowing I would finally face that I belonged in that group. I told them I was so sorry I couldn’t be Lady Gaga to them, that I couldn’t even get dressed. I could barely get through the song, couldn’t hit any of the high notes.”
It was difficult for many of the other survivors as well. Says 21-year-old Sage Carson, who took part in the Oscars performance, “That first day of rehearsal we were all very hesitant. Some who had spoken out had been very exploited. There was a lot of hesitation. Lady Gaga was crying. She hugged us all and she talked about her experience as a survivor.” During the three days of rehearsal leading up to the Academy Awards tribute, Sage and 50 others, including Gaga herself, bonded with one another, and made a pact that they would get matching unity tattoos.
Now that she’s confronted her past and inked a permanent reminder of her status as a survivor on her body, Lady Gaga plans to move on with her life. As she told Howard Stern in 2014, “I don’t want to be defined by it. I’ll be damned if somebody’s gonna say that every creatively intelligent thing that I ever did is all boiled down to one d***head that did that to me. I’m gonna take responsibility for all my pain looking beautiful and all the things I’ve made out of my strife. I did that.”