Charlotte Guttenberg is a 67-year-old woman living in Melbourne, Florida and who works as a writer, a life coach and a personal trainer. But Guttenberg is no ordinary senior; in fact, her rather unusual passion has even seen her break a world record.
And that passion was one that had been in her for decades. Still, it took one life-changing event to spur her on to pursue it: the sad death of her husband in 2001. Even then it wasn’t until five years later, in 2006, that Guttenberg realized it was time to grab her life by the horns. And as a result, she was going to do something she’d been meaning to do for a long time.
Guttenberg’s late husband had been quite traditional. He had certain ideas of what it meant to be “a lady,” with strong opinions on what she should and shouldn’t do, especially with regard to her looks.
This left Guttenberg feeling restricted, because she didn’t feel quite able to express herself how she’d have liked to. But after her husband died, she was free to do as she pleased. And there was only one thing on her mind.
At this point in her life, in fact, she knew it was time to take the plunge and follow her dreams. And while appearing on U.K. show This Morning in September 2016, Guttenberg described her next move as having been “a life-defining step.”
The importance of that decision, moreover, meant that it took Guttenberg some time to fully think through what she wanted to do. Still, she eventually came to a conclusion – and five years after her husband’s death, she gave herself a special birthday present she could never take back.
That gift to herself was a tattoo. Her late husband had told her it wasn’t right for women to have them, despite having tattoos himself. But now that she no longer had to answer to him, Guttenberg decided it was time to treat herself.
As a result, the widow went on to have a small, pink butterfly design inked onto her chest in September 2006. But as with many who get their first tattoo, there was a yearning for another new piece of body art that didn’t leave her.
In fact, the tiny butterfly sparked a real and tangible obsession. Plus, it was one she could indulge in to her heart’s content, since now there was no one to tell her to stop. And so it proved: from then on, Guttenberg really didn’t hold back.
Indeed, tattoo after tattoo would go on to appear on her body over the years. To Guttenberg, however, the inkings had significance; she even considered them art. “I consider myself a walking art gallery,” she would explain in an interview with Guinness World Records.
Eventually, though, Guttenberg was no longer a woman with just a couple of tattoos; her transformation was taking things to the next level. In fact, given the huge amount of her body inked over her ten-year journey, she was nearing record-breaking territory.
And, one day, she finally did it: the sexagenarian made it into the Guinness World Records 2017 book. With a whopping 91.5 percent of her body covered, she’s officially the most tattooed female senior citizen.
What’s more, in a 2016 video interview with Guinness World Records Guttenberg said that she was “honored” to receive the title. She added, however, that she had “to pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming.” And her appearance has not only broken a record but also garnered quite a few compliments, too: in particular, young people constantly tell her they wish their grandparents were as cool as her.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Guttenberg is extremely proud of all her tattoos. “I can always entertain myself by looking at my own tattoos,” she said in the video interview with Guinness World Records. She added that they all form part of one big narrative, with each individual one having its own meaning.
Naturally, Guttenberg also gets a lot of attention when she’s out and about because of all her elaborate designs. And she says that she’s always willing to chat with anyone who stops to ask about them.
But even now that she’s beaten the record and barely has any more skin to ink, Guttenberg won’t stop getting tattoos anytime soon. In an interview with The Huffington Post in September 2016, in fact, she revealed, “I need to have a few spots done on my head.” The 67-year-old added, “I’m going to get another one on my neck.” Her toes, though, may yet remain untouched.
Still, so many tattoos requires quite the regime to keep them looking as fresh as the day they were inked. In particular, she stays out of the sun when possible; she also avoids swimming pools because their chlorinated water may affect her designs.
Perhaps most charmingly, though, Guttenberg’s tattoo journey has even led her to find love again. And she met her new life-partner Chuck Helmke in a pretty unusual setting for the average woman in her 50s. “We met at the tattoo studio in November 2006, while she was getting a tattoo done,” Helmke told The Sun in 2016.
Unsurprisingly, Helmke, 75, is also a tattoo fan, with an impressive 93.75 percent of his body covered. Only his face, toes and fingertips are clear, meaning that he too has been recognized by the Guinness World Records. He now holds the title of the most tattooed male senior citizen.
Given the huge journey she’s undertaken, then, it’s perhaps no surprise that Guttenberg believes everyone should be able to express themselves however they want. Just as she has done, in fact, even if it took her a little time to get there.