The defiant crooner — known as much for her openly lesbian lifestyle as her gift of gravelly voice — stunned the world when she bared her hairless head as she stepped onstage in her first public performance since she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
"I started crying tears of joy," said Manhattanite Sharon Blynn, 33, who lost her own hair during ovarian cancer treatments from 2000 to 2003 and who now runs a Web site called baldisbeautiful.com.
"I immediately felt totally empowered and connected. She's a super-bold, bad-ass, bald chick."
Etheridge had finished chemotherapy three days after Christmas, losing her hair in the process, and will continue radiation treatments through the end of March, according to her publicist.
But Etheridge showed no signs of illness as she brought the house down at the Grammys.
"She was so full of life, hair or no hair," marveled Fran Visco, 57, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (search) and a breast-cancer survivor.
"I just thought she was wonderful. She wasn't hiding the fact that she had breast cancer. She was vibrant, powerful and so full of life. It was such a statement to the women across the country, inspiring them to not hide about breast cancer."
The star was diagnosed last October, after she found a lump in her breast that proved cancerous.
Shortly after her diagnosis, she was forced to cancel nearly a dozen concert tour dates.
After surgery, she posted a statement on her Web site saying, "I am fortunate to be under a wonderful doctor's care and thankful that this was caught early."
Geralyn Lucas, 37, who wrote a book about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27, praised Etheridge's courage at going bald at such a glam event.
"These awards shows are all about boobs and hair," Lucas said. "If you don't have cleavage, maybe you have the hair. She accepted herself as she is."
According to the American Cancer Society (search), breast cancer will strike 200,000 women this year and claim 40,000 lives.
Other famous breast cancer survivors include former First Lady Betty Ford, singer Olivia Newton-John and newswoman Linda Ellerbee.