Last year, I tackled a subject I held dear to my heart and covered the tragic facts of Miss Monroe’s life. I was so disappointed to see the many familiar insults hurled at this woman — a woman who I, very purposely, was attempting to reveal as a sensitive, vulnerable, real person. All the same rhetoric: “She was a slut.” “She was a tramp.” “She slept around.” And, my personal favorite: “Why should we care about this dead whore?”
Marilyn Monroe, while being both a carefully-crafted image and a universally known sex icon, was so much more than that. She was better than that. Beyond the incorrect Facebook quotes about “handling her at her worst” and the undeniable attraction she maintains even in death lies a truly admirable woman.
A piece from Margaret Parton, reporter from the Ladies’ Home Journal, described her as such:
She Handled A Body-Shaming Crisis With Class
Before her meteoric rise to fame, Marilyn (then still Norma Jeane) had the same trouble all struggling artists face: money. On May 27, 1949 — five days before her 23rd birthday — she found herself in desperate need of $50. By today’s standards, that’s around $460… no small feat. If she couldn’t come up with the money, she would be evicted.
Without her contracts at 20th Century Fox and Columbia (which had both been dropped) Marilyn took up an offer for work from photographer Tom Kelley. She had turned him down in the past because his photography was on the racier side. But what could she do? She couldn’t be homeless. Marilyn did the nude photo shoot, got her $50, and promptly moved on.
In 1952, the photo was purchased for publication in a popular calendar. Suddenly the photo was everywhere: gas stations, barber shops, garages, locker rooms, you name it. By this time Marilyn had made it big and was one of the hottest starlets in the country. TIME Magazine reported that the film studio pleaded with her to deny that she was the woman in the photo was her. She refused. In fact, Marilyn decided to give an exclusive interview addressing the so-called “Golden Dreams” scandal.
On March 25, 1952, reporters showed up in droves, hungry for denial and headlines. Instead, Marilyn said this:
“I was broke and needed the money. Why deny it?… You can get one [a calendar] anyplace. Besides, I’m not ashamed of it, I’ve done nothing wrong… I was a week behind on the rent. I had to have the money. Tom didn’t think anyone would recognize me. My hair was long then. But when the picture came out, everybody knew me… I’d never have done it if I’d known things would happen so fast in Hollywood for me.”
Her candor and honesty charmed both the media and the public; the move proved only to help her rise to fame and endear her to a world that had initially wanted her to fail.