There are few women in history who are as iconic as Marilyn Monroe. 53 years ago today she died too young, but will forever stay alive as a fashion icon. While we remember her for her beauty, here are 15 things you didn’t know about Marilyn Monroe that prove she was more than just a pretty face. She was a woman ahead of her time.
1. Marilyn Monroe wasn’t her birth name and in fact she had a number of different names throughout her career. Her birth certificate reads Norma Jeane Mortenson, she was baptized as Norma Jeane Baker, and she modeled under the names Jean Norman and Mona Monroe. Her original idea for a screen name was Jean Adair. And when she officially became Marilyn Monroe in 1956, she still went by the alias Zelda Zonk when signing into hotels, and as Faye Miller when checking into a psychiatric clinic.
2. Her mother had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. Subsequently, Marilyn was placed in 11 foster homes and spent almost a year in an orphanage in LA.
3. Before she entered the entertainment industry, Marilyn Monroe helped with the World War II efforts by working as a parachute inspector and a paint sprayer. Photographer David Conniver discovered Marilyn when she was working at a factory in an ammunitions factory and thought she had potential as a model. This lead to a referral for a screen testing, and the rest is history.
4. Despite being an icon, Marilyn Monroe was poorly paid. Her final unfinished film, Something’s Got to Give, only gave her a salary of $100,000. In comparison, star Elizabeth Taylor was getting paid a million dollars for Cleopatra.
5. She married three times, most famously to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. She married her first husband, James Dougherty, when she was only 16. James’ second wife forbid him from watching Marilyn Monroe movies!
6. Marilyn’s consistent no-shows increased the budget by $1 million during the filming of Let’s Make Love. In 1962, Fox fired her because of her chronic lateness and no shows, but four days before her death they rehired her on a 1 million dollar, two movie deal.
7. Marilyn was ahead of her time. She lived in a sexist society and beat the odds when she became the second woman to start her own production company.
8. She also fought against racism by intervening when Ella Fitzgerald couldn’t play in popular clubs because of her race. Marilyn called the club and promised to sit in the front table for a week if they let Fitzgerald perform. The press went wild and it was a great success.
9. Her weight went up and down so dramatically that sometimes during the shooting of a movie, costume designers would have to create multiple dresses for her in different sizes.
10. She loved to read. At the time of her death, she was reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and a novel based on the life of Monroe’s psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson. She said she always kept a copy of Ulysses in her car and would often read it aloud to herself.
11. She loved to be naked, often going without clothes when surrounded by female studio employees, and would go out wearing a black mink coat with nothing underneath. Rumor has it that she also would give interviews in the nude.
12. She was a great cook and among her friends was famous for her bouillabaisse. The New York Times tried to make her recipe and were surprised at how complex it was, It took them over two hours to finish it!
13. She famously sang the song Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend but she didn’t collect much jewellery – most of her pieces were costume jewelry. Instead she preferred to collect books of which she had a collection of over 400.
14. A riot broke out at her funeral as hundreds of fans rushed to the cemetery to steal the flowers from the tributes she’d been sent.
15. She owned many dogs in her life. The last one was a Maltese that Frank Sinatra gave her. She named him Maf, short for Mafia Baby.