“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you are going to mess up sometimes, it is a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you are going to mess it up.” Indeed if there is anyone who truly lived by her words, it was Marilyn Monroe. A Hollywood legend and the greatest sex icon the world ever witnessed in the 1950s and 1960s. However, behind the façade of perfection and glamour hides the unspoken tale of her broken childhood and struggles. Monroe was a woman who died young but left behind a legacy. Here is the unfiltered truth of Monroe’s life.
The real identity of Monroe
Marilyn Monroe’s birth name was Norma Jean Mortenson. Her birth was scandalous. Norma Jean’s mother Gladys Baker was a divorcee and already had 2 children from her previous marriage. She was an illegitimate child and never knew her father. Soon after birth, Baker who had paranoid schizophrenia and struggled financially gave her to foster care. In the book “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe”, J. Randy Taraborrelli wrote that Baker visited her daughter frequently. Once she came close to kidnapping her daughter from foster care. She stuffed Norma Jean in a duffle bag and locked her foster mother inside the house. However, the attempt failed as the woman broke free and stopped Baker.
A few years later she began to live with her biological mother. This had disastrous consequences for both of them. When Baker’s son passed away, she began to express her grief through anger. She channelized this anger at young Norma Jean for being alive while her son died. Soon after, Baker became institutionalized because of her worsening mental state. Norma Jean had no choice but to move back to foster care. She was sexually violated on several occasions. She finally moved out at the age of 16 by marrying James Dougherty. Which came to an end 4 years later.
The other side of Monroe’s stardom:
Monroe began her career as a model initially. After her first divorce, she signed a contract with (20th century) Fox in 1946 but dropped. Later, she signed another contract with Columbia but faced rejection again. Despite her current legacy, it was not easy for Monroe to succeed in Hollywood. She struggled financially. Once, she dared to make a bold move and embraced her sensuality. She did an explicit photo shoot. Eventually, her success as a model caught the attention of spectators. It was then that Ben Lyon, the head of new talent at Fox Studios offered her a chance. He chose the stage name “Marilyn” for her. She adopted her grandmother’s surname “Monroe”. That is how the iconic character “Marilyn Monroe” came into existence.
Success in her acting career did not set her free from inner struggles. Monroe suffered from esteem issues and severe stage fright. Due to this, she insisted on several retakes for a scene on the sets. This often irked her co-actors and the directors. Monroe also lived in the constant fear of losing her sanity like her mother. She suffered from anxiety, depression, and insomnia. To assuage her issues she began to consume barbiturates and indulge in alcohol intake.
Her personal life caused trauma too. When she got married to her second husband Joe DiMaggio, she had to face his violent behavior. He did not like her reputation as the “sex icon”. Hence, their marriage came to an end. Her 3rd marriage to Arthur Miller turned into another source of suffering. She suffered two miscarriages. Besides, during the period of their marriage, she came across Miller’s diary. He wrote that he felt disappointed and embarrassed by his wife. This incident permanently strained their marriage and it soon dwindled. Thus, during her entire career, Monroe had to endure the pain of three failed marriages.
Marilyn Monroe: An inspiration?
There is no apprehension about the fact that Monroe had a difficult and tragic life. However, her achievements do not go unrecognized. Even in the present era, women all around the world continue to look up to her. She revolutionized society’s perception of women. She broke the stereotype that women cannot be bold and independent. They can live their lives on their terms, irrespective of society’s judgment. Monroe might not have identified herself as a feminist but her actions propagated feminism.
She had the courage to voice her opinion. Monroe openly confessed to her childhood experiences of exploitation and abuse. In the 1950s, society did not recognize the rights of women and victim-blaming was prevalent. Nevertheless, Monroe chose not to silence herself. She spoke of the injustice she had to encounter.
Secondly, she embraced sexuality. Monroe became the greatest sex icon and was never apologetic for her sensuality. She uplifted the way women viewed themselves. From glamorous shoots to being photographed in boas without makeup, she was never afraid to truly express herself.
Moreover, from a battling artist who struggled financially, Monroe succeeded and established her own production company. She was the 2nd woman in history to do so. Despite repeated rejections in the initial stages, Monroe became a successful actress and a producer. She even received a Golden Globe Award for best actress in 1959. Her movies were commercially and critically acclaimed.
She believed in equality. Ella Fitzgerald, a black woman was not booked at the Hollywood nightclub Mocambo because of the prevailing racism. It was Monroe who helped her to succeed by sitting at the club whenever she performed. This helped Ms. Fitzgerald gain publicity and fame.
Marilyn Monroe was an ambitious and daring woman. She believed in herself and achieved her childhood dream of becoming an actress. Initial rejections and criticisms did not weigh her down. Even though her death was tragic, her legacy is still alive and will continue to empower women to have faith in themselves. She was a feminist, an inspiration and a pioneer, beyond a sex icon.
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