“Women couldn’t take her seriously enough to be indignant: She was funny and impulsive in a way that made people feel protective.”
For many actresses, channeling Marilyn Monroe, who died at 36 of an overdose of barbiturates, is virtually a rite of passage.
Nicole Kidman impersonated Monroe for Australian Harper’s Bazaar, when Scarlett Johansson did her for a Dolce & Gabbana ad.
Lindsay Lohan, an avowed Monroe obsessive who bought a West Hollywood apartment the star one lived in, reenacted for New York Magazine the actress’s famed nude shoot with Bert Stern, in which Marilyn Monroe posed behind colored chiffon and bit a pearl necklace.
For makeup artist kevyn Aucoin, Lisa Marie Presley shed her resemblance to one American icon – her father, Elvis – to incarnate, uncannily, that other lost legend.
Marilyn Monroe likeness is so recognizable that it has been refracted through pop-cultural iterations many times over.
Guess model Anna Nicole Smith presented herself as a far coarser version of Marilyn Monroe, white subsequent models for the same brand impersonated Smith impersonating Marilyn Monroe.
Most famously, Madonna took the trappings of Marilyn Monroe’s look and put them to her own uses: As Gloria Steinem observed in the mid-1980’s, “She has imitated Marilyn Monroe’s hair, style, and clothes, but subtracted her vulnerability.”
And Marilyn Monroe’s blonde legacy is so unmistakable that Lady Gaga‘s platinum pose recalls Monroe because of its evocation of Madonna.
Why Does Marilyn Monroe endure? she wasn’t even Hollywood’s first voluptuous, fair-haired beauty who died at a tragically young age. That would be Jean Harlow, for whom the term “blonde Bombshell” was coined in 1933, and who died for years later at the age of 26, from kidney failure. But Marilyn Monroe is the one whose beauty is so instantly recognizable that it can be indicated merely by a handful of components, blonde bouffant hair, sleepy, half-shut eyes, slightly parted lips on the verge of a welcoming smile.
Andy Warhol’s Marilyn silk-screen prints, which he made in the immediate aftermath of her death and which were reproduced from a publicity photo from the 1953 thriller Niagara, reduced her image to those very component, highlighted in vivid Pop Art color.
Monroe’s beauty belongs to a common language of American pop culture – a fact that was evident event as early as 1955. As Sheree North observed in Life Magazine, “Marilyn’s an institution, like Coca-Cola.”