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From Housewife to Icon: The Rise of Marilyn Monroe Revealed

November 24, 2015 5 min read

Marilyn Monroe is known to many as a celebrity sex icon and Hollywood actress, but most likely not as Norma Jeane Dougherty, a bored housewife who was married to a merchant marine. Until now.

An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name.

Antique shop owner Astrid Franse and Michelle Morgan wrote a book filled with photos and archives of the star's early modeling years in Los Angeles, showing her progression from a nobody to the talk of the town.

An excerpt gathered by the New York Post from the new book, "Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modeling Years" reveals just how Norma Jeane rose to stardom.

 An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name.

Norma Jeane was married at the tender age of 16 in order to get out of foster care. Propaganda photographers discovered her at the plant during the war. It was in August 1945, when she was 19, that she was introduced to Miss Emmeline Snively by a photographer. Snively owned the  Blue Book Modeling Agency in Los Angeles.

An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name.

"Norma Jeane had been brought to the hotel by photographer Potter Hueth, wearing a simple white dress and armed with her modeling portfolio, which offered no more than a few choice snaps. You wouldn’t necessarily wear a white dress to a modelling job, and it was as clean and white and ironed and shining as she was," noted Emmeline. She also noted how the teen was intrigued by the client photos hanging in her office, commenting to herself: "Those are the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen." She then asked the agent, "Do you think I could ever get my picture on a magazine cover?"

An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name. An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name.

"Of course. You're a natural," was Emmeline's response.

Her measurements were originally recorded as: "Size 12, height 5' 6", 36 bust, 24 waist, 34 hips. Blue eyes, perfect teeth and blonde, curly hair," but Emmeline had to adjust some things later. "Actually, her hair was dirty blonde... I recall that it curled very close to her head, which was quite unmanageable. I knew at once it would have to be bleached and worked on."

To begin her career, Norma Jeane took a $100 three-month modeling course in order to learn such things as posing, presentation and grooming. Emmeline thought she did well with body posture and hand movements, but needed more work on her walk. "Her knees lock. She’s double-jointed in the knees, so she can’t relax and that is why her hips seem to sway when she walks into a room. Her walk is a result of that locking action every time she takes a step."

The agency also thought her smile caused her nose to look too long.

An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name. An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name.

"She smiled too high, that’s what was wrong, and it made deep lines around her nose. We taught her how to bring her smile down and show her lower," said Emmeline.

Her first gig as a model was as a hostess in Los Angeles in 1945 on Labor Day weekend. It was at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. She appeared to be "absolutely terrified" as she handed out pamphlets and spoke with guests. She also modeled next to a filing cabinet from the Holga Steel Company. The next day was what proved she was in it to win it, however.

Emmeline was surprised to find that Norma Jeane had handed over nearly $100 for the fee of the modeling class. "She gave me the whole $90. Took nothing out for car fare or meals or clothes or anything... I knew at once she was a fair and honest and very fine girl, and I decided to get her as much work as I possibly could."

She eventually landed a shampoo advertisement that gave Emmeline the chance to finally change her hair.

 An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name.

"Look darling, if you really intend to go places in this business, you’ve just got to bleach and straighten your hair because now your face is a little too round and a hair job will lengthen it," Emmeline recalled telling the model. "She emerged a truly golden girl... From this point she went into her bathing suit stage, and the demand for her was simply terrific. She averaged, I should say, $150 a week, and men began talking about getting her into the motion-picture game."

Howard Hughes caught wind of the young beauty in July 1946 and informed Emmeline that he wanted to sign the girl he had discovered on the cover of Laff magazine.

Her first piece of national press came as a result of Emmeline informing famous gossip columnist Hedda Hopper of the news, and just a few days later, Norma Jeane had landed a screen test at 20th Century Fox.

Ben Lyons suggested that the model change her name to Marilyn. "When he asked her if there was a last name she particularly liked, she said yes - her grandmother’s name had been Monroe," a file in the studio's archives noted.

An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name. An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name.

That same year she decided to divorce her husband James Dougherty, but was then dropped by  20th Century Fox, which resulted in her returning to modeling antiques at trade shows.

Then, a man offered her money in return for sexual favors. "For a dizzy moment, I had visions of being able to pay my rent, but as he went on giving the details of what I would be expected to do, my visions vanished," she said later. "He was brutally frank, and all I could think of to say was that he shouldn’t talk that way over a public telephone. I didn’t realize how silly that sounded until I hung up, and then I started to laugh."

She tried to get by for months before finally posing nude for photographer Tom Kelley. However, she requested that his wife would be there for it. "I decided I’d be safer with [Kelley] than with some rich old guy who might catch me in a weak moment when I was hungry and didn’t have enough to buy a square meal," she said. To pose fully nude, Kelly paid her $50, and then sold the image to a calendar-maker for $500.

Her acting career picked back up when she got a role in "Love Happy."

An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name. An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name.

Her nude photos resurfaced in 1952, by the time she was much more well-known, yet rather than ruining her career, they only made her more desirable to the public. And in 1953, she had landed a starring role in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes," and had a part in "There's No Business Like Show Business" as well. Emmeline learned of her success and decided to visit her on set, recalling that Marilyn was unsure of herself as a professional actress.

"How could she have felt any different? She’d signed her first contract before she had her first acting lesson. God, I wanted to cry for her then. This can be the loneliest town in the world, and it’s even lonelier for you if you’re on top of the heap."

And although she went on to become one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood of her time, she  remained insecure of her abilities, Emmeline said.

Marilyn died of a drug overdose at the age of 36 in her Los Angeles home on August 5, 1962.

An inside look at how Marilyn Monroe became a household name. Can you believe, despite how confident she seemed in pictures and movies that she was insecure? Source: Daily Mail [caption id="attachment_120128" align="alignleft" width="100"]@BodyRockTV @BodyRockTV[/caption] [caption id="attachment_120127" align="alignleft" width="100"]@BodyRockOfficial @BodyRockOfficial[/caption]

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