After a chance encounter with photographer David Conover, Marilyn Monroe began her transition from part-time model into the sex symbol of the 1950s. Her iconic style, on-screen charm and various high-profile beaus made her one of the world’s most beloved celebs, even decades after her untimely death. To honour what would have been her 90th birthday, we dove head-first into the Internet’s Marilyn Monroe wormhole to decipher what is actually true, and what is myth.
Myth: Marilyn said: “Well-behaved women seldom make history” Despite what thousands of bumper stickers, Tumblr posts and magnets on your mom’s fridge would have you believe, this inspirational sentiment of female badassery was actually said by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (a professor at Harvard University).
Fact: Marilyn said: “I don’t mind living in a man’s world, as long as I can be a woman in it.” Why do we bother attributing fake quotes to her when the real deal is this great?
Myth: She was a natural blonde. PSA: something like two percent of people are naturally blonde, and the rest are dye jobs. People seem to think that Monroe simply lightened her already-golden locks, but the truth is, Norma Jeane started out as a brunette. You can rest assured that Marilyn’s über platinum ’do took quite a bit of bleach (and we love it).
Fact: Marilyn had to be sewn into the dress she wore to sing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy. Now that is commitment.
Myth: She was somewhere between a size 12 and a size 14. Many of Marilyn’s most famous outfits have been preserved and auctioned off over the years. In truth, she was closer to a size 4 or a size 6 in today’s sizing.
Fact: Marilyn was married three times. She and Joe DiMaggio (her second husband) were thought to be reconnecting toward the end of her life, but she passed before they could re-tie the knot. She was married to her first husband James Dougherty from 1942 to 1946 and playwright Arthur Miller from 1956 to 1961.
Myth: Marilyn didn’t have the strongest work ethic—she always showed up late to set and never had her lines memorized. Those who worked with Monroe have reported that it was actually severe stage fright that led to poor performance. Producer Henry Weinstein referred to it as “sheer primal terror.”
Fact: Years after Marilyn’s death, Hugh Hefner bought the burial plot next to hers. According to the Guardian, he paid $75,000 for the crypt next door at L.A’s Westwood Village cemetery in 1992.
Myth or Fact: Marilyn had a steamy affair with JFK. That iconic performance of “Happy Birthday” fueled rumours that Monroe and John F. Kennedy were having an affair but there’s never been official confirmation.
Fact: Marilyn’s death was cited as causing a spike in suicides in the days after she died. The New York Times reported a record high of 12 suicides in one day in the week after her death. One person left a short note that said, “If the most wonderful, beautiful thing in the world has nothing to live for, then neither must I.”