Marilyn’s latest gig – Max Factor “Global Ambassador” 2015


Early modelling work

Marilyn was recently announced as the face of Max Factor’s latest ad campaign. The theme of which is that thanks to Max jr.’mousey’ Norma Jeane Mortenson became glamorous sex symbol Marilyn Monroe – a la the ugly duckling becoming the beautiful swan. Now as much as I am delighted to see Marilyn getting work 53 years after her demise, the fact of the matter is there are more cracks in the foundation of this campaign than in a smashed windscreen. To begin – to describe Norma Jeane as mousey is misleading to mice everywhere – at 19 Norma Jeane was so striking that she was spotted by David Conover, the photographer  who first saw her potential when she was working at the Radio Plane Company. In later recollections Conover attributed his choice to Norma Jeane’s “eyes that touched and intrigued me.” Her eyes, not a mention of her hair. So ever before she went blonde she had quite a nice little money earner modelling for numerous magazines and ads- not quite the plain Jane Max Factor are making her out to be.


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Ms Jean Harlow – The Original Blonde Bombshell


And then that she became a blonde is, by most of her biographers, acknowledged as thanks to Emmeline Snively, head of her first modeling agency who suggested she bleach her hair to exponentially increase her photogenicness and thereby her workload. It was also something she had long wanted as she was a huge fan, as was her mother, of the first blonde bombshell, Ms Harlow, and a woman whose career and stardom, she longed to emulate.




_slihwitneyFurthermore Marilyn’s famous red lips are the result of her lifelong collaboration with makeup artist Allan “Whitey” Snyder. And the actual colour achieved is thanks not to any one particular tube but to a combination of reds , the exact details of which was kept a secret between them. Marilyn had the utmost faith and trust in Whitey’s ability to create her perfect face ; so much so that she gave him a money clip with the engraving “Whitey, dear..while I’m still warm – Marilyn” A promise he reluctantly kept, with the help of a bottle of gin, when the star died unexpectedly on August 5th, 1962. Marilyn went to her maker looking perfect,just as she wanted it. But thanks to Whitey, not Max.

Marilyn is often quoted as saying, ” I used to think as I looked out on the hollywood night ‘There are thousands of girls sitting alone like me dreaming of being a  movie star.’ But I’m not going to worry about them. I’m dreaming the hardest.” Which brings me to my final point. Norma Jeane Mortenson became Marilyn Monroe because she wanted fame, success and stardom more than she wanted anything else. She worked hard and was happy to use the help people like Snyder or Lee Strasberg could give her, but the ultimate credit for her success belongs to Norma Jeane herself because she fought so hard for it. On some subconscious level perhaps she fought so tenaciously because it brought her the love and sense of belonging she so longed for, and  yet was  repeatedly, denied by her complex family and childhood and  later her rather unfortunate choices in men.

Caveat emptor is a guiding principle for consumers and should be applied liberally here. There were many factors in Norma Jeane’s transformation to Marilyn Monroe, but at the heart of it was a young girl with big dreams, a girl who listened to those around here – the photographers most of all – to strive to be the best. As Snively herself says to other aspiring models, “..if you can show half the gumption, just half that little girl showed you’ll be a success too…there’ll never be another like her.”