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You would think Marilyn Monroe was still alive and gracing the big screen the way admiration for the actress and model has withstood the test of time. If there’s one woman whose reign as a classic beauty hasn’t let up, it’s her.

Her curves have been the symbol of voluptuous beauty for the modern-day plus-sized woman, her hair proves the age-old saying that blondes have more fun, her unending sexiness has given women liberty to let their skirts blow in the wind and not care who sees, and now it seems more than ever, she’s even become a beauty icon for black women.

Thinking about Nicki Minaj and Brianna Perry who both recently dropped tracks titled “Marilyn Monroe,” and the countless celebs like Rihanna and Amber Rose who’ve emulated her look, I had to ask a friend who’s obsessed with the star what the deal is. Marilyn is beautiful and all but if we’re talking about a standard of beauty we could actually aspire to, she would not be it no matter how much skin and hair dye money can buy. As expected, my friend pointed out Marilyn’s gorgeous features and when I said, what about Lena Horne, she commented that as beautiful as Lena was, she wasn’t known for her beauty in the same way. She argued people talked more about what Lena Horne did than how she looked, and said Marilyn had a seductiveness that appealed to the masses. I argued that that appeal was no coincidence and brought Josephine Baker, a black woman who exuded sexiness, into the picture, which only led us into a long, heated discussion about why these black icons of beauty didn’t get the same shine as Marilyn, and which ended on the note, does it even matter?

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  • hipployta

    Hmm…I’ve been dressing in vintage and vintage inspired clothing for over 14 years. Essentially the “pin-up/rockabilly” look has become popular so these celebrities are just copying the most well known icon.

    I really think there is no deep thought involved…and would actually be surprised if they know who Josephine Baker is. So many Americans have no idea about her or Paul Robeson which may partially be due to their time overseas.

  • Dee

    Add Dorothy Dandridge as well. She was fab in her own right. Don’t mind that they love MM (I adore her) but there are many noteworthy bombshells of color that were on the same level as MM.

  • omfg

    a lot of black women i see with color look a bit cheap, sorry to say.

    i think a black woman going for the blond look needs to be in the hands of a good colorist to get it right.

    imo, the only black woman i’ve seen who looks good with the blond hair is mary j blige.

    as far as marilyn’s curves being inspiration for plus sized women, i’m not exactly sure why. monroe was not plus sized at all. she was more like an american size 6/8.

  • Tiff


  • keke

    I think it is absolutely ridiculous and it has pretty much drifted into the overkill territory. There is nothing original about dressing up and playing the Marilyn Monroe role. I am pretty sure Norma Jean was fed up with it at one point.

    The interesting part about all of this is that most of these starlet and even the average day chicks who are glamorizing/fetishizing about Marilyn know much about her beyond the persona she portrayed on and off camera. She is known and praised more for the sex kitten, baby, look but don’t touch image than for her acting talent (which she was pretty upset about).

    Honestly, I don’t get it. She was pretty, she played the dumb blonde act well. But she wasn’t the only iconic white actress around during that time period. So really what gives? I say get over marilyn already….its just a sad sorry cliche

  • cookiechica

    I have absolutely no problem with Black women(or anyone) idolizing/dressing like Marilyn….especially when they do their research into old Hollywood and delve deeper than Marilyn and not just emulate a handy(and easy) reference. As much as I admire Marilyn’s style, there were so many stylish actresses and bombshell icons, such as Bettie Page, Jane Russell, and Cyd Charisse. It’s a bit annoying when listening to people gush about how they love the look of Old Hollywood, yet can’t namecheck anyone but Marilyn, Barbie, or “Mad Men” as their references.

  • cookiechica

    I meant to namecheck MY icons too!! Carmen Miranda, Eartha Kitt, Josephine Baker and Dorothy Dandridge!

  • Gigi Young

    Marilyn, like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elvis, and James Dean are icons long after their deaths because of old Hollywood marketing, a particular something that had never been seen before, and the posthumous marketing of their images. If Lena Horne or Harry Belafonte were plastered across cheap purses, wall clocks, $10 Wal-Mart posters, etc, they’d be just as iconic.

  • The Antifash

    I have thought about this plenty of times. I think Marilyn was gorgeous and whether we like it or not she is a style icon. I’ll be honest, as a black woman who is quite proud I sometimes feel a bit guilty idolizing ANY white woman, and I’m in the fashion industry (this is my career/what I desire to do)….

    It’s a battle.

  • omfg

    i’ve often wondered whether the black people in fashion feel weird about fawning over all the white women they help elevate as being beautiful and the epitome of womanhood.

  • Ella

    short answer: NO!! I’ve always thought MM was overrated looks wise as well as talent wise but I adore the whole pinup look in general.

  • binks

    Thank you! I have nothing against MM but they ARE famous bombshells of color that deserves to be noted and take inspiration from anyone from Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Mrs. Baker, etc. and even if you don’t want to take note from famous women of color of yesteryear they were other great bombshell other than Marilyn…hello Jean Harlow, Jayne Mansfield, sophia loren,etc. but it goes to show you if you don’t know your history or the history of the era you are drawn too you will be stuck on only one thing. But I do get the appeal of Miss Monroe she was an interesting person with major complexities but she doesn’t represent that era solely

  • twan

    THANK YOU!!!!! i am SOOOOO tired of marilyn monroe EVERY-damn-WHERE! the woman died like 50 years ago. pick somebody else…. somebody who actually looked good! i don’t see the hype with MM at all. people keep dubbing her “the most beautiful woman to ever live” ummm NO!

  • So Over This Ish

    My ex’s mother had bleach blonde hair…it was platinum blonde, which can be difficult for most women of any race to pull off, but she made it work with her deep brown skin.

    But very light hair is prone to damage, especially relaxed hair. I always wonder how some ladies keep their hair healthy with that color. Bleach strips your hair of its natural color and causes dryness, even in Caucasian hair.

    As to the whole notion of Marilyn being plus-sized…I’ve heard so many women claim that she was a size 14/16, which is bullshyt. My cousin (who is a big woman herself) says this all the time, as a way to feel better about her own size. I agree with you.

    Anyone looking at pictures of Marilyn throughout her career can see that she was not a modern size 14 or 16. She mostly wore clothes by European designers and she also had clothes made by William Travilla. She had more meat on her than the skinny models/actresses today but she was still slender. She had a tiny waist, nice hips, and a medium-sized bust.

    I’ve read that her waist was only about 23 inches and it appeared smaller when she wore girdles…but she wasn’t fond of underwear. She did wear the “cone” bras that were popular back then to make her boobs appear more pointy, though. She was supposedly a 36D but she doesn’t appear to be a D-cup in most pictures. She looks smaller.

  • Regina

    I love MM, but what about Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine baker, Bille Holiday, sarah vaughan. These were and still are some of the most influential women in todays society. I look to them for inspiration. This barbie trend has played out also. There are sooo many beautiful black women we can look to for inspiration, its time we stop running to MM for inspiration and find out own.

  • Alana

    To me Marilyn Monroe is or was only a name. She doesn’t really personify “style” compared to Liz Taylor. There were many colored actresses in same era who could smoke MM in style and class any day of week.

  • FrugalJana

    I am too apart of the rag industry and find the fawning over Marilyn to be overkill. Out of all 100 + folks that I’ve helped as a stylist, not one has mentioned any woman of color as a style inspiration. As a woman of color, I can not look like a white blonde woman.

    IMHO, the obsession with Marilyn comes from the stereotypes that have been established by the media for white woman: blonde; overly-sexed; soft-spoken; and dumb.

    So sad that Norma Jean was actually a pretty smart woman.

  • Miss September

    I think MM was beautiful , but she is no comparison to the beauty of
    Sophia Loren or Liz Taylor . I think they are highly underrated . MM’s
    appeal to me is based on her image . She played the ditzy blonde, helpless
    siren well . That to me is why so many idolize her today , not based soley
    on her looks . Far as black women , imitating the MM persona . I say do it ! I once was MM for halloween , and I loved the red lips and blonde hair

  • Jasmin

    Actually, The GORGEOUS Dorothy Dandridge would be a more apt comparison to Marilyn Monroe than Lena Horne. If I had to choose, i’d rather look like Dorothy than Marilyn. To argue that Lena Horne was not celebrated for her beauty in the same way as Monroe makes no sense. To African Americans of the time, she WAS the standard bearer of Black beauty. What Black actress of the time could have, or WOULD have, competed with the white, blond fantasy woman that was Marilyn Monroe? Let’s not forget that Monroe died young. That’s a huge part of her enduring legend. Had she lived a long life, her beauty would have faded bigtime–LONG before Lena’s. In fact, Lena Horne was still remarkably beautiful at 80. I doubt the same would have been said for Monroe.

    If Black celebrities want or dress up like Monroe, that’s their business. With the exception of Zoe Saldana, Halle Berry, Beyonce (sometimes) and a few others, most of them look like fools, anyway (are you listening Nicki and Rihanna?) If they think that dressing up like Monroe will help legitiimize or enhance their beauty, it won’t. They just look like Halloween characters.