“I’m just a small girl in a big world, trying to find someone to love.” Whether it’s for one of her famous quotes, numerous films, or even her iconic dress-blowing-in-the-wind photo, virtually everyone knows Marilyn Monroe. She remains one of the most timeless figures in film history for her amazing work. Best known for her stunning beauty and remarkable talent, she led a successful life in the midst of so many challenges. Like anybody involved in showbiz, the beloved blonde bombshell did have a few secrets hidden from the spotlight. Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about Marilyn Monroe that’ll make you love her even more!
10. Marilyn was a Tomboy!
She was an active, athletic woman Marilyn Monroe wasn’t just a sultry waif acting on screen and posing for pictures. A highly athletic woman, she was into all sorts of activities. She studied weightlifting under former Olympic champion Howard Corrington. Marilyn was also often seen tandem surfing with one-time boyfriend Tommy Zahn. For those of you who don’t know what tandem surfing is, picture Marilyn atop a surfer’s shoulders as powerful waves surge past. That incredibly challenging activity requires balance, endurance, and strength, and Marilyn had those in spades. She was into yoga, learning under Bollywood star Indra Devi. Her lifestyle may have been a busy one but she loved staying active and made time for it.
9. Marilyn was Musical
She was musically inclined and loved the piano Marilyn could sing and dance as well as act. She was a powerhouse, extensively going over the dance routines for hours despite always being late for filming on set. However, her love for music has a more personal source. Marilyn was highly attached to the white baby grand piano bought by her mother, Gladys. She had to track it down and buy it back after it was sold when her mother was institutionalised. When they auctioned off her personal effects in 1999, the piano was sold for $662,500 to singer Mariah Carey. The fact that Marilyn’s piano fetched that sum despite being valued at a mere $10,000 condition goes to show the weight her name still carries.
8. Marilyn was Underpaid!
She was paid almost 10 times less than her costars in some of her earlier films! Like many struggling young actors, Marilyn went through that too. She roomed with another starlet at the time, Shelley Winters, from whom she supposedly learned her sultry smile and signature smoulder. You’ll be surprised to learn that when she did land her first films, she was paid so much less! In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Jane Russell earned 10 times more than Marilyn. She also only made $100,000 on Something’s Got To Give. Despite this, she kept at it and passed away as a movie star worth millions. Just a few days before she died, Fox hired her on a two picture deal worth one million dollars!
7. Marilyn was an Orphan
The famous blonde bombshell was an orphan Earlier we mentioned that Marilyn Monroe’s mother was institutionalized. Gladys Baker Monroe was financially and mentally unstable, which led to Marilyn being placed with 11 foster parents in her childhood. Marilyn, then called Norma Jean, went through some tough times as her mother tried to regain custody while relapsing into mental episodes. Gladys was eventually institutionalized in the Norwalk State Hospital. Marilyn was put under guardianship of her Grace McKee, who would take her to the cinema, and teach her how to wear makeup. Thus, her fascination with the screen began and the future Marilyn Monroe persona developed. The best guardian Marilyn had was Ana Lower, Grace McKee’s aunt, fondly dubbing it the most stable time of her life.
6. Marilyn was an Animal Lover
She loved dogs, and dogs loved her! One of her famous quotes goes “Dogs never bite me- just humans.” Marilyn was a dog lover, owning a spaniel, chihuahua, and poodle. Even as a poor young girl, she had her pet dogs as a constant despite her ever changing foster families. Her first dog Tippy came from her adoptive father and in her final film Something’s Got To Give, a dog named Tippy also stars alongside her. Her poodle named Maf was one of her favorite dogs. He was a gift from Frank Sinatra, featured in the popular book The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe.
5. Marilyn Hated Plastic Surgery
She disliked facelifts, but had 2 surgeries done at the behest of her agent Marilyn was known for saying, “I want to grow old without facelifts. I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I have made.” Launched from a difficult childhood into the glaring spotlight of fame, Marilyn tried to stayed true to herself despite it all. While she was subject to her own vanity and took good care of her looks, she greatly disliked going under the knife for the sake of beauty. Her agent Johnny Hyde urged her to have two plastic surgeries done, though, and she had a small cosmetic adjustment done to her nose and chin.
4. Marilyn was Likely a Size Zero –> 0
Size 16? More like 35-22-35! People often think that Marilyn Monroe was large because her dress size was 16. She was, in fact, a slim 35-22-35, curvy in all the right places. They took these measurements from one of the dresses she wore in her films. The reason for the misconception on her size is because dress sizes change over the years. The size 16 in Marilyn’s era is not the same as today’s 16 dress. She was similar, size-wise, to today’s models. If you had a 22 inch waist today, you’d be classified under size 0 for most American brands. True to her status, Marilyn was, at 5 feet 5 inches, drop dead sexy.
3. Marilyn Gave Ella Fitzgerald a Hand!
She helped Ella Fitzgerald get her big break Not many people know that Ella Fitzgerald owes her big break to Marilyn Monroe. In the Queen of Jazz’ own words, Marilyn was “an unusual woman, a little ahead of her times.” The popular Hollywood nightclub called Mocambo turned the African American singer away, but Marilyn Monroe would have none of it. She personally called the owner of Mocambo and ordered him to book Fitzgerald immediately. In exchange, she would book a front table every night. True to her word, Marilyn would sit there every night Fitzgerald was booked, attracting press and publicity. After that, the Queen of Jazz never had to play small clubs again, and became the sensational singer we know her to be.
2. Marilyn Was Oh So Sweet!
Marilyn Monroe: Renaissance woman In the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, her co-star Jane Russell described her as “shy, sweet and far more intelligent than people gave her credit for.” Marilyn Monroe was more than a pretty face with a stunning figure. Despite finding it difficult to learn lines, writers loved her. Truman Capote wanted her to play Holly Golightly, Jean-Paul Sartre sought her out for his film Freud. She was also a talented producer, putting up Marilyn Monroe Productions in 1955. On top of being athletic, talented, and intelligent, she was an excellent cook. The writers at the New York Times attempted to reproduce her stuffing recipe, it took over 2 hours and was more complex than they’d imagined. Just like the woman, perhaps!
1. Marilyn was Down-to-Earth
“It’s all make believe, isn’t it?” Marilyn was more down to earth than you’d expect for a tremendous star. She didn’t own many diamonds, despite what Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend may have you think. Her chronic lateness for filming was in fact due to intense stage fright, according to Jane Russell. She knew that her Hollywood persona was a creation—perhaps more so than any of her harshest critics or closest friends. Famous writer Truman Capote relates that she was in her dressing room too long and he sought her out. He asked what she was doing, staring at the mirror and she said, “I’m looking at Her.” Marilyn Monroe was an amazing woman, not just for her looks and talent, but also for the humble way she looked at her success. This discernment for her private self and the face on screen was rare, and she didn’t pretend to be perfect. Indeed, she is a woman worth emulating!