Friday, 10 February 2012

Marilyn - Beauty Icon

Recently I've been watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I've seen the start of it twice, the middle once, and not finished it yet. We recorded it over Christmas, and on the rare occasions I sit down to watch a bit, I'm usually interrupted, or SOMEONE starts requesting The Simpsons. I've never seen Gentlemen... before, and love all the 50s costumes, make-up, and glamour. As a feminist I'm swearing no daughter of mine will ever watch it unsupervised, as it's very "of it's time" in terms of how women were portrayed. But let's just talk about the fluff!

Marilyn was a natural beauty, who looked way better in her natural state, but the Hollywood machine required more "warpaint", so her natural features were hidden in most of her films. I read a book on her years ago, and was struck by her tragic personal life, and by her strength to carry out her public career regardless.

Norma Jean was a small-town girl who created the character of "Marilyn Monroe" for herself. She insisted on doing her own make-up for every film and photoshoot, and would arrive in character to every event. The public expected Marilyn, and they got Marilyn, she never let her guard down. (Not going to do pop-psychological breakdown of the meaning of this, stick to the make-up Niamh!)

Her lipstick was painstakingly applied, 5 shades of it, to increase her lip size, and make them appear fuller. You can see she has used a darker red at the outline, getting lighter to the centre of the lip to make it "pop", gloss helps too.
She shaded under her chin to make her jaw appear stronger, and slim out her double chin (small of course, but noticible in profile from the 50s on).
She also shaded her cheeks, giving the appearance of cheekbones, where she naturally had quite rounded cheeks with no definition.
She highlighted the centre of her face, and contoured the sides of the forehead, temples and nose to give more defined bone structure. Contouring is the best-kept secret of make-up artists, and is a great way to deal with a wide nose/ big forehead etc without resorting to surgery. I only discovered it recently and will do a post on this soon.
So Marilyn created her look, and wore it like a mask. The 50s make-up look is still popular today, it has become a classic: Pale face, neutral eyeshadows, black winged eyeliner, black eyelashes, strong defined brows with pointed arch, red lips.
As well as the make-up there was the Marilyn face, which I think is the most interesting part of Norma Jean's transformation. She spent hours in the mirror, practising "bedroom" eyes, lowering her lids just enough, raising her eyebrows at the same time, and tensing her cheek muscles, pouting her lips, to get the final face just perfect. She kept this up throughout her acting roles, the whispery tones of her voice and her wiggle walk made the character complete. Exhausing. Pass me a burger.

Michelle Williams played Marilyn in a film recently, I haven't seen it yet, but I think she looks good in the role. Anyone seen it?

I think she looked best when she forgot herself and was natural in front of the camera. This photo is from a 40s shoot, before she hit the Big Time, and her natural smile was rarely seen again. You can see the small-town girl with the big hopes and dreams here, and I love that she is posing but still natural.

In contrast to here, about 10 years later, where her "laugh" is more a grimace. There's no humour in her eyes, and she was definitely on the downhill slope.

So if you want to try the Marilyn look today, keep everything simple, let your red lipstick do the talking. I've yet to find the perfect red for me, I usually have to blend in a bronze or pink lipstick to tone it down.

She's my beauty icon - who's yours?

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