Written by Amanda Petrani
When I first discovered Marilyn Monroe I was very young. We’ve all seen her in store fronts, on posters, in tattoo parlors, in magazines, on TV and heard her song “Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend” many times. But that was all I knew about her at a young age. I didn't know the complexity of her, the sincerity, humbleness, talent and struggles she faced in her life. I didn't know about her mental health or her body image. Now, at 20 years old, I’ve learned many things about Marilyn. I’ve read books about how she suffered from borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression and possibly schizophrenia. Marilyn was also an orphan and was tossed from home to home about 12 to 16 times in her life. Imagine how hard that must’ve been for a young Norma Jean. In fact, any child. Marilyn was also sexually assulted in one of her homes by a man that was boarding there. Her “aunt” didn’t believe Marilyn and told her that she was lying. This made Marilyn feel shut down, as anyone would.
Some could say Marilyn is the icon of body positivity or icon of insecurity, however, for me she has helped me express my femininity and body in such a way that I never would’ve done on my own. I never wore sleeveless tops, shorts, skirts or anything “sexy”. I always wore sleeves to hide my arms and never wore shorts or skirts because I was insecure of my legs. Until, one day, I decided to dive deeper into the Marilyn rabbit hole and found out so many similarities about our bodies. Our stomach, yes there's a little pouch- that’s beautiful! Our arms- exactly alike and that's beautiful, too! We have the same voluptuous body type and finally I was able to express it and not worry about being Victoria’s Secret model thin.
The first movie I watched of Marilyn was “Niagara”. In that movie I knew, Marilyn embodied the confidence that I wanted. I saw her grace the screen in a hot pink dress with her little pouch out and arms like mine and I was proud. Proud to say Marilyn and I are alike. The sex symbol and the most beautiful woman alive has the body type that our society tries to make us feel insecure about? How strange yet so satisfying that Marilyn pushed boundaries with her body. She wasn't plus size at all yet I remember reading about so many critics and celebrities shaming her body, calling her fat, saying she has a big behind etc. Even if all that was true, beauty comes in every shape, colour, gender and size.
Behind closed doors though, we all know the pressure she had on her and in fact, she was quite insecure. However, that's like anyone. We all can't be confident 24/7. We are allowed to have bad days and good ones, it just matters how we pick ourselves back up. Marilyn suffered from extremely low self esteem and a range of mental health issues. Marilyn went from a brunette to blonde bombshell, but that wasn't it, Marilyn had corrective surgery for her overbite and a nose job. Although Marilyn was the epitome of Hollywood beauty, she hated herself, she was insecure and changed everything about herself for fame. Marilyn also stuck to an extreme diet however that made her weight fluctuate a lot. In her last interview before her death, she is quoted as saying: “I’m one of the world’s most self-conscious people. I really have to struggle… Everybody’s always tugging at you. They’d like sort of a chunk of you.” Marilyn began to hate the image she had created for herself. She was tired of being a dumb blonde, and fed-up of people not seeing the “real her.” The only issue – she didn't know who she was. In reality, Norma Jean was no dumb blonde. She had a genius IQ of 169 and spent hours in acting, singing and dancing classes, but was sadly unable to recognize her own talents and strengths.
Marilyn is like all of us. Someone who was tortured by society, changed herself for social acceptance and would starve herself to become an “ideal woman”. Chiefly, Marilyn helped me express and embrace my own beauty in certain ways. I knew from the moment I saw her, I saw myself. I saw representation. I saw a true human instead of the dumb blonde she was stereotyped to be.
When I started to impersonate Marilyn, that is when I felt so much better about myself. I started to wear strapless dresses, wear more skirts, show my arms and even be ok with having a little pouch out if I was wearing a tighter dress. Marilyn made me realize that being a woman is a beautiful thing. Just like when Marilyn disobeyed the queen's rules by wearing a low cut dress. She didn't care and wanted to show her bosom as a way to say “f*ck you” to the monarchy and patriarchy itself. And I think that is pretty badass. She made a huge statement doing that.
Even Marilyn’s struggle with mental health made me feel at ease knowing that I'm not alone. We both have borderline personality disorder, anxiety and depression. She suffered from abandonment issues a lot as well as I do too. That fear is a real thing. No one understood how severe of a fear it was for me… I had no one to turn to. Then I found Marilyn and all became serine. I felt like I finally had someone who understood me. Most people in their lives feel alone and I think it is so important to find someone whether it is family or friends or even a celebrity to make you feel safe. I know that Marilyn feels safe for me. I remember to keep a healthy relationship between me and her and to not make it too obsessive. Chiefly, Marilyn also made me feel that taking medication for my mental health was the best option. I am still waiting on therapy though. I always felt scared to take pills. And this is a complicated area however this situation, instead of being happy to be like Marilyn, I wanted to not be like her when it came to going down the wrong path with mental health and addiction. But again in a way it was good inspiration. And still I don't feel alone with my mental health and body image struggles because I have my Marilyn.