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Something's Gotta Give

Four Women Writers on the Lasting Influence of Marilyn Monroe

Page: 3 of 7
  • Breakfast at Marilyn's

    By Shannan Rouss

    "Are you a Jackie or a Marilyn?" This is the question—even the name of a book—that everyone seems to ask.

    But it's not the question I ever asked myself. Maybe because I grew up mostly in Los Angeles, the unglamorous suburban part of it, where girls aspired to be movie stars, not former first ladies—no matter how stylish they may have been.

    So the idea of being a Jackie wasn't on my radar, not when I was 16 and trying to figure out who I was, as well as who I wanted to be. Instead, I found myself choosing between Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, the sexpot and the gamine.

    With my own wheat-colored hair, pale skin and a teenage frame that had begun growing out, not up, I should have immediately declared myself a Marilyn. She was the more natural choice, both in appearance and disposition. It's not that I was overtly sexy in any way. But as a disaffected, angst-ridden teenager, I related to the tragedy of Marilyn's story, the failed romances, the loneliness, the sense of not being seen or understood.

    At 16, though, the last thing I wanted to be was who I already was. I saw Marilyn as a kindred spirit, someone who would have been a friend. She would have understood me, and I would have understood her.

    So in some ways, it feels like a betrayal that I wished I could be less like her and more like Audrey Hepburn, the antidote to Marilyn, with her delicate limbs and exotic, impish features. If Marilyn Monroe was the dumb blonde, then Audrey Hepburn was the enchanting brunette. And while Audrey will always be remembered for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Marilyn will be remembered less for any part she played than for the tragic way she died.

    The irony is that Marilyn was supposed to be Holly Golightly. Truman Capote had written the character with her in mind. But the part of the country-born call girl, originally named Lula Mae, went to Hepburn instead. The reason had something to do with the fact that Marilyn, or her advisors, didn't think that playing a lady of the evening would be good for her image, which makes me think that like me, Marilyn was also trying to get further away from who she was.

Something's Gotta Give
Four Women Writers on the Lasting Influence of Marilyn Monroe
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