While Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly graced the silver screen in the 1950s, there was another female celebrity who was renowned for her pinup pictures. I’m talking about none other than Bettie Page aka the “Queen of Pinups”. I had never really heard of Ms. Page but I came across a Netflix documentary on her life entitled “Bettie Page Reveals All”.
The thing that immediately struck me was Ms. Page’s raven black hair, with the bangs cut into a fringe. Now, at this time, women like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly donned blonde locks while Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor sported shorter, “cute” hairstyles. Ms. Page’s hair stood in stark contrast to these looks as did her path to stardom. Whereas the other ladies were known for their onscreen acting, Ms. Page became popular for her pinup pictures. She worked in “camera clubs”, clubs that were created to promote photographic artistry but some claim the clubs were a ruse to skirt laws banning nude photos. Her work was considered highly sexual and offensive. Remember, this is the same time of the McCarthy hearings, when talking about sex was taboo and the United States Supreme Court ruled on what connoted “obscene” materials. Folks were afraid to deviate from the placid facade created by shows such as “Ozzie & Harriet”. And, here was Ms. Page posing in bikinis, topless and sometimes completely nude.
According to the documentary, Ms. Page’s trademark hairstyle was recommended by a Brooklyn policeman, Mr. Tibbs, she met on Coney Island. He said she’d make a good pinup model and invited her to come to his studio. He then commented that her high forehead would be nicely complimented by bangs. She cut her bangs and it became her famous look which she wore throughout her life.
I think that her raven black hair complemented her “naughty” persona. I wonder if she, in particular, would have risen to such fame with lighter hair? I’m wondering if there is a connection between her identity as a sexual woman and her hair/image. I’m NOT saying that lighter hair isn’t sexy just that Ms. Page’s overall image (including her hair) likely contributed to her success. It is also interesting to me that women like Dita Von Teese (a natural blonde!) have looks that seem to be highly influenced by Ms. Page (Ms. Von Teese was in the documentary).
Interesting note: In the late 1950s Ms. Page became an evangelical Christian and began working for Billy Graham.