Norma Jean glowed from within. The kind of natural, healthy beauty that resided at the center of the woman who would become Marilyn Monroe. I love MM, but Norma Jean I LOVE. As much as Marilyn is a beautiful, tragic icon, Norma Jean is the wholesome, feminine beauty that doesn’t need make-up, or, any make-up for that matter – to be beautiful. The glow of youth and freckles was all she needed for her fans who knew her when she was an up and coming starlet. Then the legions of Marilyn fans would look back at Norma Jean as a “before” picture of the woman reborn as a Hollywood sex goddess.
Norma Jean never went away. She was always there, but cloaked in the image she created and called Marilyn. The innate innocence and optimism Norma Jean exuded in her early glamor shots can still be discerned in the later, Marilyn photo shoots and films. Her inner essence was the fire that made Marilyn so attractive in the first place. The refinements to her image that solidified her as a sophisticated star: platinum blonde hair, beauty mark, porcelain skin thanks to Max Factor – worn like a mask translucent enough to let Norma’s inner glow shine from within.
Psychologically, Marilyn and Norma Jean co-existed in one, beautiful skin. I wish that Marilyn, the more sophisticated and cunning of the two personae, could have protected Norma more. But then again maybe it was because of this fragile duality we love so much to this day. Maybe neither Marilyn nor Norma Jean were strong enough to withstand the assault of Hollywood and all its ugliness upon them. And that’s the love/hate relationship I have with tinseltown. Without them, I’d never have known and fallen in love with all the leading ladies of my childhood and young adulthood. But in the bargain comes the fact Hollywood tends to destroy everything it touches, especially natural beauty like Norma.
Sometimes I fantasize Norma Jean living out a long, normal life never having gone Hollywood. But then the world would not have Marilyn. Norma Jean wanted to be everything to everyone and paid the ultimate price. Marilyn knew only too late the bargain she had made. I love them both, each in there own way. But if I had to pick, I’d take Norma Jean by the hand and run aw ay while there was still a chance to save her. Run away from the flickering light of the film projector that has made her immortal…as Marilyn.