No one captures glamour quite like Marilyn Monroe, with her bright blond coif, full lips, bedroom eyes, and that beauty mark. One of the most famous screen sirens, she became a sex symbol and beauty icon during the Golden Age of Hollywood — a time when wearing flashy makeup wasn’t considered acceptable unless it was in front of a camera or on stage. Today, her legacy in the beauty world endures, thanks in part to Max Factor.
Many may not know how much Factor, err, factored into her iconic look. The godfather of modern makeup worked with the star in the early '50s, dyeing her then-brown hair platinum, à la the original blond bombshell (and Monroe’s favorite actress), Jean Harlow. It became a look that actresses would attempt to re-create for decades.
“If you look at her in the beginning, when she first started out as a model for Elite Modeling Company, you will see that she had an arched eyebrow that they had started to work on, but it was really Max Factor who perfected it,” Donelle Dadigan, the Hollywood Museum President and Founder (which is actually housed in the old Max Factor building in L.A.), told Refinery29. “And the same thing with her mouth: It was Max Factor who gave her the special shape of lips.”
Clearly, it takes much more than a glossy red lipstick and an eyeliner-made beauty mark to capture Monroe’s iconic image, but after discovering a few of Factor’s beauty secrets, we couldn't resist asking staffers to put the tricks to the test. Click ahead to see which still hold up and which ones are best left in the past.
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Whether you call it strobing or highlighting, it’s a time-tested technique that Monroe used in combo with a little Vaseline to ensure that whatever light hit her made her glow. “Not enough credit is given to her about how hard she worked to make the most of what makeup artists and makeup and lighting did for her,” Dadigan said. “All of these elements helped to enhance the way that she looked, but it was Marilyn’s effort, diligence, and constant working at making the most of herself where there was no flaws showing.” Talk about finding your light.
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Cat-eyes were a classic long before Monroe had shot her first scene, but she used a whole bunch of liners — black for the top lashline; brown for the lower lashline; white or nude (depending on your complexion) on the lower waterline; and red in the inner corners — to achieve her iconic bedroom eyes. “Her best poses are with bedroom eyes and her mouth not completely closed, but slightly parted a little bit, her white teeth showing,” Dadigan revealed, noting that Monroe practiced this pose to ensure her eyes wouldn’t crease and mess up her eye makeup.
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Even with her array of eyeliners, Monroe’s bedroom eyes weren’t complete with a set of winged-out falsies, courtesy of Factor. “She worked on the shape of her eyes through makeup, through minor shading, through false eyelash attachments — the thickness, the width, the length, the fullness,” Dadigan said. “But it was really Max Factor who perfected it.”
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“As far as Marilyn is concerned, she talked about how a good tube of lipstick can take you anywhere, but at the same time, there was a lot more going on with her than that,” Dadigan said. “Believe me, she did not have her lips plumped.” Monroe was known to apply layer after layer of lipstick (often with a lip brush, like Thompson does in the next slide, for a more precise application), powder, and gloss to achieve her plush mouth — blotting with a tissue between layers, of course.
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