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How Marilyn Monroe’s Childhood Difficulties Helped Her Rise to Legendary Diva

Even after so many years, Marilyn Monroe remains one of the most recognizable celebrities in Hollywood, making her a timeless diva that we all cherish the memory of. Monroe reinvented herself to achieve success, establishing an unrivaled reputation. However, the real Norma Jeane was constantly present, bringing to mind the childhood experiences that shaped the woman she became.

The first years of her life were really hard.

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Before becoming a renowned Hollywood star, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Baker in 1926. Little Norma never knew the kind of care that most children feel from their parents, and her childhood and adolescence were marked by an utter absence of any kind of bond or affection.

Her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker, was suffering from a disease that prevented her from properly caring for her children. Her biological father’s identity, on the other hand, was never fully revealed to her, despite her mother’s claims that it was Charles Stanley Gifford, a Consolidated Studios co-worker, who abandoned her as soon as he discovered she was pregnant.

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Norma Jeane’s childhood was spent in foster homes for half of her life. Baker was not mentally strong enough to raise Norma Jeane, nor was she financially stable, so when the child was only 2 weeks old, Baker placed her in a foster home.

Her childhood was a rocky road of staying in different orphanages or with family friends, thus, she could never find real emotional stability during that time.

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However, Norma Jeane’s mother would periodically visit the foster home in order to be a little involved in her life. But at that time, she was still dealing with her problems, and one day she even attempted to run away from there with her 3-year-old daughter.

An early marriage and a fateful encounter.

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Marilyn Monroe finally reunited with her mother when she was 7 years old, but it wasn’t long before Baker was institutionalized for the first time in 1934. Those were difficult years in Norma Jeane’s life, and she went through something she would always remember. In her memoir, she later wrote, “I wanted to be treated as a human being who had earned a few rights since her orphanage days.

Things only got better when Grace Goddard, a family friend who took responsibility for Norma Jeane’s upbringing, was appointed as her new legal guardian. “Don’t worry, Norma Jeane. You’re going to be a beautiful girl when you grow up,” the actress recalled the friend telling her.

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When Goddard could no longer care for Norma Jeane, she was married off to a neighbor, Jim Dougherty, a 20-year-old boy. The intention behind that choice was to find someone to take care of her, but it wasn’t long before she began a career as a model.

Indeed, one day, the young woman’s beauty grabbed the interest of a photographer. “You’re a tremendous morale booster,” he told Monroe. This specific event marked the beginning of her professional success. After her marriage ended, she later began pursuing a modeling career, determined to forge her own identity.

The rise of Marilyn Monroe.

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Collection Christophel/East News

This Hollywood scene had been extremely odd to her when she first landed, and she still didn’t feel like a part of it. To feel as though she belonged there, Norma Jeane had to put in a lot of effort. She worked tirelessly to hone her profession, starting with bleaching her naturally curly, reddish hair until it was platinum blonde: the shade that earned her the iconic identity of Marilyn Monroe.

Her wholesome appearance opened up the doors to stardom, but she was also studying day and night to become the person she desired to be. “I wouldn’t settle for second best,” Monroe said. “I would take home photographs of myself to study how I looked and if I could improve myself posing in front of a mirror.

Monroe continued to succeed over time, to the point where 20th Century Fox took note and offered her an audition. She strived to change herself day by day, trying to leave behind the harsh past that always accompanied her. “I could actually feel my lack of talent as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But I wanted to learn, to change, to improve,” she later wrote.

Charles K Feldman Group/Collection Christophel/East News

She starred in movies, like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and SevenYear Itch, which were true turning points in her career. With these, Norma Jeane undeniably turned into Marilyn Monroe, a very different persona from her old self, a stunning and brilliant woman who became the enduringly famous figure we all recognize and adore.

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Collection Christophel/East News

Why do you believe Marilyn Monroe remains so iconic after all these years?

Preview photo credit Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Collection Christophel/East News, East News
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