Who knows what Marilyn Monroe’s life would have been like if she’d never met a photographer from the U.S. Army Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit back in 1944. But in honor of her could-have-been 91st birthday, we take a look back at the gorgeous woman Marilyn was before her pin-up modeling career took off. The girl became an icon, but it was her beautiful spirit that turned her into a superstar we’ll always cherish.
HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID
This was Marilyn Monroe back in April 1927 when she was 10 months old, putting the “M” in magnificent. Even at that age, she was all smiles. We bet her parents never imagined that Norma Jeane Mortenson was destined for greatness as the future Marilyn Monroe!
HEY, WHAT’S THAT?
Even as a toddler in 1929, she was intellectually curious. She sort of reminds us a bit of the Coppertone Girl from the billboards. Her mom, Gladys Baker never imagined at this stage that her daughter would rocket to stardom in only a few years, but she could already tell that her daughter was special.
SMILE FOR THE CAMERA
Norma, aka Marilyn, was a photogenic ray of sun from an early age. This is a photo of her taken in 1931 when she was five years old. But despite appearances, Marilyn had quite a traumatic experience growing up. Even so, she was strong enough to put up with the trauma and shine on her own.
MARILYN AND THE FAM
This photo was taken in 1938, and poor Marilyn spent most of her childhood as an orphan, despite being pictured here as an adolescent at her aunt Ana’s home, one of the many places she would wind up living in.
SHE’S PICTURE PERFECT
After her Aunt Ana got sick, Marilyn wound up moving in with the Goddard family when she was 11, and that’s when her legal guardian, Erwin, molested her. Despite this experience, she was resilient enough to chase after her dreams. And did she stop? Nope. She kept going until she became an adored megastar. In this 1940s shot she’s merely 14!
YESTERDAY’S “IT” GIRL
Despite developing a stuttering problem, Marilyn, pictured in the center, was still quite popular with her friends. In this pic from 1941, she stood out like a star among the rest, and that smile was so contagious.
MARRIED TOO SOON
By the time she was 16, Marilyn married James Dougherty in 1942, and she was downright the prettiest teen bride of that time. Sadly, the two had little in common and by 1943, she claimed that hardly spoke at all because “we had nothing to say.”
ALONE BUT STILL BUSY
When her hubby James went off to boot camp to join the Merchant Marines in 1944, Marilyn started working at the Radioplane Munitions Factory, which is where an Army Propaganda officer spotted this gem and took a photo of her in 1945. Hum, stunner alert!
A MODEL’S LIFE IS NEVER EASY
Marilyn was years ahead of her time, and shortly after her photoshoot in the factory, she quit her job and started modeling full time in 1945, cause you couldn’t keep a girl with so much spirit locked up in a kitchen, am I right?
FROM SWEATER GIRL TO BLUE BOOK MODELING
Marilyn and her husband, James divorced in 1945 because he strongly disapproved of her modeling career. But that’s okay because she happily modeled bikinis, appearing in magazines and posing for postcards by the sea in 1946. She then took her brownish long locks to a whole different level and went platinum, both with her career, and her hairstyle. Gentlemen prefer blondes, they say, so she listened!