As you ready your contest submissions to win passes to the Burlesque preview screening, I thought it fitting to subject an icon appropriate. Meet Bettie Page, a model who defined a fashion bracket, influenced sexual liberation, and iconized an image for pin-ups that still remains relevant today. I tried my best to keep this post tastefully SFW; it should be safe to read more!
Betty Mae Page was born April 22nd 1923, in Nashville, Tennesee. After four siblings, her parent’s divorce and much economic instability, Page was forced to spend her early years caring for the family and taking on her mother’s household chores. When her father was imprisoned for molesting her at age 13, Page was sent to live in an orphanage while her mother worked two jobs.
Page however, remained constructive in her plight. She studied hard to keep at the top of her class, and spent her free time experimenting hair and makeup styles on her sisters, and at local community centers learning to sew, skills that would prove useful when she began to self-construct her image later on.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Page began scoring small-time modeling gigs. Then in 1950, whilst having a stroll, Page met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer with an interest in photography. Tibbs took some photos and compiled her first pin-up portfolio, then introduced her to numerous other photographers. Irving Klaw particularly took interest in her.
From 1952 through 1957, Page posed for Klaw’s mail-order prints with pin-up, bondage or sadomasochistic themes, and became the world’s first successful fetish model. Klaw also casted her in short ‘specialty’ films. Like the one below. Careful, it could be considered as NSFW. But while these silent films depicted fetishistic scenarios, they never featured nudity or explicit sexual content.
In addition to spreads and shoots, Page also began performing a sort of Burlesque.
By 1955, Page had won “Miss Pinup Girl of the World”, scored a centerfold in Playboy’s January issue and was proclaimed “Girl with the Perfect Figure”.
Without really planning to, Page soon found that her photographs from 1950 through 1957 violated all manners of sexual taboos. It eventually invoked a United States Senate Committee investigation. By court order, the print negatives of many of her photos were destroyed. The ones that had survived were illegal to print for many years after.
Some say the debacle prompted her early retirement. Others say she was also incited after a young man died during a bondage session she had inspired. But most believe she severed her career to convert to Christianity, and that bad timing was merely a coincidence.
Whatever the reason, she was suddenly wiped out from the public eye and lived in obscurity for many years after. There are reports of how she spent the rest of her life – attending bible colleges, getting married and divorced twice, getting rejected as a missionary for having had a divorce, and spending years under state supervision for acute schizophrenia.
But during her recluse, the world refused to forget Bettie Page. By the time she had stepped out of the spotlight, her photos had already appeared on every surface imaginable – from magazines to playing cards. And because she disappeared right at the tip of her peak, her fans never got to watch her age – her public image remained immortalized.
In 1976, Eros Publishing Co. published A Nostalgic Look at Bettie Page, a mixture of prints from the ’50s. It soon sparked a media trend that reintroduced Page to a new and younger fan base. During the 1980s, a cult following was build around her; of which she was unaware. The renewed hype focused on her pin-up and lingerie modeling, and subsequently gained her public redemption and raised her to an icon of erotica from yesteryear.
When Page eventually caught wind of her media spectacle, she merely hired an agent to start collecting royalties to secure a dwindling bank account. Save for a couple, she refused to have her pictures taken, having put on a few pounds and preferring the public to remember her as she was. She continued to live in obscurity until her death in 2008.
It was a smart move. The isolated revival of fame put her face on the sexual revolution. Because she really had just one look, it instantly became the ultimate iconic pin-up. Whether or not you knew of her, chances are, you’d visualize pin-ups as a youthful sexy; a voluptuous figure with jet black hair and short-cut bangs, blue eyes and red lips. She’s become a quintessential icon; one that still remains relevant today.
Katy Perry constructed her image mixing Page’s retro pin up with bubblegum pop.
While Susie Brown added a rock edge.
Petra Nemcova showed us how to wear the everyday version of Page’s hairstyle long…
I personally had my first taste of the look reading old Archie comics from that era! And I honestly still see intricacies of her look as a stereotype of sex appeal!
And it’s a gorgeous look – one that is fearless of conventions, hemlines, fishnet stockings, leather, latex and animal print. One that focuses on physical assets against a youthful delicate glow to project wholesome sex!
What do you think of Bettie Page and her look? Would you submit her as your entry for the Burlesque contest?