Marilyn Monroe was one of the greatest Hollywood icons, whose appearance is still an inspiration for innumerable artists. Her red lips, full lashes, and the flying skirt are attached to the name and memory of the actress. But nothing defines Monroe like her signature blonde hair. Even though Hollywood had witnessed several actresses with blonde hair over the years, the appearance of Monroe is a standout. But was the blonde hair real? In Netflix’s drama film ‘Blonde,’ a fictionalized account of the actress’ life, Monroe tells her acquaintances that her blonde hair is not real. So, what was her natural hair color? How did she change it to the signature look? Let’s find out!
What Was Marilyn Monroe’s Natural Hair Color?
No, Marilyn Monroe was not a blonde. Her natural hair color was brown. Monroe started her modeling career at the age of 21 with her natural brown curly hair. Her transformation from a brunette to blonde happened due to Emmeline Snively, the head of the Blue Book Model Agency. Snively made it clear to Marilyn that blonde hair was essential for getting more modeling jobs. “Look darling, if you really intend to go places in this business, you’ve just got to bleach and straighten your hair because now your face is a little too round and a hair job will lengthen it,” Snively told the actress, as per Astrid Franse and Michelle Morgan book ‘Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modeling Years.’
Even though Monroe tried her best to resist Snively, she ultimately had to follow her boss’ advice. Thus, Monroe ended up at Frank & Joseph’s Beauty Salon in 1946. The stylists who worked with legendary actresses like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman did their magic on Monroe’s hair as well. Monroe’s hair, which was “brown and kinky” according to tint technician Sylvia Barnhart, start to become blonde. Once the process was started, Monroe wanted to look like her idol Jean Harlow. In some months’ time, Barnhart changed Monroe’s hair color to golden honey-blonde. Monroe also underwent electrolysis to remove her widow’s peak.
Monroe’s change to a blonde marked her transformation into a Hollywood material. Soon, she signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, which kickstarted her career as a Hollywood actress. Meanwhile, Barnhart continued to bring changes to Monroe’s hair as the stylist straightened and bleached Monroe’s hair for years. Eventually, Monroe’s hair lightened to “pillow-case white,” a platinum blonde version. In addition to Barnhart, several other renowned stylists also worked with Monroe, including Kenneth Battelle, Gladys Rasmussen, and Pearl Porterfield.
According to Pamela Keogh, peroxide and bleach highlights were applied to Monroe’s hair every three weeks to perfect the same. The process, however, wasn’t easy. “There are several problems with doing Marilyn’s hair; it’s very fine and therefore hard to manage,” Rasmussen said in an interview, as per 29Secrets. “The way we [get] her [Monroe’s shade of platinum is with my own secret blend of Sparkling Silver bleach plus 20 volume peroxide and a secret formula of silver platinum rinse to take the yellow out,” the stylist added.
More than anyone, Monroe knew the importance of changing her hair. “In Hollywood, a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hair-do. You’re judged by how you look, not by what you are,” the actress wrote in her book ‘My Story.’ Over the years, Monroe’s iconic appearance has inspired several artists like Madonna, Scarlett Johansson, Michelle Williams, Lindsay Lohan, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, etc. to bring their versions of the same and, surely, we will see more joining the group as well.