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How ‘Blonde’ tackles Marilyn Monroe’s stylistic legacy

Written by Marianna Cerini

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Few pop culture figures live on in our collective imagination like Marilyn Monroe, and her status as a beauty icon has played a pivotal role in that.

Since the moment she became Hollywood’s quintessential “gold bomb”, Monroe’s unmistakable features – hourglass figure, plump red lips, full lashes, dreamy eyes – have become becoming one of the types of women that are still widespread. idealization today. That enduring legacy received a nod at this year’s Met Gala in New York, when Kim Kardashian appeared in the $4.8 million crystal-covered nude silk dress Monroe wore to sing “Happy Birthday” with former US President John F. Kennedy in 1962. The theme of the gala was “Gilded Glamor”; Monroe is still the epitome of that.

Marilyn Monroe poses at Idlewild while boarding an American Airlines flight to Hollywood in 1956.

Marilyn Monroe poses at Idlewild while boarding an American Airlines flight to Hollywood in 1956. Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

Now, a new Netflix biopic starring Ana de Armas is once again reviving society’s fixation on Monroe – thanks in large part to de Armas’ strange on-screen transformation. star in the 1950s.

Based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, “Yellow” – which premiered at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month – is a fictionalized account of the life of Norma-born woman Jeane Mortenson, who is best known as Marilyn Monroe. Instead of a traditional adaptation that focuses on historical accuracy, writer-director Andrew Dominik offers a controversial, often brutal depiction of Monroe’s personal and public struggles, took a non-linear approach, stylized by her troubled childhood, rising to stardom and tragic excerpts, re-enacting some of the most memorable moments throughout her career.
In "Yellow," Ana de Armas recreates an iconic Monroe scene in "Seven Years Itching."

In “Blonde,” Ana de Armas recreates an iconic Monroe scene from “The Seven Year Itch.” Credit: Matt Kennedy / Netflix

In a movie that is at times deeply awe-inspiring at how it warps reality (some of the most spin-off scenes include talking fetuses and abortions from Monroe’s perspective of the cervix), the depiction of A star’s style – and the ways it drives her personal narrative – is one of the more fundamental aspects. Perhaps unsurprisingly, de Armas’ stunning transformation into her character is the result of meticulous preparation and a daily hair and makeup routine that takes nearly three hours and exceeds away from the concept of seduction.

Become Marilyn

“Yellow” Head of makeup Tina Roesler Kerwin and head of hair Jaime Leigh McIntosh did extensive research to ensure they were able to accurately portray Monroe’s unmistakable look.

“We reached out to every resource we could find,” Kerwin said in a video interview. “We start with the script and the images that we’ll recreate, then move on to books, movies, fan sites. And we never stop – we keep researching. until the end of the movie.”

About 100 looks were recreated for “Blonde” – from magazine covers featuring Monroe to her red carpet appearances – though just over half of them were cut in the end. The wig is essential to ensuring de Armas – a brunette in real life – can change quickly from one time to the next, says McIntosh. They were also key to ensuring that Monroe’s platinum hair was right on camera.

“We used five wigs, which we customized to mimic Marilyn’s hairline and fit Ana exactly,” McIntosh said via video call. The blonde locks – pre-star, Monroe had brown curls – were hand-tied by Los Angeles-based hairdresser Rob Pickens and his team, using real human hair (including those strand of hair around the hairline) can be styled into Monroe’s trademark curling pin.

Monroe sat at the banquet table during the Photoplay Gold Medal Awards dinner in the 1950s.

Monroe sat at the banquet table during the Photoplay Gold Medal Awards dinner in the 1950s. Credit: Murray Garrett / Getty Images

McIntosh adds: “We chose different shades of blonde to make each wig, then colored them further to give them shine. (“Gloss base” is a technique used to customize the color and achieve the perfect blend after lightening.) The idea is to recreate the same texture as Monroe’s hair.

To ensure de Armas’s hair would be completely hidden, Kerwin added wig pieces around her natural hairline and brushed them to match her skin tone.

The rest of the makeup also required meticulous care, says Kerwin, for which de Armas was “completely ready,” Kerwin said.

The actress wears blue contact lenses to cover her natural hazel eyes and long lashes to make her eyes look bigger. many almond shapes appear.

“The eyes are probably the biggest difference (between de Armas and Monroe),” says Kerwin. “So we did a lot of layers of lashes on the ends to make them ‘straighter’ a bit, as well as shading and contouring around her face, to look more like Marilyn. ” She also took de Armas to an eyebrow specialist to shrink and whiten her brows.

“The short thing we got from (director Andrew Dominik) was not just to do Marilyn’s makeup on Ana, but to make her Marilyn,” Kerwin said.

Glamor versus minimalism

“Blonde” costume designer Jennifer Johnson received similar instructions when she started working on de Armas’s wardrobe. Like Kerwin and McIntosh, she first approached the project from a research perspective.

She said in a video interview: “Andrew has had an incredible amount of archives, moods, and visual research – about 800 pages in total. “I stick them all up in my office as if they were wallpaper, and just to absorb things.”

She then began documenting Marilyn’s idiosyncrasies and stage personality first-hand, dissecting how to build and model her more iconic clothes.

“The biggest challenge is understanding how to do recreational activities that feel authentic and without costumes,” she says. “I wanted to give the clothes a 21st-century feel.”

To that end, Johnson worked with Jose Bello, the head barber of Western Costume, a centuries-old costume store in Hollywood. Together, they recreated some of Monroe’s most famous looks, including the pink strapless dress she performed on “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”, the white pleated halter neck dress from “The Seven” Year Itch”, and a black dress and nude silk shirt with beads and sequins from “Some Like It Hot.”

Monroe signed autographs for a US soldier in Korea as part of the USO program.

Monroe signed autographs for a US soldier in Korea as part of the USO program. Credit: Greg Mathieson / Getty Images

“Those early designs were clever, and it’s important to celebrate them by sharing the same level of couture, engineering and quality,” says Johnson.

However, when it comes to Monroe’s everyday wear – her Norma Jeane “uniform” – it’s a different story. Away from the limelight, the star’s outfit choices have been drastically reduced and focused on a few pieces she wears over and over again.

“She is very minimalistic,” Johnson said. “She cares about being valued as an artist and creator, not as a famous man. She wants her clothes to reflect that.”

Indeed, when she was Norma Jeane, de Armas wore a black turtleneck and capri pants, a beatnik sweater, and a simple jumpsuit. Her makeup is also down-tone – nude lipstick instead of glamorous red. It’s a catchy combination and a major narrative tool that “Blonde” uses to further accentuate the iconic divide the world has seen – the “dumb blonde” that has created power. sex appeal – and the misunderstood, insecure woman she is. under.

Ultimately, Johnson says, De Armas’ performance is so compelling because she perfectly captures that duality. “It’s not like she’s wearing a costume,” Johnson noted.

The decision not to use prosthetic limbs or pads on de Armas’s body also made the illusion more believable. “For Ana to be able to use her body, I think it makes her feel more like a Marilyn,” Johnson said. “She’s not a caricature.”

“Blonde” will be on Netflix on September 28.

Add to the queue: Five other Marilyn Monroe essentials

This stark biography of Fred Lawrence Guiles features interviews with some of the people closest to Monroe throughout her life (including her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, director of “Some Like It’s Hot”, Billy Wilder and “The Misfits” director John Huston). This is a must-read for die-hard Monroe fans.

Michelle Williams played Monroe in this Simon Curtis film based on a true story, which – as the title suggests – zoomed in a week into the star’s life in 1956, when she was in the UK filming “The Prince” and the Showgirl” and forged a personal relationship with a younger man working on the set.

Iconic and feminist Gloria Steinem depicts a complex, layered portrait of Monroe through previously untold stories in a biography that has truly helped change the stereotypes surrounding the house. Hollywood stars.

John Huston’s West features Monroe’s final on-screen role – and it’s one of her stronger performances. The actor plays divorced wife Roslyn Tabor (her then-husband Miller wrote the part), who falls in love with Clark Gable’s cowboy character. Spoiler alert: It’s not a romcom.

A narrative podcast (currently suspended indefinitely) that – in the words of host Karina Longworth – explores the secret and forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century, “You Must Remember This” dedicated a series of episodes to Monroe in 2017.

Above: Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde.”

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