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More than 50 years after her passing, Marilyn Monroe has become the face of a new beauty campaign. Max Factor’s new campaign highlights before-and-after shots of a young Norma Jeane Mortenson (a baby-faced brunette) and the iconic Marilyn Monroe, all platinum-blond glamour. “From Norma Jeane to Marilyn Monroe,” the ad reads. “Created By Max Factor.”
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That’s not exactly advertising bluster, either. Monroe was indeed one of Max Factor’s most famous clients. With Factor’s guidance, she developed the bombshell image—blonde hair, ruby-red lips, the tiniest beauty mark on her cheek—that would propel her to superstardom. (Her transformation also involved a bit of discreet, and only recently confirmed, plastic surgery.)
Monroe is an interesting choice for a modern-day campaign. Yes, she remains a film icon more than 50 years after her death. But will this campaign click with a public that views beauty as more than just looks? For some early commenters on Max Factor’s Facebook page, the partnership feels a little bit off. “How can she be an ambassador? She has no say in this,” wrote one fan. “Disgusting,” wrote another. “What is wrong with Norma Jeane?”
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And that may be the question Max Factor faces: What is wrong with Norma Jeane? The brand is taking a risk with the before-and-after pictures, assuming that modern women will identify with Marilyn more than Norma Jeane. And while this bookish introvert undoubtedly looked more glamorous as Marilyn than as Norma Jeane, she ultimately became depressed by her objectification.
“That’s the trouble: a sex symbol becomes a thing,” she said in her last interview. “I just hate to be a thing.” Sounds like something a modern woman would say, actually—which means Marilyn’s words could resonate even more than her looks.