By the time “Norma Jean Dougherty” turned nineteen, she experienced anything but a normal life. Ultimately, she had dreams of becoming a movie star. Marilyn Monroe’s first major step toward that realization was in modeling, however.
While working at the Radio Plane Munitions factory during World War II Marilyn Monroe was spotted in the assembly line by an Army photographer, David Conover. She just happened to be at the right place at the right time. He was taking pictures for “Yank” Magazine. Later, the photos accompanied an article about women and the war effort. Robert Mitchum, her co-star in “River of No Return”(1954), who worked with Marilyn’s husband, Jim Dougherty during World War II had said, “...I knew her since 16. She was not a very sexy girl. She had no sex appeal whatsoever. She had a lot of serious physical problems. Yes, really. And very shy.”
After, Marilyn decided to consult a modeling agency and was accepted by The Blue Book Modeling Agency. One of her first assignments was to model for Earl Moran’s pin-up art. “The Spanish Girl” and “Lady In The Light” are two of the most famous for which she posed. She always refused to pose completely nude. “She knew exactly what to do, her movements, her hands, her body were just perfect. Better than anyone else. Emotionally, she did everything right. She expressed just what I wanted.” Moran commented. The assignment earned her only $10 per hour but Moran and Marilyn stayed close friends throughout her career.
It was as a model that Marilyn was discovered by talent scout, Ben Lyon. He arranged her screen-test for Twentieth Century Fox. The Marilyn Monroe persona was born. But there was another photo-shoot for which she modeled that did not become public until she was a film star. One photograph is of a young nude Marilyn Monroe lying out on a red velvet sheet. It was purchased by Hugh Hefner, Founder of the Playboy Magazine empire. It was released as a centerfold in the very first issue of Playboy in 1953. When she was confronted by it, Marilyn said, “I was a week behind on my rent....I had to have the money. A photographer, Tom Kelley, had asked me before to pose but I'd never do it. This time I called him and said I would. Tom didn't think anyone would recognize me.” When asked what she had on during the photo-shoot, Marilyn teased, “I had the radio on.”