Emmeline Snively, the owner and manager of the Blue Book Modelling Agency, gave Norma Jeane her start as a glamour model, which ultimately led to her movie career. Photographer David Conovor brought Norma Jean to the agency in August 1945. She looked up at a row of models’ pictures Snively had on her wall at the Ambassador Hotel and said “oh, those girls are so pretty!” but Snively thought “what a wonderful little doll she would be on a magazine cover one day.” Sniveley decided Norma Jeane could use improvement in a few areas, starting with her curly brown hair.
“Believe me I had to talk her into anything that wasn’t natural and not just Norma Jeane Dougherty. She had to be talked into lightening it so that she was a blonde in the winter as well as in the summer and we had it straightened. And I noticed that she kept it that way all the rest of her life. She accepted everything we could give her which made us give her more than the average girl….I thought I could make her into something very marketable in a short length of time…She was very beautiful and clean-cut in an American, wholesome way. Too plump…” well that was by Hollywood modelling standards. In fact after Norma Jeane changed her name to Marilyn she arrived at a photographic shoot with tissue stuffed into her ample bosom. The photographer looked at her and as he pulled out the tissue he shook his head: “I’m sorry darling you’re just too fat.” Marilyn burst into tears. But hearty as she was and used to rejection, Marilyn refused to give up her modelling career. Instead she worked on her figure and learned to eat less.
Snively insisted, “we taught her how to pose, how to handle your body, smile, she was always trying to lower her smile because she smiled too high and it made her nose a little long. She couldn’t just relax at ease and walk smoothly but every time she’d take a step her knees would go all the way back and make her bounce….She had a great deal of expression…We were instrumental in getting her into Fox. She signed up for every course they had to offer which meant dancing, voice, ballet, whether she was qualified or not, she just went whole-hog in for the educational side of it because it had been neglected in her life.” Some people viewed Marilyn’s eagerness to learn as a need for self-improvement due to her personal insecurity. I don’t. Marilyn wanted to learn. She wanted to educate herself. She was an intelligent career woman and she instinctively knew that educating herself was a necessary step toward an acting career.
In an interview, Marilyn had stated that after she reached puberty and began wearing lipstick “the whole world opened up to me.” Similarly, through modelling Norma Jeane discovered her face and body could be her ticket to the world. When Jim Dougherty told Norma Jeane to end her career she divorced him. The pattern would remain the same all of her life. In the mid-1950s when Marilyn would be married to a famous baseball player, she would divorce Joe DiMaggio in order to pursue her career. Norma Jeane was a feminist without knowing it: headstrong, independent, and determined to succeed. Sniveley stated, “anyone who worked that hard was looking for love not just a job.”