The death of Betty Page in 2008 seems a long time ago now, but her influence is still prevalent in many cultures around the world. Ms Page was probably the world’s first legendary pinup and was a constant start of men’s magazines in the 1950s, and set the tone for the sexual liberation and free thinking that finally arrived in 1960s. One of the designs she loved the most was polka dot.
Early Life of Betty Page
Betty Page was born in Jackson, Tennessee, and was the eldest girl of six children. After an unhappy childhood, which included abuse and a period in an orphanage, she graduated from high school as an almost straight A student.
Ms Page started modelling in 1943 after moving to San Francisco and getting married but was soon divorced and by 1947 she had moved to the Big Apple, where she started acting lessons. After enjoying a mild success with acting, she got her first role as a pinup model in 1951, which was the first time the world was exposed to the typical Betty Page shot – slightly naughty, but always glamorous.
By 1955, she had her big break – as a centrefold for Playboy. The power and reach of Playboy in those days is hard to imagine now, with the Internet making such magazines bordering on irrelevancy. But in the 1950s, Playboy was impossible to ignore, and it wasn’t long before that Ms.Page was big news in almost every state in the country. Unsurprisingly, however, it wasn’t all good attention she received.
In fact, within two years, Ms Page had had enough. There were excellent reasons for her calling time on her modelling career. Ms Page was pursued all over the place by people who believed she was responsible for the lowering of the tone of life in the United States, and religious and political zealots alike would take constant potshots at her. She actually disappeared from public life before the 1950s even finished, and married twice again, with neither relationship providing children.
By 1978, Betty Page had moved to California, living life on social security payments and ending up suffering from mental health issues. This problem came to a head after she was charged with attacking her landlady, but after the court ruled she was not guilty due to insanity, she was sentto a mental institution rather than prison.
Remaining out of the public eye, she gave the occasional low-key interview, but the world hadn’t forgotten the incredible Betty Page.
Since the late 1980s, there have been films and books about her, people still dress like her, and she is held in high regard by many people with interest in culture. But her influence wasn’t restricted to naughty magazines and glamour shoots – nor did it remain in the 1950s.
She was a considerable influence in the fashion industry, and to this day many women – and some men – still see her as the ultimate icon. By the time of Betty Page’s death, she’d had undergone a complete renaissance, being the inspiration for stars of the movies, music, and comic books, from Uma Thurman’s character in Pulp Fiction through to Madonna’s stage shows.
There are Betty Page action figures, t-shirts, and her images can be seen in all kinds of nightclubs all over the world. You see Betty Page look-alike competitions cropping up to this day, and her personal website was visited hundreds of millions of times by 2006 – who knows what that figure might be now?
Born Again Christian
The irony is that while all this outpouring of love for Betty Page was going on, the great lady herself was not all that interested. After her time in a mental institution, she decided to become a born-again Christian, and studied the Bible for the rest of her life, also serving as an advisor to a significant US Christian organisation. She is also a somewhat troubling figure for those on the left of political debate. While there’s no denying she brought women a sense of freedom, that platforms she did it on were pretty much exclusively for men.
However, the life of Betty Page will be long remembered by many people, in the worlds of fashion, music, and film – and even this very website.
She almost defined what it meant to be sexy in a particularly unsexy period of time, and all with an athletic, lean, and tomboyish figure. If you have a defined fringe, it’s down to Betty. If you love rockabilly, it probably stems from Betty. If you like things a little kinky, it’s down to Betty. And whether you are Madonna, Britney, or Beyonce, you will almost definitely channel Betty Page in your music videos, time and time again.