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20 Glamorous Photos of Lucille Ball Before She Became ‘Lucy’ That Prove She Was More Than Just a Slapstick Star

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In October 1951, the world was introduced to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as the stars of I Love Lucy. Now, nearly 70 years since that first episode aired, the series remains as beloved as ever. Even just glancing at the title of the show, your mind was probably filled with classic scenes of Lucy Ricardo trying to stuff chocolate into her mouth, slurring her words while filming a commercial for Vitameatavegamin, or simply begging her husband, Ricky, to let her into his night club show again and again. 

But before Ball’s weekly hijinks as Lucy, which didn’t air until the actress was in her 40s, she had to work hard to overcome struggles and climb her way to the top. Her family lost most of their money in a lawsuit after a neighborhood kid suffered an injury in their backyard and then a mysterious illness left her bedridden for years during her teens, just as she was getting her start as a model. Reading stories like these in Ball’s autobiography, Love, Lucy ($8.90, Amazon), will give you an even greater respect for the woman whose determination helped her bounce back from these hardships and who continues to make us laugh in timeless episodes of her sitcom. 

Although we all still enjoy watching her perform in silly costumes or flop around doing goofy pratfalls, Ball was no stranger to the glamorous side of life, too. You might not even recognize her while scrolling through some of these snapshots of her early days as a performer, but each one proves she was always so much more than just a slapstick actress — and that Ricky really should have let Lucy into his show! 

Take a look to see beautiful photos of Lucille Ball before she became “Lucy.”

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