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Young Marilyn Monroe: Rare Early Photos of Hollywood’s Most Captivating Star

"Marilyn's like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane" — here, photos of that girl beneath the veil

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Marilyn Monroe is such an icon that it’s hard to believe there was a time before she was famous. We know and love her glamorous blonde persona from classic movies like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, and she’s so instantly recognizable that seeing a rare photo of young Marilyn Monroe in her early days, before she became an once-in-a-generation star, becomes a fascinating insight.

It’s no secret that, while Monroe projected humor, grace and sex appeal, she battled personal demons for the entirety of her too-short career. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, Monroe had a difficult childhood, and her life story was tragically filled with abuse, addiction and an overwhelming sense of being misunderstood. Looking at photos of a young Marilyn Monroe makes for a poignant experience. You can see her sparkling charisma from her early days as a model in the ’40s, but knowing the pain she endured for so much of her life gives them a tinge of sadness and mystery.

Monroe began her acting career with small roles in the late ’40s. By the early ’50s, she was an A-lister, and she starred in some of the most beloved movies of the decade before her tragically premature death by overdose in 1962, at age 36. Monroe was always much smarter than people gave her credit for, and her perspective on her own fame was fascinating. In a 1960 interview, she said, “I never wanted to be Marilyn — it just happened. Marilyn’s like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane.” Taking a look back at Marilyn before the veil, back in her Norma Jeane days, gives us a more nuanced perspective on the icon.

Here are 10 photos of Marilyn pre-fame. Interested in more Marilyn miscellany? You can also check out one of her signature makeup looks, learn about her three marriages or read our list of classic Marilyn Monroe movies available to stream.

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