Read an Excerpt
“Are you a Jackie or a Marilyn?”
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe are two of the most memorable women to have graced our cultural—and visual—landscape in modern times. Both were legendary, but in completely different ways, and they represent opposite possibilities for modern women to aspire to, even today.
Jackie or Marilyn—at first glance, it seems so simple, doesn’t it?
The first lady versus the Hollywood starlet. The Vassar girl versus the teenager who dropped out of Hollywood High after six months. The woman from a “good family” (and all that entails) from Washington, D.C.; Newport, Rhode Island; Southampton, New York—with occasional forays to Europe—versus the woman from the Los Angeles Orphans Home and a hundred film sets, scrapping her way up the ladder.
Are they alike? Are they different? And more important, how do they speak to us today?
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was born on July 28, 1929, in Southampton, New York, where her parents spent the summer. While the Kennedys might be described as “American royalty” by well-meaning journalists, Jackie and the Bouvier clan were (on technical points) several rungs up the social ladder and far more royal than her future in-laws. Born into the Social Register and (although Catholic) part of the elite, regimented and very restricted WASP aristocracy, Jackie was first introduced to the American public in 1953, after marrying Senator John F. Kennedy, and became widely known while campaigning for her husband’s bid for presidency.
When he won the election in 1960 (by the slimmest margin in the 20th century), Jackie—stylish, chic and very much the anti–Mamie Eisenhower (her predecessor)—burst onto the world stage as the wife of the thirty-fifth president of the United States, and the media breathlessly followed her every move.
When Jackie wore a sleeveless sheath dress and bare legs (a teenage girl or woman not wearing stockings in public just wasn’t done in those days) to Sunday Mass in Palm Beach, it caused an uproar, and millions of women quickly followed suit. Her bouffant hairdo and her habit of wearing jodhpurs as sportswear and a triple-strand pearl necklace tucked into the neckline of her dress were all instantly copied.
Among the first celebrities not based on the stage or screen, Jackie and her husband lifted the curtain on the American upper class and disseminated East Coast style throughout the country and the world.
After John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Jackie rebuilt a life for herself and her children, Caroline and John Junior, in New York City. In 1968, she married the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, earning the ire of the world. After his death in 1975, she settled permanently in Manhattan and began working as a book editor at Doubleday publishers. As the most famous woman in the world, Jackie made news with every move.
Growing up and throughout her life, Jackie had every imaginable advantage—gracious homes with staff and her own horse, the best education possible, a father who doted on her and husbands who protected her. But perhaps the most important thing Jackie had was a center, a clear identity: She knew who she was and her place in the world.
Marilyn, on the other hand, had none of these advantages. For starters, not even the name “Marilyn Monroe” was originally her own. Instead, it was a studio invention.
Three years older than Jackie, Marilyn was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, California, to Gladys Baker, an unmarried woman with deep psychological problems who worked as a film cutter at RKO studios. The identity of Marilyn’s father was never made known to her (in later life, she claimed to remember a photograph of a handsome man with a mustache), and she was later baptized Norma Jeane Baker.
Unlike Jackie’s, Norma Jeane’s childhood was uncertain and, at times, harrowing. She had a clear memory of her mother having a fit and being taken out of the house in a straitjacket, and for the rest of her life, she feared that she might end up the same way.
On June 19, 1942, she wed her twenty-one-year-old neighbor, Jimmy Dougherty, whom she barely knew. It is said that Norma Jeane was weeping when her husband left, having been drafted during World War II. A few months later she was discovered while working in a wartime factory and found an even greater love: the camera.
Marilyn’s will was formidable; her desire, immense. She wanted, she wanted, she wanted.
She wanted respect. She wanted love. She would marry and divorce twice more. She wanted a home and a loving husband, children even. She wanted to be a world-famous movie star; she fought for decent scripts. In retrospect, when she was recognized all over the world—our blonde bombshell goddess, Marilyn—it all seemed inevitable.
Perhaps it was.
And yet. . . . While Jackie had every societal advantage and Marilyn so many strikes against her in her birth, they were more than equal in the fame game. Although Jackie lived a longer life, Marilyn is perhaps more beloved today because people all over the world connect with her on an emotional level. Her desire to be known, to be loved, is as much a part of her appeal as her innocent sexuality.
Jackie and Marilyn came of age in the 1950s, when socially acceptable roles for women were limited: wife and mother (the best), and if you had to work, schoolteacher or nurse. Or maybe waitress or secretary. That’s about it.
Yet they both moved beyond the strictures of their time and became icons—the free-spirited movie star and the cosmopolitan first lady. If Jackie symbolized well-bred propriety, Marilyn was sex.
Jackie and Marilyn, it seems, ascribed to their public personas. It is no wonder that in the second season of Mad Men, where all of the women in Don Draper’s world are either Madonnas or whores, the ad campaign they came up with for Playtex included photos of two models side by side in their brassieres. One was a “Jackie.” The other was a “Marilyn”—and you can guess which was which.
While this limited way of thinking dictates that women are one or the other, the fact is that most of us, really, are a mixture of both.
The question “Are you a Jackie or a Marilyn?” seems simple enough, but like the two women it is based on—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe—the answer is often far more complex and not so obvious as might first appear.
The Jackie Woman we envision is strong, intelligent, socially impeccable, well married, probably a mother and can take care of herself and others. The Marilyn Gal is vulnerable, emotionally unbalanced, enjoys sex immensely, with lots of beauty, sorrow, pills, high living, celebrity, glamour, black eyeliner, fake eyelashes and champagne in her day-to-day existence. Plus, you know she’s got some beautiful, beautiful photographs of herself stashed away.
In today’s celebrity world, the comparison might be Jennifer Garner versus Kate Moss, or Reese Witherspoon compared to, say, Amy Winehouse.
Among women we love, let’s take Tina Turner as an example. With her perfect legs, fringed miniskirts (that she has been rocking since about 1967) and daunting sexual energy, she might appear to be a Marilyn. But looking beyond first impressions to her courage, strength and personal work ethic, she is actually a Jackie.
Her heir apparent of today, Beyoncé Knowles, is the rare pop icon who combines discipline, talent and a wholesome sexual energy to present herself as a combination of both Jackie and Marilyn.
On the other side of the spectrum, classic style icon Grace Kelly was extremely Marilyn-esque before her marriage, but as she settled into an almost suburban existence as Her Royal Highness Princess Grace of Monaco, she became more and more personally conservative until she was even less a Jackie than the real Jackie herself.
But like so many things in life, the answer to whether one is a Jackie or a Marilyn is not black and white. Human beings are complex creatures (especially you), and there is a broad spectrum within which one can fall; we are not necessarily one or the other—the Jackie/Marilyn hybrid, if you will. And at the risk of becoming too schizophrenic, this option could very well be the best of both worlds, because clearly, the choice between being a Jackie or a Marilyn depends on the situation.
(And here’s something else we’ve noticed: Whether you are a Jackie or a Marilyn, you are always a bit of an actress. You might be studying at the Actors Studio, or you might work at the Genius Bar of the Apple store or as a teller in a bank. You could be a stay-at-home mom or married to the president of the United States. In your mind, it’s all shades of the same inherently fabulous “look at me!” energy—just the venue is different.)
For the J+M Gal of today, it’s all about style, attitude and behavior . . . and then channeling (if only in your mind) your favorite icon. You might even mix it up a little. If you are going on a job interview: Jackie. Going to Vegas: Marilyn. Going on a job interview in Vegas? More Marilyn with a touch of Jackie.
Meeting your future mother-in-law for the first time? Definitely Jackie.
Going to Paris for a long weekend with the new beau? Jackie with a soupçon of Marilyn (and if you are staying at the Georges V, feel free to pour on the Marilyn with abandon).
The mind boggles. Which is why you need this handy primer to make your way in the world. After studying the underlying habits, belief systems, fashion advice and sexual energy (oh, you knew we’d get there eventually) of both JKO and MM, we will determine whether you are a Jackie or a Marilyn (or somewhere in between). So consider this your go-to guide for being a retro-modern woman. It’s all here, from finding your style to feathering your nest. From courtship to sex and beauty, we have advice on how to write a love letter, how to stock a bar, how to ask for a raise, even what books, CDs and DVDs the Jackie or Marilyn Gal—i.e., you—might favor. We cover all the bases, from soup to nuts. We’re in your boudoir, we’re in your office and we’re on your first date—and the third. We have recipes, historical references, real-life situations, diet tips and even some great gossip.
Finally, we know that the Jackie/Marilyn Woman has courage and style in spades. Even better, we can show you how to recognize it in yourself and bring out your inner Jackie or Marilyn in any situation.
So—are you a Jackie or a Marilyn? By the time you finish reading this book, you might find that there is less than you might imagine separating the two. And whether you favor ballet flats, kitten heels, marabou mules, Converse sneakers or sky-high stilettos, we will show you how to throw the dice, take chances and sashay down the sidewalk of life with more style than you can imagine.
Just like our girls Jackie and Marilyn. And now you.
The Jackie or Marilyn Quiz
In pondering the essential differences between the Jackie and the Marilyn Gal (with their attendant lifestyles, first husbands, lingerie and heel choices), it is first vital to ascertain whether you are a Jackie or a Marilyn.
Herewith a test.
And in case you are wondering, the Jackie among us is a test taker nonpareil, who would fill this out very fast, with perfect concentration and a perfectly sharpened No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil. And the Marilyn? Distractedly (no doubt wearing a sheer peignoir), with an eyebrow pencil fished out from the bottom of her purse—but she would look adorable mulling it over.
1. Who said, “All men are rats and cannot be trusted”? Jackie’s father, John “Black Jack” Bouvier Gloria Steinem Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot2. Who said, “Just give me champagne and good food and I’m in heaven and love”? Oprah Winfrey Ina Garten Marilyn Monroe3. Of these modern-day celebrities, who is the least Marilyn-esque? Madonna Scarlett Johansson Lindsay Lohan4. During times of stress, do you— go for a walk on the beach. meditate. pour gin in your tea.5. For you, sex is— uncomplicated and fun! a way of saying “thank you.” a means to an end.6. Before you meet a man for dinner, you— shave your legs run a Dun & Bradstreet on the guy. break out your tippy-tallest Manolos and hope for the best.7. You wake up every morning— with your day completely planned. and do whatever you feel like. turn to the person next to you and say, “Hello,dear.”8. Your childhood is something— not discussed. to be celebrated. you’ve been running from your whole life.9. Your father— loved you and gave you confidence. was Clark Gable. taught you to throw a football.10. Your mother— scares the hell out of you. left you all of her Balenciaga and Schlumberger. secretly loves your little sister (you know, the “pretty one”) more.11. After you sleep with someone for the first time, he— offers you the lead in his movie. asks you to marry him. has a Cartier bibelot on the breakfast tray.12. In your opinion, money is— everything. no, we mean it—everything. not that important—as long as you have a roof over your head and Veuve Clicquot in the fridge, you’re cool.13. Meeting your future mother-in-law for the first time, you— convert to Judaism. brush up on your French. eschew underwear.14. Former beaux keep up with you— on Facebook. on the front page of the New York Times. They don’t. They’re still devastated by the breakup. They’ll never get over it. Never.15. You best friend is— your roommate from prep school. your hairdresser, makeup artist, stand-in, publicist, housekeeper, majordomo, Peggy Siegal—or some varying combination of the above. just you, baby. Just you.16. Questions for general discussion—Is it better to be a Jackie or a Marilyn—
Answers—1) a—Black Jack Bouvier; 2) c—Marilyn Monroe; 3) a—Madonna—while she may have looked like MM in her youth, her MO is pure JKO; 4) a—Jackie; b—Jackie; c—Marilyn; 5) a—Marilyn; b—Marilyn; c—Jackie; 6) a—Marilyn; b—Jackie; c—Marilyn; 7) a—Jackie; b—Marilyn; c) either; 8) a—Marilyn; b—Jackie; c—Marilyn; 9) a—Jackie; b—Marilyn; c—neither; 10) a—either; b—Jackie; c—Jackie; 11) a—Marilyn; b—Marilyn; c—Jackie; 12) a—Jackie; b—Jackie; c—Marilyn; 13) a—Marilyn; b—Jackie; c—Marilyn (of course); 14) a—neither; b—either; c—Marilyn; 15) a—Jackie; b—Marilyn; c—Marilyn.
- if you are in the running for first lady of the United States?
- in bed with a handsome stranger you will never see again?
- in bed with a French couturier?
- lunching at Bailey’s Beach?
- on the proverbial (or not so proverbial) casting couch?
- applying to Vassar?
- on a photo shoot with Bert Stern, a case of champagne and immortality?
To Determine Scoring—Tally up your responses, giving yourself one “Jackie” point for each question you answered about her correctly and one “Marilyn” point for each correct Marilyn answer. Whichever score is highest corresponds to your predominant archetype. In case of a tie, you are either kidding yourself or are Uma Thurman.