Marilyn Monroe's First Magazine Cover

On April 7th of 1952, Marylin Monroe had her first appearance on a magazine cover, which was in Life Magazine. This date is of significance to the perception of beauty and aesthetics of body types because it was near the beginning of Marylin Monroe’s rise to fame. Marylin Monroe became an icon of the 1950s and 1960s beginning with acting and modeling. Soon she would be on the covers of multiple magazines and would star in the hit movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Her whole platform began with modeling and with that she changed the standard of body types for all women. Magazines back in the 1950s were one of the main sources of entertainment, besides tv and movies, having an influence on those who read and/or looked at them. Normally, magazines tend to present unrealistic body type goals due to the editing and the type of women that show up in them (Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008; Hawkins, Richards, Granley, & Stein, 2004) such ideals can lead to the presence of body dysmorphia (Swiatkowski, 2016). Body dysmorphia is an actual mental health disorder where people negatively perceive their bodies and exaggerate and focus mainly on their flaws (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).  Through Monroe’s impact, she was able to aid in tackling issues like body dysmorphia and/or the general idea that women had to be skinny to be and feel pretty. 

Marylin Monroe was different from the typical women that appeared in magazines before her, her figure was curvier and she let her fat rolls show. She constantly demonstrated confidence in herself through the camera. Women like her finally began seeing someone in the media that they could relate to. This magazine cover was crucial for creating change in the perception of beauty in society as she was on various media sources, with people seeing her all the time. Celebrities tend to define what is beautiful in society, simply through their looks. The “ideal” body type has varied throughout the years based on media and celebrity influence, the ideal meaning what is seen as beautiful. The media had and still influences the perception of beauty and aesthetics in society especially concerning body image. The rise of mass media in the 1950s altered the lives of everyone who had access to such. This had both its negative and positive impacts, however; in most cases, the media negatively impacts women’s body image (DuBois, 2019). People tend to accept what the media tells them is beautiful, which is what made it so powerful even back then.

The average women finally perceived themselves as beautiful and did not feel like they had to strive to look different than who they were. Unlike Marylin Monroe, most women that appeared in the media at that time were “skinny” and that was what was perceived as beautiful then until she changed the playing field. People constantly seeing her in advertisements, movies, and magazines, and having those sources exhibit her as a sexy woman altered their perception of the “ideal” body type for others and themselves. Women did not physically change but how people saw them and how they saw themselves began to change. Perception is key to self-body image and beauty, it is a common misconception that people need to lose and/or gain weight to look and feel good about themselves. Once people see others that look like them in the spotlight they begin to feel more confident in themselves. This newly found confidence in women that looked like Marylin made them appear more beautiful to others leading to a full-on cultural change. If people frequently see a woman on the big screen or front pages of magazines as an image for a “sexy woman” there will be a cognitive change in how they perceive beauty. Without this first magazine cover, she never would have made it onto Heffener’s Playboy magazine (Musser, 2007), although possibly demeaning to women, men assumed any woman who was in that magazine was sexy. These assumptions would then lead to men as well thinking all women that looked like her were beautiful to them. 

A simple magazine cover essentially altered how all body types were seen as beautiful for the women themselves and those around them, at least for some decades to come. To this day some of her images are still used in body positivity campaigns, proving that her impact was long-lasting. Body positivity with different body types is about accepting and loving all body types merely by changing how they are viewed, thereby changing the common aesthetic.


Body dysmorphic disorder. (2019, October 29). Retrieved October 1, 2020, from

Musser, E. R. (2007). History of American Journalism. Retrieved October 1, 2020, from

Paulina Swiatkowski | Tonny Krijnen (Reviewing Editor) (2016) Magazine influence on body dissatisfaction: Fashion vs. health?, Cogent Social Sciences, 2:1, DOI: 10.1080/23311886.2016.1250702

Sim, J. (2005). A Marilyn Monroe Chronology. Retrieved October 1, 2020, from

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

7 Apr 1952