Wednesday, November 12, 2014

♡ Bettie Page ♡


Pinup, fetish model, style icon at the height of her fame disappeared never to model again. Shrudded in mystery, hearsay and myth, the real reasons as to why Bettie Page decided to vanish from public life will never be fully known. While her modelling career may have only lasted seven years, those years produced some of the most iconic images ever to be captured on camera, cementing her status as one of the greatest pinup of all time. With no prior experience or guidance of how to pose or model in front of the camera Bettie truly was her own creation; it very difficult in a single shot to protray what Bettie made look so effortless. A self styled natural in front of the camera, she made modelling look easy and fun "looking in very photo as if it were her first one" (Hugh Hefner). She protrayed a sweet innonence in her expressions with the perfect combination of sass in her look, hair, clothes and attitude will always be unparralled or just mere imitation. She is the rightfully deemed as the 'Queen of Pinups'; having no predecessors Bettie created her own narrative, played by her own rules, fearless yet unforboding. Her contibution to pinup and popular culture is not to be underestimated, with books, art, music, films, universities and fashion continually referencing her work, style and iconic image. Her popularity grows each year with more and more fans of all ages paying homage to her work, artistry and style. 

When Bettie began pin-up modeling it was a dangerous time to be so provocative; the 40s snd 50s while stylistically was undoubtly one of the finest in fashion this was not an era of equality and sexual libration, far from it. Women were meant to be the be cautious, demure, subservient most definetely not to be risqué, sassy or defiant! Her modelling work would have been highly frownned upon for being too sexualised, too suggestive for that time. It's what makes Betty so iconic not alone was challenging social norms and pushing the boundaries of conservative middle class America, she was did so without any concious thought, she was naturally defiant towards social and societal confinds at that time. As Bettie stated she wasn't "trying to change society, or be ahead of my time. I didn't of myself as liberated, and I don't believe that I did anything important. I was just myself".  This is what is so utterly captivating, and it translates in all her photos so was clearly enjoying herself and comfortable to be a risk-taker, bold and utterly confident in her own skin which is itself would stir resentment amongst those of a conserative nature and that is probably still the case for some people even in today's more liberal society.

Arts graduate Bettie studied her degree at Peabody College where she majored in English and minored in Social Sciences. She was planning to become a teacher but never took up a full-time post instead Bettie had aspirations of becoming an actress. After graduating and marriage breakdown she relocate many times but finally settled in New York. Having been heavily involved in drama within her high school and college years she wanted to wanted to persue a professional acting career and this was the place she make it. She worked in various different jobs to support herself but it was a chance meeting while she strolled on the beach in Coney Island that change Bettie life forever when ametur photographer Jerry Tibbs noticed the raven hair beauty and asked to photograph her which lead to her modelling for camera clubs an underground movement which was designed for photographers who were interested in erotica, fetish and glamour modelling which would have outrage in conserstive America at that time. Photography seasons in private homes were held by the 'camera clubs' in which Bettie modelled regulary; proving a photography favourite due to her unparalled beauty and ease in front of the camera.
Bettie didn't take herself too seriously and wasn't afraid of experimentation, pushing the boundaries art, fetish and sexual fantasy. She was instant hit amongst the fetish scene of the 1950's with her countless appearances in a wide variety of mens magazines at that time. Featuring in an array of front covers, centerfolds with Playboy having Bettie as Miss January, 1955. Hugh Hefner describing the pinup as having a "saucy innonence that is both comptemporary and provocative but also nostalgic". Dramatically at the height of her fame in '57 Bettie cut short her modeling career, never to return. After seven phenomenally success years featuring in more magazines even at that time than even the massively popular Marilyn Monroe, Bettie gave it all up-vanished from the eye without any warning. The exact reasons for her hesity departure are purely speculative, the government investigation into her involvement with the then supposed indecent images, camera club members and Iriving Klaw fetish photograhy business. She was called a witness to testify in front of the committee which at that time would caused her or anyone for that matter grave stress and strain which may have to lead to her deciding to slip away from everything to had thought she wanted. It's a very sad ending  to such a wonder career but Bettie never returned to modelling, acting or anything to do with her previous life. In the years that followed nothing was heard from Bettie, refusing to do interviews or even acknowledging that she was Bettie Page or that she knew who she was if asked. She wanted to be forgotten and throughout the 60's and 70's there was little attention given the dissapearence of the once popular pinup. 

With the resurgence of pinup back into popularculture in 1980s, with famous pinup artist Olivia De Berardinis creating iconic Bettie images in beautiful watercolours proving a popular muse for De Berardinis to this day. Bettie's iconic bangs and stiletto heels where becoming popular amongst the younger generation unbeknown to the icon who had no idea that of the resurgence of popularity in her pinup modelling days. She was eventually found by the media who wished to interview her but she would not appear on camera and instead wished to be remembered as she was at the height of her fame. Creating even more mystery and attention of then forgotten starlet. The pinup revival reach fever pitch with Dita Von Teese in the late 90's, early 2000's who is credited with bringing burlesque and retro style back into the main frame. Her own early look and career began similarly to Pages, modelling for various pinup and fetish catalogues, starring in fetish movie and performing burlesque shows to audiences in local strip clubs. Being the most widely known modern proponent Von Teese has helped in to bringing fetish and striptease back to the worlds stage, reigniting our love of pin-up, vintage, glamour, vaudeville and the theatrics of burlesque. Millions of women around the world are fans of her classic style and career including me. Her love inspired me to want to learn more about the art of pinup and of course if you learn nothing else the one person whom you will always stumble across when you read, google, watch anything to do with vintage pinup modelling is Bettie Page, she is after all the patron saint of the modern pinup lady!