After a little hiatus (I’ve been feeling a bit delicate, but all better now) I’m back and I want to share with you one of my heroines: Bettie Page.
Bettie is a pin up from the 1950s who I’d be surprised if you didn’t recognise. She was a secretary by trade but did a bit of modelling at weekends to top up her income. She did a number of different things: modelled for photography clubs, for cult photographer Bunny Yeager and perhaps infamously, posed for some fetish photos too. The later part of Bettie’s life, post modelling, is a little messy and sad in places and not something I’ll dwell on here.
My Bettie obsession reached a peak over the summer and I watched several films about her. The first was a documentary called ‘Bettie Page Reveals All’. This was for the most part quite disappointing. It was mostly images of Bettie interspersed with interviews with people who knew her. The background music was quite intrusive and really detracted from the whole thing. The Dr and I endured it and it does give you some insights into her life, many of them from Bettie herself.
I also watched The Notorious Bettie Page which was a more entertaining watch, being a feature film rather than a documentary. Sources say Bettie herself didn’t like the film and said it was not an accurate portrayal of her, but hey, that’s a story as old as the hills!
So, why is Bettie one of my heroines? I’m a feminist, I’m a woman, I adore vintage. Why am I choosing a pin up girl to idolise?
Largely I think she was just very good at what she did. She was very natural, she looked like she was having fun, and according to the people who took her photos she did love posing and having her photo taken. She was very comfortable with her body, happy to be nude and fearless in the pursuit of a good shot – even getting up close and personal with these leopards when Bunny asked her to!
She made a lot of her own swimsuits, bikinis etc. When you look at them in the light of what might have been considered decent in the 1950s you can see that they are somewhat skimpy! Bettie wasn’t afraid to challenge what was considered acceptable.
She does what she does very naturally. I am with Caitlin Moran on the issue of nudity – if it genuinely empowers a woman to pose nude then why shouldn’t she. Bettie had an enviable figure and wasn’t afraid of it or what it could do for her. I think she looks amazing and I’d definitely aspire to a figure like that. She has great legs, an ample bosom and that high waist – I’d remove ribs to achieve it ( probably the only way I would ever achieve it)!
All in all, I’m in awe of Bettie’s figure and her natural playfulness in front of the camera. In a world where we are bombarded with images of either physically altered models or digitally altered images I like the fact Bettie did what she did and enjoyed it. She was comfortable and natural and I think it is nor surprise that some of her most celebrated images are taken by (female) photographer Bunny Yeager.
It is with a saucy wink I say:
It’s only vintage but I like it!