In an interview for Cosmopolitan, TV presenter Danica Kennedy looks back on her stint as a Marilyn lookalike at Universal Studios.
“For wardrobe, all of the Marilyn impersonators always wore that classic white dress from The Seven Year Itch. That includes pantyhose, Spanx shorts for when the fan blew up our skirts, and this corset bustier that was totally crazy … I would step on a platform and a fan would blow my skirt up. Then I’d have to say, ‘Oops!’
When you play somebody for two years, sometimes their characteristics can blur into your personal life accidentally. If I’m out and drinking champagne, which was Marilyn’s favorite, I’ll accidentally slip into using my sexy baby voice. It’s so awkward, especially since I’m not trying to be Marilyn.
I don’t think playing Marilyn has affected my psyche, but that’s probably because I never took playing the character too seriously. But when people want to debate with me about how she died or what she was like, I find myself standing up for her … We have all been through tough times, and her story is so tragic yet relatable.”
In an interview with San Antonio Current, female impersonator Jimmy James recalls how seeing a picture of Marilyn inspired him to start an acclaimed career. (Although he no longer performs as MM, photos such as the one posted above are still mistaken for Marilyn, and are regularly used for tattoos and iphone covers.)
“What was your initial spark to start impersonating Marilyn Monroe?
I was studying theatrical makeup at San Antonio College, and I was studying facial bone structures … I was skimming through a book called Life Goes to the Movies and it struck me — a photograph of Marilyn Monroe, who I had always heard about but didn’t really know much about. The way her face was in this photograph reminded me of my face, and I know that sounds presumptuous, but again, I was a makeup artist so I knew about facial structure. And I was doing theater that never paid anything, and I knew that the drag queens in the clubs got paid money [so] I thought, ‘What if I could present this as an actor playing the part of Marilyn Monroe on stage in a club?’ And that’s how it started. But it took about three years of hard work and research to figure out who and what she was.
So once you got that act together, what did it consist of?
I would lip-sync a little bit … I could do ‘Happy Birthday’ live because I could sing that a cappella. And I would seek out instrumentals in thrift shops … you know there was no karaoke back then and there was no way of paying someone to make the music.”
If you’re finding it hard to keep track of all the celebrity Monroe impersonations, check out this handy graph from StyleCaster.
Recovering bottle blonde Beth Cleavy writes thoughtfully about the ongoing trend for MM impersonations – by celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, and professional lookalikes.
“The more you look like Marilyn, the more you become what she so wanted to escape. She didn’t want to be the blonde, red-lipped, wiggle-walking object. She wanted to be an artist, a dedicated performer who should not be just an image. She was human.
I adore all the Marilyn impersonators, I think they have Norma Jean’s ‘character’ to a tee. Wiggle, Purr, Sigh, Open mouthed smile, Quiver lips, It all works in a wonderfully sexual and comical way.I was even offered to do Monroe impersonating but decided it was not for me. So as much as I love impressions, I still think they resemble a seaside caricature of what the lady was all about.”