Marilyn Monroe: Unhygienic Slob?

When picturing Marilyn Monroe, we often envision her soft, clear skin, fluffy white-golden locks, and the iconic scent of Chanel No. 5. However, amidst the idolization, there are certain narratives and rumours circulating on the internet that attempt to tarnish her image. In this article, we will address some of these claims, debunking the myths surrounding Marilyn’s alleged lack of hygiene and unkempt appearance.

Trigger Warning: This article contains a discussion surrounding Marilyn’s death.

Lena Pepitone – A Questionable Source

Lena Pepitone, Marilyn’s East Coast housekeeper, had a working relationship with Marilyn, but her book, “Marilyn Confidential,” sensationalises their relationship and includes numerous falsehoods, as expertly debunked by April Chambers. Pepitone makes outlandish claims, including being Marilyn’s confidante and close friend. However, these assertions, along with claims of Marilyn’s lack of bathing, cannot be verified and can be assumed false.

Lena commented on how Marilyn would keep dirty plates under her bed, and would disgustingly let her period spill over her bedsheet.

Ralph Roberts, Marilyn’s masseuse and friend, noted in his book “Mimosa” that Marilyn always referred to Lena as “the Italian woman” rather than by name, suggesting that their relationship might not have been as close as Lena claimed. Additionally, Marilyn’s half-sister Berniece attests that Marilyn never discussed intimate matters with her employees, reinforcing the notion that Lena’s claims are dubious. It is essential to consider these conflicting accounts.

Allan Abbott – Questioning the Appearance

Allan Abbott, the funeral director responsible for Marilyn’s service, claimed in the book “Pardon My Hearse,” co-authored with Gregory Abbott, that Marilyn’s body was unrecognisable when it arrived at the mortuary. The book describes her as an average, ageing woman who had not taken good care of herself. However, it is crucial to remember that the circumstances surrounding her death likely contributed to her appearance not to mention the fact that Marilyn was human. Abbott’s statements, including the mention of Marilyn’s unbleached roots and the need for beauty treatments, are used to shock readers, but they fail to recognise that these are natural aspects of anyone’s natural appearance.

So, was Marilyn a dirty, unhygienic slob who didn’t bathe or take care of herself?

The ridiculous claims made by Lena and rehashed by David Bret, author of “Clark Gable: Tormented Star,” suggest that Marilyn was unhygienic, frequently drunk, and used her sheets as a napkin. However, there are pieces of evidence that contradict these rumours.

Ex-husband James Dougherty stated that Marilyn washed her face several times a day to avoid breakouts, which resulted in dry skin that may have led to her Vaseline baths. In addition, Ralph Roberts, her masseuse, described the incredible feel of her skin, contradicting claims of poor hygiene.

Furthermore, documents and receipts from Julien’s Auctions reveal that Marilyn invested a significant amount of money in personal care and beauty products throughout her life. Spending thousands of dollars on beauty treatments demonstrates her commitment to maintaining her appearance.

It is essential to separate the person from the public image when examining not just Marilyn Monroe but any celebrity. While some individuals aim to destroy the illusion for personal gain, it is crucial to remember that Marilyn was a human being. Like anyone else, she occasionally had days off from make-up or washing her hair, deviating from the image she meticulously crafted. It is unjust to judge her solely based on fleeting glimpses that may contradict the beauty standards of her time. Beauty goes beyond skin deep, and it is high time we appreciate Marilyn Monroe for the icon she was, without perpetuating unfounded myths and trying to scrutinise her appearance.

Marilyn Monroe & Her Endometriosis Struggle

When Norma Jeane reached puberty, she began experiencing extremely painful periods. While most girls suffer from some level of period pain, Norma Jeane’s pain was far beyond a regular menstrual belly ache. In this article, we delve into the story of Norma Jeane, who later became known as Marilyn Monroe, and her battle with (apparent*) endometriosis, a condition that caused her excruciating pain and affected her personal life in various ways.

*I put “apparent” as, despite the symptoms and surgeries demonstrating she had endometriosis, there is no official documentation that officially diagnoses the condition.

The Source of Pain

Despite endometriosis being known since the 1920s, Aunt Ana, who followed Christian Science beliefs, medical treatment was not an option. Norma Jeane had to endure the agonising pain of endometriosis on a monthly basis.

The symptoms of endometriosis can vary. Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms. Some of these are:

  • pain in your lower tummy or back (pelvic pain) – usually worse during your period
  • period pain that stops you doing your normal activities
  • pain during or after sex
  • pain when peeing or pooing during your period
  • feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee or poo during your period
  • difficulty getting pregnant

You may also have heavy periods. You might use lots of pads or tampons, or you may bleed through to your clothes. For some women, endometriosis can have a big impact on their life and may sometimes lead to depression.

The Impact on Marilyn’s Life

Marilyn’s behaviour on set and her regular lateness for appointments can be partially (but not entirely) attributed to the suffering she experienced due to endometriosis. Despite undergoing multiple surgeries to treat the condition, the disease could not be entirely eradicated.

There are two types of endometriosis surgery. One cuts away patches of endometriosis tissue. The other surgery removes part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis, such as surgery to remove part of your colon, your appendix or womb.

In 1952, Marilyn had her appendix removed and stuck a note to her stomach which said, For God’s sakes Dear Doctor no ovaries removed.” This note implies there may have been endometriosis surgery taking place too. Marilyn also had surgery for the condition in November 1954  and was seen numerous times whilst in England in 1956 for gynaecological reasons and finally in 1959. 

The pain, discomfort, sleepless nights and fatigue took a toll on Marilyn’s physical and mental well-being. Endometriosis also impacted her desire to start a family and affected her intimate as well as professional relationships.

During her period Marilyn would have to book time off work, especially for certain scenes such as the bikini scene for The Misfits.

The physical and emotional challenges posed by endometriosis, coupled with Marilyn’s status as a sex symbol, created a complex dynamic. Despite enjoying her sexuality, Marilyn’s inability to have a full-term healthy pregnancy and potentially painful sexual experiences may have affected her self-perception.

A Desire for Motherhood

Marilyn Monroe’s strong desire to have a child was evident throughout her life. She expressed her longing for motherhood through the above note she wrote to her doctor when she had her appendix removed as well as several times in interviews. Unfortunately, due to the complications caused by endometriosis, Marilyn experienced at least two pregnancy losses (1957 and 1958) and was ultimately told that she would never be able to have children. This inability to carry a child full term was a burden for Marilyn, who was considered one of the most desirable women in showbiz. She was consistently being asked by the press if she was pregnant when it is possible she was bloated from her hormones or endometriosis. These incessant questions must have put a lot of pressure on a woman with fertility issues.

Today, there is still no cure for endometriosis, and treatment can be challenging even with modern science. The main goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms rather than completely eradicate the condition. Of course, the type of treatment depends on various factors, including age, symptoms, fertility aspirations, willingness to undergo surgery, and previous treatment attempts. Additionally, self-help groups like Endometriosis UK can provide valuable support and guidance for managing the condition.

Marilyn’s life was marked by her struggle with endometriosis, an incredibly painful condition that impacted her physical and emotional well-being. Her story sheds light on the challenges faced by countless women dealing with this disease. Despite advancements in medical science, there is still much to be done to fully understand and effectively treat endometriosis. By raising awareness and supporting ongoing research, we can strive to improve the lives of individuals living with this debilitating condition.

Beyond the Smile: Marilyn Monroe’s Complex Emotions and Unexplored Joys

In the brief 36 years of her life, Marilyn Monroe is often associated with a melancholic existence due to her untimely passing. While the media tends to portray her as a perpetually unhappy individual, concealing her true emotions behind a radiant exterior, it is essential to question whether this portrayal accurately represents her.


Although Marilyn Monroe once remarked to a Marie Claire reporter, Georges Belmont, in 1960 that she was “generally miserable,” it is crucial to examine the context and consider her lighthearted fits of laughter during the conversation. She acknowledged that her sociability varied from day to day, much like anyone else.


Considering Marilyn’s tumultuous life and the challenges she faced, such as her troubled upbringing and mental health issues like insomnia, anxiety, and depression, it is natural to assume that she experienced periods of sadness. Depressive episodes, compounded by medication addiction and sleep deprivation, undoubtedly had a significant impact on her overall mood.


Examining her notes and journals, one can find dejected and hurtful words reflecting her state of mind. However, it is important to note that most people’s personal diaries often contain feelings of anger, pain, and hurt rather than joy and happiness. Marilyn Monroe should not be held to a different standard in this regard.


From a young age, Marilyn was reported as someone in need of stability and reassurance. Her orphanage report stated that she appeared terrified unless approached with patience and reassurance, emphasizing her longing for encouragement, attention, and acceptance. Given her constant moving and lack of a stable family, coupled with the mental, physical, and sexual abuse she endured, it is understandable that she sought security throughout her life.


Even in her adult years, Marilyn struggled to find healthy and stable relationships that could provide the level of security she desired, resulting in bouts of anxiety.


It is worth noting that some individuals have posthumously speculated that Marilyn Monroe may have had a borderline personality disorder, but diagnosing the deceased is controversial. While claims have been made about a medical card at the Anna Freud Museum stating Marilyn’s diagnosis, it is important to consider the limitations of such posthumous diagnoses.


In a letter to her psychoanalyst Ralph Greenson in 1961, during her institutionalization against her will due to her declining mental state, Marilyn wrote, “I know I will never be happy, but I know I can be gay!” This statement, followed by the quote from the poet Milton, implies that happiness is not a constant state for anyone. Marilyn recognized that emotions are complex and that one cannot be perpetually happy or perpetually sad.


It is essential to consider that although Marilyn struggled with mental health issues, received therapy, and was prescribed medication, the field of medicine and psychology has evolved since her time. Some of the drugs she was prescribed are now banned, suggesting that modern treatment approaches may have alleviated some of her difficulties.


Furthermore, it is important to remember that we cannot fully grasp what someone is experiencing or comprehend their life behind closed doors. People often present a facade to the world, and being the most famous woman on Earth would undoubtedly amplify the pressures and stresses of life. The absence of a smile or makeup on a particular day does not necessarily indicate a bad mental health day. Photos only capture a limited glimpse of someone’s reality.


Speculation surrounds many aspects of Marilyn’s life. We cannot definitively determine when she lost interest in her marriage to Arthur Miller or if she intended to rekindle her romantic relationship with Joe DiMaggio. The true meaning behind her last note to Joe can only be understood by Marilyn or Joe themselves. It is crucial to avoid excessive speculation in these matters.


We cannot quantify the number of days Marilyn felt happy versus feeling down, nor can we determine her state of mind on her final day. There is much we do not know, and it is unfair to speculate.


Memory is a subjective and selective aspect of human experience. People who knew Marilyn may choose to remember her in a certain way, while certain memories may stand out more vividly due to the nature of her death.


Therefore, labelling Marilyn as solely a sad person is an oversimplification. Like anyone else, she had good days and bad days. Life is not a binary of happiness and sadness; it encompasses a wide range of emotions that cannot encapsulate an individual’s entire existence. Marilyn’s life consisted of numerous joyous events, some known to the public and others hidden behind closed doors. It is crucial to appreciate her sense of humour, her goofiness, and her fun-loving side—qualities that should not be overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding her death.