Bettie Page has been a lasting icon for over half a century now, and for those who don’t know her name, her face and bikini body will likely still be familiar. The ’50s pinup model shot to fame in a decade of long skirts and buttoned-up blouses by baring her skin in a series of bathing suits and bikinis, which were handmade by the woman who helped throw a jump into her modeling career: Bunny Yeager.
Now, after Sunday’s news that Yeager passed away, many are curious about the woman who was unafraid to be sexual and free at a time when women weren’t encouraged to show so much skin.
Page hasn’t spoken much about her life, and became somewhat reclusive in her later years after turning to evangelical Christianity when she decided to stop modeling. Her younger years are filled with speculation, as stories have come out regarding sexual abuse by her father and a mother who wasn’t close to her.
“All I ever wanted was a mother who paid attention to me. She didn’t want girls. She thought we were trouble. When I started menstruating at 13, I thought I was dying because she never taught me anything about that,” Page said in an interview.
“The origins of what captures the imagination and creates a particular celebrity are sometimes difficult to define. Bettie Page was one of Playboy magazine’s early Playmates, and she became an iconic figure, influencing notions of beauty and fashion. Then she disappeared. . . . Many years later, Bettie resurfaced and we became friends,” Playboy founder Hugh Hefner said after her death in 2008.
Bunny Yeager met Page in Miami in 1954 and the two hit it off, with Yeager eventually photographing the brunette beauty nude under a Christmas tree for Playboy Magazine. One of her most famous images is of Page in a cheetah-print bathing suit, which remains one of the most iconic pinup photos ever taken.
Page eventually moved on from pinup modeling to bondage scenes, which were highly controversial during that time. She also did burlesque shows and short films. During her later years, she refused to be photographed, even in interviews, because she wanted her fans to remember her the way she was.
“I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times. . . . I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form,” she said.
Image via Wikimedia Commons