A figure who embodies everything from nostalgia to fetishism, from innocence to sex appeal, pin-up girl Bettie Page has enjoyed a legacy that still endures today, decades after she concluded her career as a glamour model. Born in Tennessee in 1923, Page endured a sometimes difficult childhood following her parents' divorce when she was 10, frequently taking care of her younger siblings while her mother worked, and eventually spending a year with her sister in an orphanage. Nonetheless, Page was a fantastic student, excelling in debate, graduating as the salutatorian of her class, and enjoying the title "Most Likely to Succeed," as voted by her classmates. After high school, she won a scholarship to George Peabody College, which she graduated from in 1944, shortly after marrying high school sweetheart Billy Neal, though the marriage would only last for a few years.
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In the late 40s, Page moved to New York in the hopes of becoming an actress. She was paying the bills with a dayjob as a secretary when an amateur photographer noticed her out and about one day and offered her the chance to model. With her raven locks and striking features, Page certainly had the looks of a pin-up girl, but it was her charming disposition and lack of inhibition that would make her a hit in the saucy world of nude modeling and erotica. She quickly became a mainstay in the industry, often posing in scenes that involved whips, chains, and other forms of bondage -- but always with her signature sweet and genuine smile. Meanwhile, Page continued to pursue an acting career, taking classes at Herbert Berghoff Studios and scoring minor roles on TV series like The Jackie Gleason Show. She also made appearances in a handful of burlesque review films, like Striporama and Teaserama. Already a niche celebrity, Page was then selected by Playboy to appear as the magazine's Playmate of the Month for January 1955, starring in a Christmas-themed centerfold wearing nothing but a Santa hat.
By the time she retired from modeling in 1957, the brunette bombshell had become a famous name and face in the realm of pin-up modeling, despite never engaging in projects that involved any explicit sexual content. After leaving the spotlight, Page discovered a vibrant, multiracial Baptist church in Florida and became an active member of the Christian community. She found tremendous joy in studying the Bible and remained immersed in a number of Christian organizations over the next several years. The retired model also went through a few marriages and divorces, before moving to Los Angeles in the late '70s, where she continued to enjoy a quiet life.
Unbeknownst to Page, however, a cult was steadily growing up around her work. Books featuring her photographs began showing up on bookstore shelves, articles about her iconic style appeared in magazines, and a comic book was even published featuring Page as a main character. An explosion in nostalgia celebrating Page's work emerged in popular culture, and her trademark thick, heavy bangs even made a comeback in fashion; however, Page herself remained unaware of her newfound notoriety until the early '90s, when she caught a TV segment about the Bettie Craze. She was almost penniless at the time and living in a group home, but she soon signed with an agent and began to collect royalties on her likeness. This created financial security for the star, and she subsequently authorized an official biography, Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend. ~ Cammila Collar, Rovi