Marilyn Monroe Goes Blonde

On that day in 1946, a timid Norma Jeane walked into the salon and asked if something could be done to make her look better for her shampoo shoot that evening.

Tint technician Sylvia Barnhart and shop owner Frank immediately set out to straighten Norma Jeane's hair, which Barnhart has described as "brown and kinky."

The strong solution used in the process also lightened her hair, giving it a reddish-blonde cast. Norma Jeane was quite pleased by the effect and wanted to go blonder. Over the next four to five months, Barnhart changed the color of the young model's hair to a golden honey-blonde by lightening and toning it a step at a time.

Barnhart disputes the oft-told tale that Norma Jeane did not want to be a blonde and that she resisted any suggestion to change her hair color. To the contrary, Norma Jeane felt a lighter color helped accentuate her eyes, which Barnhart has described as "beautiful [and] luminous."

While Dougherty was in the Merchant Marine, Norma Jeane found employment in the Radioplane Munitions Factory. She sprayed airplane parts with fire retardant and inspected parachutes. During this time, Army photographer David Conover snapped a photograph of her for a Yank magazine article. He encouraged her to apply to The Blue Book Modeling Agency. She signed with the agency and began researching the work of Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. She was told that they were looking for models with lighter hair, so Norma Jeane bleached her brunette hair to a golden blonde.