The Body Language of Marilyn Monroe

Clark Gable once said:

“Everything Marilyn does is different from any other woman, strange and exciting, from the way she talks to the way she uses that magnificent torso.”

– And magnificent she was.

Norma Jeane walked into Ben Lyon's office at Twentieth Century-Fox in July of 1946 uncertain of her future but certain of her goals. At just 20 years old, she had fascinated talent director Ben Lyon with her charm and innocence.

Marilyn provided the ultimate body language spectacle each time she was photographed or screencast. She nailed every role she was asked to play: a dumb-blonde showgirl, a captivating, beautiful girl upstairs, a sultry bombshell, or a vulnerable, innocent young woman. She epitomized the exemplary woman of her time: she was everything a woman should be.

No other actress was ever able to mirror her refined movements, no other woman ever moved with such grace on the screen. All her gestures emanated naturally, from a simple wave of the hand, to a turn of the torso. She turned with grace, her facial expressions could not be duplicated: the way she moistened her lips to seduce a millionaire, the way her eyebrows elevated in wonder and expectation, the way her eyes would shine at the sight of a diamond, the she could smile with a smile that summoned a thousand invitations… all these are the secret ingredients that made her into the most loved female pop icon of the century. Lyon said, “ She was showing us she could sell emotions in pictures.”

According to playwright Arthur Miller (who should know because he was married to Marilyn Monroe), ‘A beautiful woman can turn heads, but real glamour has a deeper pull. Glamour has the power to rearrange people’s emotions.’ But to be truly adorable, you’ll also have to be warm, kind and charming.

The Most Sensual Body Language Moves

Body language has been an object of study long before modern authors made it a best seller topic. The Roman orators themselves used definitive gestures (defined as “manual rhetoric”) to emphasize their public speeches. Body language was also a clear differentiator between casts and social classes.

When you watch a movie featuring Marilyn Monroe you’ll easily recognize the luscious yet graceful sway of a royal courtesan. This is probably one of the most obvious body language traits displayed by the diva. Somehow, all actresses who tried to imitate Marilyn failed to notice the uniqueness of her walk. These attributes show even in static pictures. A sway accentuates the natural curve of the hips. Many have attempted to explain "the walk, rumor had it that Marilyn simply shaved a bit off one high heel to undulate in that manner, while Marilyn herself declared that she had always walked that way. At the beginning of her career, Marilyn Monroe dedicated hours in front of the mirror carefully practicing her body language and facial expressions. She looked for and found that perfect image that everybody liked and still likes. Many women pose in this posture without being aware that they transmit a sign of “openness” and “interest.”

Looking Up Gaze

Marilyn Monroe used the captivation gaze. Aka “bedroom eyes” - another high potential for seduction gaze that is often used by women.

In this gaze: The eyelids are lowered, the eyebrows are raised, the lips are parted, and the eyes are looking up.

If you use it right, especially if you're female, you can send a very flirtatious message – fun, mysterious, playful and secretive.

Marilyn Monroe was famous for her enticing and playful eyes – she even shaped her eyebrows in a thin arch to emphasize the distance between them and the eyelids.

This gaze has its disadvantages however: it can be confused with a tired or lazy expression if used incorrectly - because it looks as if you're about to close your eyes and go to sleep. Plus, I don't need to tell you that using it inappropriately can lead to "interesting" results…

This gaze is omnipresent… even in the illustration above you can see how Marilyn tilted up her head and looked down on her audience. Her eyelids are slightly lowered, eyes relaxed, yet the eyebrows are raised in an investigative manner. Her lips are parted slightly and moist.

Vocal Cues

Voice cues are subtle and involuntary reflexes, but they broadcast your emotional state to the world.

Marilyn Monroe's voice has been called many things: "Cotton candy, smoke, wind, lollipops and velvet." "Champagne lava." "The slow folding and unfolding of a pink cashmere sweater."

A study published by: Yi Xu, Albert Lee, Wing-Li Wu, Xuan Liu, & Peter Birkholz named

The Human Vocal Attractiveness as Signaled by Body Size Projection published 4-24-13

Found that the voice, as a secondary sexual characteristic, is known to affect the perceived attractiveness of human individuals. They presented human listeners with acoustically altered natural sentences and fully synthetic sentences with systematically manipulated pitch, and voice quality based on a principle of body size projection reported for animal calls and emotional human vocal expressions. The results show that male listeners preferred a female voice that signals a small body size, with relatively high pitch, wide formant dispersion and breathy voice.

To put this in layman terms males found that high-pitched, breathy voices indicated a smaller body size and they found them the most appealing. This study explains why many males found Marilyn Monroe’s voice “sexy” or entrancing to them.

Yet perhaps the most fascinating description of all came from psychologist David Huron: "Wet."

In a series of phone interviews with Dr. Huron, he told me how Marilyn Monroe's voice became a key part of her image: "When we feel confident, when we receive praise, and even when we hug our children, our mouths literally water."

When you feel confident, your mouth produces more saliva. Specifically, your tongue moves more fluidly within the mucous membranes of our mouth. That helps you makes a better first impression, because it communicates that you're on top of your game.

You've experienced this before, even if you don't know it at the time. Let's say you're making a presentation to a big client. Your presentation is going better than expected: nods, smiles, note taking.... You are high-fiving yourself inside.

In this moment, your body language exhibits your self-esteem, as do your oral cues. That prospect is consciously listening to what you're saying, but unconsciously listening to how you're saying it.

To become more impressive and influential, you don't have to sound like Marilyn Monroe. But you do need to sound purposeful. How do you accomplish this?

1. Listen to your mouth.

Practice what you have to say. Record yourself and listen closely to your voice. Are there times when you sound "tinny" or high-pitched? Remember, when your anxiety rises, your brain gets a blast of epinephrine.

Make note of when your voice changes, so that you are aware of the trigger points that make you nervous.

For instance, as Marilyn Monroe taught us, you'll make a stronger first impression if you drink plenty of water when you want to influence your listener. Especially if the message is not an easy one for you to deliver. This helps override the effects of the increased stress hormone.

2. Fight your fight-or-flight response.

In a state of high stress, your brain easily slides into fight-or-flight mode.

If you can predict the times when you'll feel anxious, you can prevent or compensate for the nervousness that make you sound insecure.

Focus on your posture, body language and breathing, especially if you are feeling anxious. Proper upright posture, with shoulders pulled back, will both boost your inner confidence, while conveying the same to your audience. Breathe deeply into your diaphragm to avoid becoming short of breath.

3. Go for authenticity over perfection.

Listeners will perceive you as more impressive when you sound authentic, rather than forced. Yet ironically, while you don't want to sound forced, you also don't want to force authenticity.

Authenticity isn't about what you say. It's about who you are.

When you're more relaxed and in your groove, your content and delivery sounds more credible than if your synapses go haywire when you feel freaked out.

4. Marilyn left us with some very wise and thought-provoking quotes:

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

So instead of trying to be perfect, embrace your peculiarity.

“Fear is stupid. So are regrets.”

Don’t let fear stand in your way!

“It's better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone.”

It isn’t easy being alone. But it is better to be alone and happy than to be with someone who makes you miserable.

“I defy gravity."

You’ve got the power to be as great as you want to be. If something stands in your way, simply push it aside.

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I'm out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you don't deserve me at my best."

Let people know that you’re imperfect, and only accept people who truly accept the real you.

“Always believe in yourself, because if you don’t then who will Sweetie?”

If you don’t believe in yourself – who will?

“I believe everything happens for a reason. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

It is kind of like of like when one door closes, a window opens!

“We are all of us stars, and we deserve to shine!”

Everyone deserves the right to be successful and to be happy!

“A smile is the best makeup a girl can wear.”

You don’t need makeup – just be your beautiful self!

“Keep smiling because life is a beautiful thing, and there’s so much to smile about.”

Life is great if you look at it in the right way it can be a beautiful thing.


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