Her size 16 curves, platinum blonde curls and penchant for fur and diamonds provided the world with a new benchmark for glamour - one that remains to this day.
Born Norma Jean Mortenson but baptised Norma Jean Baker in 1926, Marilyn's early years were a confusion of life with her mentally ill mother Gladys, and a succession of foster homes.
Having been married off to a neighbour at the age of 16 to free her mother of the responsibility, Norma Jean was encouraged to apply to a modelling agency while her husband Jim, was away fighting during World War II.
It didn't take long for her to become a success, file for divorce and set her sights on the ultimate prize. Hollywood.
"I don't want to make money," Marilyn once famously declared. "I just want to be wonderful!"
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