The Evolution of Marilyn’s Beauty Mark

Marilyn is featured in Lauren Tappan’s article for Town & Country, charting the complex history of the beauty mark, from ancient Greece to the present day. Although Tappan queries whether the mole on Marilyn’s left cheek was genuine, it does appear to have been. She accentuated the mark with an eyebrow pencil for early ’50s glamour shoots, but in the Roy Schatt photo on the left (taken at the Actors Studio in 1955), her mole is clearly visible with little or no make-up. Moles can fade over time, and in later years Marilyn’s was seen less frequently. Interestingly, in Some Like It Hot (1959) she sported another beauty mark, on her chin.

“Who knew that a tiny dot on your face could hold so much symbolic power? It turns out that the beauty mark has had an intricate past, related to the way in which it has been valued. But before we delve into the intriguing meaning behind the beauty mark, let’s get down to the basics first. On a scientific level, a beauty mark is equivalent to that of a mole; a small group of skin cells that grow in a cluster as opposed to spreading evenly. So, essentially the term beauty mark and mole are interchangeable. This group of cells fall into the category of melanocytes, which are responsible for producing melanin, skin’s natural pigment.

Now transitioning to the more interesting topic of discussion; metaphorically speaking, beauty marks have come to represent so much more than a bunch of minuscule melanocytes. As with many features on the face, beauty marks have been deeply rooted in aesthetic value … Although nowadays in many contemporary societies the unique appearance of beauty marks is deemed ‘trendy’ and is surely sought after by many, it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, the so-called value of the beauty mark has vacillated quite a bit, altering throughout time and across various cultures.”