Remembering Joann Barbier: the Long Life of Marilyn’s Modelling Peer

Joann Barbier, a former model who once graced the cover of Collier’s magazine, has died aged 93. She was born in Tarzana, California in 1928, and was discovered by Hollywood photographer Edwin Bowen Hesser as a teenager. According to her obituary at Legacy, she once modelled with the young Norma Jeane Dougherty. The details are unclear, but as both women began their modelling careers in the mid-1940s it’s quite likely they did cross paths, perhaps at the Blue Book Modelling Agency headed by Emmeline Snively.

In 1946, Joann married Hesser’s assistant, Larry Barbier Jr., who graduated to the position of still photographer at Universal Studios before working with upcoming star Marilyn Monroe on several glamorous shoots, including a famous session at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1952. They would meet again on the set of Let’s Make Love (1960.)

After raising four children, Joann completed an undergraduate degree and worked in education, before attaining her Master’s degree. She became an art collector and non-traditional quilt-maker, blending personal history with political observations. After her husband retired in 1986, they left Hollywood behind. Joann later became a tour guide at San Simeon, the fabled former estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Joann and Larry, who passed in 2009, were both lifelong practitioners of Christian Science.