It may seem obvious to say that traditionally beautiful women are also human beings with, like, multiple skills and complex lives, but we as a people pretty much always like our hot women to just shut up and be hot. So here are 25 facts about famous women "sex symbols" that I wish I'd known much sooner.
1.Farrah Fawcett did her own hair and makeup and wore her own bathing suit for the photoshoot that produced the best-selling poster of all time.
Fawcett also made a deal where she got to choose the final image, and nothing else from the shoot would be used.
2.Elizabeth Taylor literally saved Montgomery Clift's life after he was in a car accident.
One version of the story states that when Taylor noticed Clift was choking on two of his teeth that had gotten lodged in his throat, she literally put her hand down his throat and pulled the teeth out.
3.Rihanna, one of the best-selling singers in history, never had any vocal training until she was recording her third album.
She said, "I've never had vocal training, so when I'm in the studio, [Ne-Yo]'ll tell me how to breathe and stuff. And I'm like, 'What?' Like he'll call out these big fancy words: 'OK, I want you to do staccato.' And I'm like, 'OK, I don't know what that is.'"
4.Kathleen Turner has been chair of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Board of Advocates.
In 2002, Turner said, "Reproductive choice is a pivotal issue of the times. It is a basic right — that of when to have a child. ... We are a country that stands for freedom. We are fighting a war to defend that freedom right now. Without the right for reproductive choices, we are liars."
5.When MGM removed Lena Horne from its World War II USO tour after she filed a complaint with the NAACP because Black American soldiers were required to sit in the back of the audience, behind German prisoners of war, Horne financed her own tour so she could entertain Black troops.
Once, when Black service members were not allowed to attend a USO concert, Horne stayed and performed a second, different show exclusively for Black service members.
6.Cameron Diaz sued a photographer who tried to blackmail her with topless photos from a shoot they'd done when she was 19, and she won.
In 2003, 11 years after the photos were taken, photographer John Rutter offered Diaz the pictures in change for $3,500,000, saying he would sell them to others if she did not take the deal. Diaz filed a civil lawsuit against him. Rutter was ultimately convicted of forgery, attempted grand theft, and perjury. Diaz did not attend his sentencing.
7.Marilyn Monroe sat next to Jane Fonda in Lee Strasberg's acting classes.
Fonda said, "She and I would sit in the back of the room, and she was ... She'd have no makeup on and dark glasses and a scarf around her head, and looking very scared, and apparently was always too scared to ever get up and do anything. And I kind of felt that way, too; I was too scared to get up and do anything."
8.Priyanka Chopra Jonas worked with Bumble as a "partner, advisor, and investor" in bringing the company to India.
Bumble co-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd said of Chopra Jonas, "She is our partner in this. Priyanka invested in it. She's been on all the phone calls. She's actively evolved."
9.Jean Harlow spent six months of 1934 writing a novel called Today Is Tonight, but it wasn't published until 1965 — 28 years after her death.
When Today is Tonight was published, at least one press outlet stated at the time that Harlow wrote the book with "technical assistance" from scriptwriter Carey Wilson.
10.As of 2014, Paris Hilton sometimes earns over $1,000,000 for one DJ set.
Hilton has said, "I am working a lot as a DJ and getting paid very well and having a ball. ... I don't want to be bragging, but it's great to be paid well for what you love doing."
11.Brooke Shields put her acting and modeling career on hold to attend Princeton. She majored in Romance language and literatures, focusing on French literature, and graduated with honors in 1987.
Her senior thesis was titled, "The Initiation: From Innocence to Experience: The Pre-Adolescent/Adolescent Journey in the Films of Louis Malle, 'Pretty Baby' and 'Lacombe, Lucien.'" A 12-year-old Shields starred in Pretty Baby.
12.Dorothy Dandridge was the first Black woman nominated for Best Actress. The ceremony took place in 1955.
Dandridge was nominated for Carmen Jones. Here she is posing in front of a Carmen Jones poster at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.
13.During a trip with UNICEF to Sierra Leone, Salma Hayek Pinault breastfed a baby whose mother was not able to produce milk.
Hayek Pinault later said of the moment, "This 15-year-old girl is sobbing and shaking with a newborn baby, and she said, 'Please help me. I need milk.' We had so many things, but we didn’t have milk, except I remembered that I had milk because I was weening my daughter. I just weened my daughter from breastfeeding not long ago, and I said, 'I got milk.…' I sat down and I breastfed this baby."
14.Donna Summer's first performance, in church at 10 years old, only happened because the person who was supposed to sing didn't show up. The priest knew from her parents that Summer loved to sing, so he asked her to, not knowing he was about to hear such a voice.
Summer later said of the moment, "I started crying, everybody else started crying. It was quite an amazing moment in my life, and at some point after I heard my voice come out, I felt like God said to me, 'Donna, you're going to be very, very famous.' And I just knew from that day on I was going to be famous."
15.Madonna was interviewed by Carrie Fisher for the 8th of her 23 Rolling Stone covers — the most of any female artist.
In one paragraph, Fisher wrote, "[Madonna] has [a] quality that I've always enjoyed in some people, mainly public ones: She will answer any question because she is genuinely interested in her own reply. A conversation or an interview, then, can become an opportunity for self-discovery, or just discovery. It's a hearty mix of self-consciousness and self-confidence. It's a type of courage, a free fall into the perplexing public now."
16.Pam Grier had this to say of her status as a sex symbol, delivered very casually: "They kept saying, 'Oh, she’s so pretty, she’s so sexy' because I was thin."
Grier also said, "Because I was thin, [says her exact weight at the time, which this writer has redacted because she feels weird about including it], and I became this brand, this very successful brand."
In 2008, Liu won the Danny Kaye Humanitarian award, "in recognition of her ongoing dedication and service on behalf of the world's most vulnerable children."
19.Jane Russell was supposed to wear a sort-of push-up bra designed by Howard Hughes in the 1943 film The Outlaw, but she thought the bra "ridiculous" and decided to pad her own bra with tissues instead. Howard Hughes had no idea.
Christina Rice, author of Mean... Moody... Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend, told Entertainment Weekly, "Legend has made it sound like [Howard Hughes] was trying to design some kind of aerospace dynamic [bra], but according to Jane, he just wanted to do something that was seamless, so that under her clothes it didn't look like she was wearing a bra."
20.Skims, the shape-wear line Kim Kardashian co-founded, is worth $3.2 billion as of January 2022.
Kardashian is still Skims's biggest shareholder, and she and Jens Grede, her business partner, control a majority stake in the company. Kardashian's current net worth is estimated to be $1.8 billion.
21.Lana Turner's abusive boyfriend was killed by her teenage daughter, and her daughter never went to trial because it was deemed a "justifiable homicide."
Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, said, "I went upstairs to do a book report, and mother came in and said, 'I'm going to ask John to leave. I don't want you to come downstairs, but if you hear us arguing, that's what it's about.'" When Crane heard John Stompanato Jr. threaten to disfigure Turner and destroy her family, "I ran down the stairs into the kitchen. I don't know what I was looking for, but I found a knife. I ran back upstairs, the door burst open, and mother was there looking at me, and John was coming toward me. I stepped through the door, and he literally ran into the knife."
22.Legendary singer and actor Eartha Kitt once allegedly had a threesome with James Dean and Paul Newman.
Kitt said of the tryst, "White boys are so delicious."
23.At one point, Betty Grable's legs were insured for one million dollars.
This probably coincided with Grable being the top box office star of 1943, the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, and the highest-paid woman in the United States.
24.Tyra Banks was the first Black woman alone on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the first Black woman on the cover of the Victoria's Secret catalog, and the first model and Black woman to appear on the cover of GQ.
In 2019, at 45, Banks also became the oldest woman to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
25.And 1960s fashion icon Julie Christie said years later, "Even in the sixties, especially then, I was always deeply anxious. I never felt that I was cool enough, or that I was dressed right. Silly things. I was fearful. I did all the things you do; it wasn't that I didn't try lots of things. But I could never quite get away from this anxiety all the time."
Christie also said in 2007 that she does not like being interviewed because "people are cross somehow, underneath, that I am not the person that I was. They feel like I am letting them down in some way. I sometimes feel they dislike me for appearing with all my lines and wrinkles. As a culture we seem unable to embrace change in people without being harsh about it..."