Every road to success is paved with failures and doubters. This rings true even for some of the world’s biggest stars, including Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe.
Before Monroe’s rise to fame, she was known as Norma Jean Mortenson from Los Angeles, California. In the mid 1940s, she began modelling for photographer David Conover, and in 1945, she signed her first contract with Blue Book Model Agency. She posed as a pin-up model and began to appear in small print magazines.
In 1946, as her modelling career began to take off, she signed with an acting agency and managed to land a six-month contract with 20th Century Fox. However, during that time, directors didn’t bat an eye at her and she struggled to book acting jobs.
Then came an opportunity that shook things up quite a bit for the starlet. A honcho at 20th Century Fox suggested that LIFE Magazine photographer Ed Clark take photos of Monroe, who was still considered a new hire and was relatively unknown to the masses.
Clark was among the first photographers to help the actress create the sex symbol persona that she was best known for, but things did not start off smooth.
Following their photoshoot, Clark sent several rolls to LIFE Magazine, but the response he got was not what he was expecting.
Instead of being given a platform for fame, Monroe’s photos were turned down by the publication.
«I sent several rolls to LIFE in New York, but they wired back, ‘Who the hell is Marilyn Monroe?'» said Clark.
Little did the editors of the magazine know that Monroe would later become one of the world’s most celebrated stars. She eventually graced the publication’s cover six times, and they even offered up a tribute through a collection of photographs, including Ed Clark’s original shots, following her untimely death.
«Her death has diminished the loveliness of the world in which we live,» read the tribute. «Her life was filled with sadness—a bleak childhood, three unhappy marriages, her inability to have children. But for all her seeking, trying, hoping and never finding, she has left us many beautiful images to remember.»
Here are some of Monroe’s photos that were once rejected by LIFE: