In the new documentary, Bettie Page Reveals All, the late legendary model narrates the story of her tumultuous life. From her difficult Tennessee childhood to her mysterious departure from modeling, here are some lesser-known tidbits about Bettie Page, the ”Queen of Pinups,” who died in 2008.
1. Her childhood was rough.
Page was one of six children who grew up destitute in Tennessee. Her father molested her and her two sisters, Page had said. When her mother left him, she sent Page to live in a Nashville orphanage for three years.
2. She was smart as a whip.
Page graduated second in her high school class—though she had long aspired to be valedictorian in order to get a full ride to Vanderbilt University. Instead, her impressive GPA of 97.19 got her a $100 scholarship to Peabody College, where she majored in English and got into extracurriculars like drama and the school magazine.
3. She endured a horrible gang rape in New York City.
After her first divorce, Page moved to New York to become an actress. Not long after her move, a man she met walking on Broadway asked her to go dancing. When she got into his car, the man collected more men as he drove. Page was then taken to an area behind a school in Brooklyn where the men raped her.
4. Those bangs were the idea of an amateur photographer.
Page’s career launched after she began modeling for amateur photographers. One such shutterbug told her she had a big forehead and suggested bangs. “So I went home and cut me some, and I’ve been wearing them ever since,” she said. To this day, the image of her short black bangs over piercing blue eyes remain iconic.
5. At the height of her career, she walked away.
Page wore nothing but a Santa hat when she modeled as Playboy Playmate of the Month in 1955. The same year, she was named “Miss Pinup Girl of the World.” But Page would soon be done taking photos. Perhaps it was the scrutiny by the U.S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, which blamed one of her bondage photos for the death of a 17-year-old boy who killed himself after looking at it. But Page simply said she was “too old to model” at 35 and relocated to Florida, where she went into seclusion.
6. She became a devout Christian and suffered a nervous breakdown.
In Florida, Page devoted herself to Christ and would remain devout for the rest of her life. Her memorial service in 2008 was conducted by televangelist Robert Schuller. By the 1970s, however, her religion became mixed with a psychotic break as she began hearing voices talk about angels and devils. Once she held her husband and stepchildren at knifepoint and forced them to stare at a photo of Jesus, and years later, she stabbed her landlady, according to the film. Needless to say, she was sent to a psychiatric ward multiples times. It was during one of these longer stays at the ward that pop culture aficionados began immortalizing her legendary looks.