Marilyn Monroe’s Top Shelf


Recently, I stumbled onto one of the coolest things I've ever found: Marilyn Monroe's Top Shelf, circa 1952. Apparently, Ms. Monroe gave Pageant magazine a huge exclusive, complete with sauna tour, diet advice, workout tips, and plenty of bon mots about her lifestyle. It was just too much of a gem not to share, so I've reproduced it here. I'm not advocating Marilyn's diet, but it's a fascinating look at one of the 20th century's most iconic women. The text is a little hard to read, so I transcribed Marilyn's quotes below. Enjoy!

—Lacey Gattis

How I Stay in Shape, By Marilyn Monroe

"Frankly, I've never considered my own figure so exceptional; until quite recently, I seldom gave it any thought at all. My biggest single concern used to be getting enough to eat. Now I have to worry about eating too much. I never used to bother with exercises. Now I spend at least 10 minutes each morning working out with small weights. I have evolved my own exercises, for the muscles I wish to keep firm, and I know they are right for me because I can feel them putting the proper muscles into play as I exercise."

She Doesn't Like To Feel Regimented

"Exercise. Each morning after I brush my teeth, wash my face and shake off the first deep layer of sleep, I lie down on the floor beside my bed and begin my first exercise. It is a simple bust-firming routine which consists of lifting five-pound weights from a spread-eagle arm position to a point directly above my head. I do this 15 times, slowly. I repeat the exercise another 15 times from a position with my arms above my head. Then, with my arms at a 45-degree angle from the floor, I move my weights in circles until I'm tired. I don't count rhythmically like the exercise people on the radio; I couldn't stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it."

How To Feel Blond All Over

"Sports. I have never cared especially for outdoor sports, and have no desire to excel at tennis, swimming, or golf. I'll leave those things to the men. Despite its great vogue in California, I don't think sun-tanned skin is any more attractive than white skin, or any healthier, for that matter. I'm personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blond all over.

By nature, I suppose I have a languorous disposition. I hate to do things in a hurried, tense atmosphere, and it is virtually impossible for me to spring out of bed in the morning. On Sunday, which is my one day of total leisure, I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness. Depending upon my activities, I sleep between five and ten hours every night. I sleep in an extra-wide single bed, and I use only one heavy down comforter over me, summer or winter. I have never been able to wear pajamas or creepy nightgowns; they disturb my sleep."

A Set of Bizarre Eating Habits

"Breakfast. I've been told that my eating habits are absolutely bizarre, but I don't think so. Before I take my morning shower, I start warming a cup of milk on the hot plate I keep in my hotel room. When it's hot, I break two raw eggs into the milk, whip them up with a fork, and drink them while I'm dressing. I supplement this with a multi-vitamin pill, and I doubt if any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry.

Dinner. My dinners at home are startlingly simple. Every night I stop at the market near my hotel and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the electric oven in my room. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots.

P.S. It's a good thing, I suppose, that I eat simply during the day, for in recent months I have developed the habit of stopping off at Wil Wright's ice cream parlor for a hot fudge sundae on my way home from my evening drama classes. I'm sure that I couldn't allow myself this indulgence were it not that my normal diet is composed almost totally of protein foods."

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • SR


  • Lera

    I am surprised to have so much in common with Marilyn, except for her breakfast :-)

  • Megan McClen

    I wonder how many current beauty icons would use the word "languorous" in conversation correctly...

    • Michelle

      Such a good observation!

  • Michelle

    SHE ATE LIVER AND RAW EGGS!!! Two of the most nutritiously dense foods, btw. Love this so so much.

  • Katie

    And these are the contents of her makeup kit, so we can have the full Top Shelf experience!

    • ITGLacey

      Awesome addition! thank you so much!

      • Katie

        No problem! It was in an Allure feature from a 1999 or 2000 issue (Juliana Margulies cover), I just found it scanned in that blog!

        • Clever Girl Reviews

          Lisa Eldridge has a great video about Marilyn's make-up routine!

    • eastvillagesiren

      Thanks for sharing! I recall reading that she used Erno Lazlo skincare, which they're selling again.

  • dkewbe

    Creepy Nightgowns is my next band.

    • ITGLacey

      YES! Really, really loved that description

    • Guest

      I was thinking she might have said "crepey" and there was an error made in translation.

  • Emma Hager

    This was such a pleasure, thank you.

    I've always admired Marilyn as an intellectual. Every once and a while something will emerge from an archive that proves how thoughtful she was, and I always love to read those pieces.

    I know it shouldn't be so surprising that she was such a smart woman, but her lack of intellect was so perpetrated by the characters she played, that fake voice she put on, and her tragic bouts with men.

    This was a delight to read, ITG!

    • shara neiman

      I don't know how fake her voice was since her first husband said she was very soft-spoken at that time he met her and was with her. I think it was just her way of speaking. But yes she was one smart and shrewd cookie.

  • rab

    Such an interesting read!

  • Hilary Pearlson

    "I'm personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blond all over." Love this line! Inspires me to embrace my naturally fair skin during these Summer months. Great article ITG

  • Ayu Awkawardcheesecake

    Wow I really love Marilyn Monroe now! Who knew she was so...ummm...normal?

  • Victoria Larroque

    very interesting, i loved it!! Thank you for sharing :)

  • Annie Lindsay

    This was so fantastic!

  • Haiku Jew

    Norma Jean was hot
    effortlessly elegant
    without too much muss.

  • Arline Jernigan

    She was really ahead of her time. Except for the that I don't eat animal products, I go for high protein and no refined carbs.

  • Anna Stromberg

    My mother, now 74 years old, also eats this for breakfast, but she adds a pinch of salt to the mix.
    She told me that her father, a swedish farmer, used to eat this when he had a long day on the fields ahead of him
    My mum will be pleased to hear that MM also liked this... Almost omelett.

    • anon

      How much milk does she use and how many eggs? Is it more of a runny omelette or a thick drink? Details please!

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    I love how she ate Atkins style before it existed!

  • Chicon

    As a young child, my mom would make me "milkshakes" for breakfast. They consisted of a tiny pinch of sugar, some vanilla, milk, and a raw egg. She'd whip it up & I'd drink it while dressing for school. I knew not to tell other kids I drank eggs for breakfast. Now I know I was in glamorous company!

    • leelee

      My Italian mother made a similar concoction for my breakfast only she put in a little coffee "for color". That plus two slices of buttered toast carried me through the morning even in the dead of winter. Yum!

  • Carrie

    Thank you for posting! I love Marilyn Monroe. She was a very intelligent and complex woman and unfortunately misunderstood because of her sex symbol status.

  • Cat

    I accept my fair skin color and reject the notion I have change myself by baking myself in the sun or putting chemicals on my skin to be tan (orange in the case of the latter) to fit in. I have always admired Marilyn for embracing her natural skin color. No matter what color you are from the palest to the darkest, accept yourself. Self acceptance is always the most beautiful.

  • joyadaeze

    This was so awesome to read, Lacey! Marilyn was so cool.

    Check out my new style series: 'How To Wear' on

  • Amanda

    She honestly seems awesome. "I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness." I do this too, although I wouldn't say that I look like I'm "luxuriating."

    And yes, fuck creepy nightgowns.

  • prairie_dogs

    If you're a MM fan, the Gloria Steinem biography of her (it's like a coffee table book, alongside photos from her final shoot) is amazing. As much a study in second wave feminism as it is in MM's charisma/smarts/power.

  • Emily

    My mum used to have a raw egg in her cup of tea for breakfast in the mornings! I couldn't do it myself! Fab pictures!

  • Peaches

    eggs in warm milk. wow that is some old school protein smoothie. I suppose that's kind of like a savory eggnog without the booze and spices?

  • anon

    Awesome! Thanks!

  • Hailey Dash

    Marilyn always had this very eloquent and effortless way of speaking to people, her regimen's seem so elementary and available to do! xx

  • tamara

    thanks for posting this-she's so fascinating

  • Michaela

    Thanks for writing this up - such a great glimpse into not only Marilyn's life but the times as well

  • Kat

    This really is priceless!

  • Guest

    Excellent! She really was fabulous, wasn't she?

  • The Beauty Issue

    Love this woman! Thank you ITG. MM was on a Paleo diet and didn't know it..

  • Sable

    "creepy nightgowns"

  • Kelly Bonanno

    Interesting & fun glimpse into her daily routine. She understood how important eating protein and limiting simple carbs was long before it was in vogue. I love how she wasn't obsessive & allowed herself the hot fudge sundae treat too!

  • Colleen

    I don't know about the raw eggs, but this is mostly a lifestyle I could be down with.

  • Trixie

    LOL that's almost exactly the diet that I've adopted over time. I use egg whites in organic milk if I'm trying to reduce for breakfast, and whole egg if I'm not. I sometimes add some protein powder like Isopure to it, and warm it up with hot coffee. Then my dinner is a paleo paradise of meat + veggies. I hardly ever desire sweets, but I find that frozen mangoes are good at stopping the sweet tooth. Lately I've been adding some gluten free bread to the mix as an experiment because I like fried eggs and love to dip. I also was reading that mother's milk has quite a bit of carbs, so that calmed me down about my carb intake. I don't trust theories, but the composition of mother's milk is a good barometer. Be healthy and happy!

  • Evelyn Brockmann

    Summer is happening outside the office window, the weekend is tangible and all I can do to stop myself from falling into the melancholy of gazing at the people eating Ice-Cream and joking and laughing in silent is to go through every Lacey Article ever. And comment on it to tell her of how amazing she is.

  • Debra Harris

    Interesting to have a glimpse of her daily life and healthy lifestyle, I Really enjoy this post.

  • Janet Lee

    MM loved carrots that much?? Unbelievable. I actually have something in common with Marilyn Monroe!!!

  • MissFushi

    This was an absolute pleasure. Thank you! <3

  • Lyle Norgan