Beauty in a Wicked World: Marilyn, Ella, and Me

The myth of female in-fighting persists, in the workplace, at home, in friendships and peer groups, despite a thousand concrete examples of how women support and encourage each other.

When I was collaborating on a writing project with three of my best female friends, I remember telling people about us and, often, they’d look incredulous. “Four women working together? I’ve never heard of that before!” I mean, I’m all about healthy competition amongst women, but this back-biting, cat-fighting cliché is so overdone.
fitzgerald.jpgfrom the Achille de Lellis and Albert Puglio collection

Ella Fitzgerald’s birthday was last week, and one part of her story offers a great example of women supporting women.

Marilyn Monroe was a huge fan of Ella’s. In the mid-1950s, Ella became the first African-American to perform at the Mocambo, an incredibly popular night spot where Frank Sinatra made his solo debut.

About Marilyn’s influence, Ella said:

I owe Marilyn a real debt. It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s.

She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard.

After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again.

monroe_small.jpg

What a fantastic symbol — one powerful woman sitting front and center every night to boost another talented woman’s career.

I take this example as a model in my life. We live in an abundant world. Lending my support to another talented women doesn’t hurt me. As my former boss used to say, “A rising tide lifts all ships.” Her success is my success. My beauty honors her beauty.

I’m not talking about blindly supporting women in everything they do, including war crimes or murder or whatever. I’m talking about treating every woman on the street like a potential goddess, not a competitor.

There’s room in this world for every woman’s power, talent, gorgeousness. It takes all kinds to make a world — and that’s something to embrace. I want to show up, front and center, for every woman I know and meet.

Marilyn Photo, © Phil Stern, CPi
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6 Comments

Filed under Art, Beauty in a Wicked World, Gender, Music, Pop Culture, Relationships

6 responses to “Beauty in a Wicked World: Marilyn, Ella, and Me

  1. This is beautiful. I couldn’t agree more. There is more than enough to go around. xo

  2. Joie Jager-Hyman

    This is beauty, Jennifer. I too am so sick of hearing how women can’t get along with each other. Some of my best friends are women!

    Seriously though, you and Kate and Kimmi and Courtney and all the female writers I know have always been incredibly supportive. In fact, it was Naomi Wolf and Debra Siegel, two amazing women writers, who encouraged me to nurture my passion for the pen in the very beginning.

    I can say with assurance that I wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of other women. Thank you so much for this post.

  3. Jere Martin

    Beautifully written Jennifer. I never knew that story about Marilyn but it doesn’t surprise me. Another woman who got made into a cartoon being so much deeper and complex than she’s been portrayed.

    As someone twice your age I have to say my best support (aside from my phenom husband and kids) has come from talented women with big hearts. In the groups I’m in, several of which have been operating for over 15 years, that philosophy is at the core, which is part of the reason they’ve been going strong that long. The women in them just get better and better at all they attempt with everyone’s support and adulation.

    Loved your post. Keep telling it like it really is!

  4. Wow, Jennifer. I’d never heard this story. You’re so right about the power of support over the poison of in-fighting. I want to show up, front and center, for the amazing women I encounter and admire too!

  5. I now have to add that my mom said that this story made her want to cry. Where did you first hear it? Are there others?