« Return to this article

Know the West

Photos: The many faces of Marilyn Monroe

See the impersonators that perpetuate an All-American woman.


When Emily Berl moved to Los Angeles in 2012, she saw Marilyn Monroe everywhere. “Her image was so ubiquitous that it blended into everyday life,” as she writes in her 2018 book, Marilyn. Berl’s portraits study Monroe’s image as reflected by impersonators in the U.S. and beyond, particularly in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Netherlands. They reveal Monroe as both a tragic Hollywood icon and something closer to a mood, both vague and variable. Some women sport their blond wigs and red lips in front of mirrors, while others appear in gardens. The most striking images show women posing outside stucco houses in Nevada, bringing costumed glamour to bland suburban sprawl — creating replicas within replicas. Marilyn gives the impersonators the last word. “Everyone says now, ‘If I had been there in her life, I could have saved her,’ ” a model named Jami says. “Everyone wants to save Marilyn.”

Marilyn, By Emily Berl
96 pages, hardcover: $49.
Sturm & Drang Publishers, 2018