Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe: two incredible and talented women who formed what was considered to be an unlikely friendship in the turbulent early 1950s. However, they had a lot in common. Both had experienced difficult childhoods punctuated by poverty, abuse, assault, neglect, and lack of stability, as well as a determination and courage to persevere.
Initially, Marilyn admired Ella from afar, continually listening to her recordings to help improve her own singing. Her respect was not tinged with envy; she was open about her desire to learn from somebody so talented. The two women finally met after Ella had become increasingly successful.
A highlight of their friendship was their disdain for body shaming. Even with her spectacular voice, Ella was not always booked for glamorous venues because she was considered to be not sexy or attractive enough. She played small jazz clubs for years, while her peers, Eartha Kitt and Dorothy Dandridge were booked at larger venues. She told Marilyn about her desire to play at the Mocambo, the most swanky club for jazz performances in its day, and frequented by celebrities every night to sold out shows. ￼Marilyn immediately called the owner and presented the club with a deal: she would sit in the front show each night that Ella was performing. The club was sold out for two weeks due to her celebrity presence, and true to her word, Marilyn was seated upfront every night to support her friend.￼Ella faced challenges in the future, but never had to play at lesser known clubs again.
The two were close for many years, but started drifting apart as Marilyn became increasingly addicted to pills and alcohol. Ella was strongly against drugs, but continued to speak highly of her friend, stating in her biography that Monroe was a woman who was unusual and ahead of her times, but she ‘didn’t know it and didn’t believe it.’ Tragically, Marilyn died from a drug overdose in 1962 before they could repair their friendship.
*women supporting each other and rooting for each other
*women refusing to body shame others
*women becoming allies against the injustices of their day
*women ￼openly admiring the strengths of their friends
*women using their personal sphere of influence to create opportunities for each other￼
* women turning up for each other
* women not criticizing other women or gossiping about them
* women genuinely enjoying each other
Mental health and friendship. Relevant in every decade.
Here’s to all the women. Women’s history month, 2022.