How to Look Like Bettie Page – Behind the Scenes

iman woods look like Bettie Page

I’m coaching Merhia into position to look like Bettie Page. Apparently, I talk with my hands. A LOT.

This blog is for every fan of pinup art that has wished they could look like 1950’s icon Bettie Page.

From the bangs to the banging body to the delicious confidence that oozed out of every pore, women want to embody her femininity. The anti-Marilyn, her purpose was not traditional fame but to emote what a beautiful and confident woman can do with her body.

“I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form.” -Bettie Page

A photo shoot where your model’s goal is to look like Bettie Page is a complicated and delicate matter.

A photographer does not snub her photographic nose at an icon. Not just anyone can look like Bettie Page. I never seek to recreate another’s work, unless a client requests it. Then I do my best to emulate without copying.

Merhia discovered me while searching for the best pinup photographer to complete her dream of a photo shoot where she could look like Bettie Page. She is the great-niece of Dame Eleanor. Dame Eleanor is the mother of Matthew, a man who saw my piece on Denver’s 9 News several years ago. When Eleanor passed, he wasn’t sure what do with her meticulously kept belongings. He emailed me and we started correspondence back and forth. He brought everything over one afternoon and spent hours telling me his mother’s stories. Every single time a client visits my studio, they hear her stories. When they wear her shoes, when the don her hats, when they twirl in her dresses… It makes me feel like I’m honoring her spirit.

So I believe it is kismet that Merhia discovered me when she did. She followed me on Facebook and decided to book her shoot when saw me announce my (fast approaching!) move to Raleigh-Durham, NC. When she told me by phone that she wanted to look like Bettie Page I had my reservations. Until she walked into my studio. Tall, beautiful with a lovely loud laugh, she already looked a lot like Bettie Page. Merhia, when you put on the corset, fishnets and have that whip in hand… You look like Bettie Page. Even before I’ve taken a photo. 

I think this shoot is best explained in my beautiful and brave client’s words. Followed by my image. I hope that Bettie would be proud that her legacy has helped another woman find her inner power and sensuality.

Iman: I’d like to post this photo and give a brief introduction about Dame Eleanor’s Collection. Her son goes by Matthew, yes? And he’s your cousin? She’s your great-aunt?
Merhia: Dame Eleanor’s son is Matthew, he is my uncle by marriage, and I call him “Uncle Matt”.  Eleanor was my great aunt… and she was one of the funniest, caring and charismatic women I have ever known. 

Iman: You mentioned that ten years ago you started looking for a photographer to do a Bettie Page themed shoot. 
Merhia: Ten years ago when I was 30, I had just had my second child. I was suffering from the “baby blues” and was fat and sad. I have suffered from eating disorders and low self-esteem for over 20 years. This was a very hard time in my life. I saw an Oprah episode about looking sexy at 40! I decided then that I was going to look sexier at 40 than I was at 30. 

Iman: Tell me more about what you love about her, why she resonates with you and why you wanted to look like Bettie Page?
Merhia: I’ve always been the “good girl” with a “bad girl” side to my personality. A super responsible punk rocker… kind of an oxymoron. I fought the “man” without ever breaking the law or hurting anyone. Bettie struck a cord with me because she was a good girl that portrayed a bad girl image. She was a strong woman who had no inhibitions about her body. I wanted to feel that way. It didn’t hurt that the longer my hair got, the more I looked like her. In 2005, after I saw the movie about Bettie Page my mind was made up. Our lives are remarkably similar. 

Iman: How did you feel during the photo shoot?
Merhia: The photo shoot was hard. I was hoping it would have felt different, but my inner voice kept me from relaxing. Hearing people give me compliments is very hard. You were great. 

Iman: I honestly couldn’t tell, so you pushed past that uncomfortable space quite well. The final photo expresses that. How did you feel after your photo shoot?
Merhia: After the shoot was better. I turned off my inner voice and got to relive the excitement in the voices of my close friends, and how much fun they were having, the tears my best friend Diana shed out of happiness for me. 

Iman: How did you feel when you first saw this photograph?
Merhia: I was shocked when I saw that image. It didn’t look like me. I mean, it looked like me, but it didn’t. I was very pleased. I can’t wait to see my friends images. They are going to be SO happy!! 

Iman: Any thoughts you’d like to add? 
Merhia: You are an amazing photographer… that’s why I chose you to do this for us. One thought… I had NO idea that my uncle Matt had given you Dame Eleanor’s things… pure serendipity. Or, Eleanor wanted me there.

iman_woods-look-like-bettie-page

Merhia is the perfect woman to look like Bettie Page



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Iman is a photographer who, through her unique process of coaching and photography, can show a woman what other people see when they look at her. She is passionate about teaching other photographers how to live and be a professional and making change in the world. She dreams of changing the way women look at their bodies and how the world defines beauty. She also thinks being an instructor on CreativeLIVE would be incredible. Iman battles Lyme disease and shares her unique view of dreaming while fighting for her health. Her post day is Wednesday. info@imanwoods.com Iman Woods If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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How to Look Like Bettie Page – Behind the Scenes by The 8 Women Dream Project, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/KellyCSwanson Kelly Cochran Swanson

    Awesome! Thank you for giving us a behind-the-scenes peek Iman. By the way – when will you be settled in Raleigh? Can’t wait!!!! My sister and some other family members live there. Yeah!

    • ImanWoods

      I’m house hunting now! Will let you know an arrival date. I’ll be out searching for a house and maybe we can meet do coffee/dinner??

  • Sheila Wiese

    Actually Matt is a real pinup fan and already new who you looked like before I sent him the article. Great classic ’50′s pinup pic and definitely captured the Bettie Page look!

    • ImanWoods

      Sheila, I need to email Matt. I hope he enjoys this article!

  • Karen ‘Bechtel’ Becker

    I think Merhia (Murry) DOES pull off Bettie WELL!! This is wonderfully written, and I loved the interview with her. I love that she decided it was time to be sexy!! I’m SO glad she found the best pin-up photographer to capture this of her. I like that she was honest in saying that the photo shoot was hard…we all have those silly inner voices that tell us we’re not beautiful. But SHE did it! She took that plunge and treated herself to some Iman-love, and in the end, her being so happy with the shoot, HAS to raise her esteem! The fact that she dove in and went for it! Good for her!!! She looks beautiful! AND so crazy about Dame Eleanor, WHAT A STORY…..THAT IS SOOO COOL!! I’m sure she was smiling right along with you all!! Merhia WAS brave in doing this shoot, but she did a helluva job, and kudos to you Iman for taking a chance on this Bettie Page-esque beauty! I know I don’t know you Murry dear, but I am proud of you; as a fellow woman, who as most women, don’t always feel very sexy and are just trying to make it thru life!! Inspirational is this photo shoot for sure! WTG ladies!!

  • Sheila Wiese

    This is so awesome! I sent this article to my husband, Matt so he could read about his Mom!!! I love the picture, you look incredible!

    • ImanWoods

      Awesome! I hope this brings a smile to his face. Everyone loves hearing her stories.

  • Paula Steiner-Asis

    Love love love! Iman, come to Portland!

  • Angie

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing the interview and photos! Merhia is truly beautiful and Iman is a treasure to work with! XO

    • ImanWoods

      Thanks, Angie! This shoot is really close to my heart because of Merhia’s story and her bravery during the shoot. AND she has the most amazing girlfriends! Super fun day.