Real name: Bettie Mae Page
Birthdate: April 22, 1923
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Page was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the second child of Walter Roy Page and Edna Mae Pirtle. During Bettie's early years, the Page family traveled around the country in search of economic stability. At a tender age, Bettie had to face the responsibilities of caring for her younger siblings. Her parents divorced when Betty was 10 years old. Following the divorce, Page and her sister lived in an orphanage for a year. During this time, Bettie's mother worked two jobs, one as a hairdresser during the day and washed laundry at night. As a teenager, Bettie and her sisters tried different makeup styles and hairdos imitating their favorite movie stars. Bettie also learned to sew. These skills proved useful years later for her pin-up photography when Bettie did her own makeup and hair and made her own bikinis and costumes. A strong student and debate team member at Hume-Fogg High School, Bettie was voted "Most Likely to Succeed."
As the Salutatorian of her class, on June 6, 1940, Bettie Page graduated from high school with a trust fund of $10,000 and enrolled at George Peabody College with the intention of becoming a teacher. However, the next fall she began studying acting, hoping to become a movie star. At the same time, she began her first job, typing for author Alfred Leland Crab. Page graduated from Peabody with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1944. In 1943 she married Billy Neal (with whom she had attended high school) shortly before he left for active duty in World War II. For the next few years, a peripatetic Bettie traveled from San Francisco to Nashville to Miami and to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she felt a special affinity with the country and its culture. In November 1947, while back in the United States, Bettie filed for divorce from Neal.
Following her divorce, Page worked briefly in San Francisco, and in Haiti. She moved to New York City, where she intended to find work as an actress. In the meantime, she supported herself working as a secretary. In 1950, while walking along the Coney Island, New York City shore, Bettie met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer with an interest in photography. Bettie was a willing model, and Tibbs took pictures of Bettie and put together her first pinup portfolio.
After Bunny Yeager sent shots of Bettie to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, Hefner featured Page as the January 1955 Playmate of the Month, the centerfold model for the two-year-old Playboy magazine. In 1955, Bettie won the title "Miss Pinup Girl of the World."
Shortly after, Page signed with Chicago-based agent James Swanson. Three years later, nearly penniless and failing to receive any royalties, Page fired Swanson and signed with Curtis Management Group, a company which also represented the James Dean and Marilyn Monroe estates. She then began collecting payments which ensured her financial security.
In 1997, E!: Entertainment Television's E! True Hollywood Story aired a feature on Page entitled, Bettie Page: From Pinup to Sex Queen.
The question of what Page did in the obscure years after modeling was answered in part with the publication of an official biography in 1996, Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend. Her biography described a woman who dealt head-on with adversity, always looking forward, never looking back.
Within the last few years, she has hired a law firm to help her recoup some of the profits being made with her likeness.