Legendary pinup girl Bettie Page earned quite a bit of notoriety in the 1950s thanks to her unique look and incredible curves, but she “quietly slipped away” from modeling. Biographer Karen Essex exclusively tells Closer Weekly the untold story of what happened to Bettie. 

The author of Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend explains that an anti-pornography investigation led by the government, which Bettie was the center of, “triggered” her decision to quit modeling for good. 

“It was very traumatic,” the biographer says about the invasive look into Bettie’s career in the ‘50s. 

Before she walked away from fame for good, Bettie was one of the most famous models in the world. She even earned the title of “Miss Pinup Girl of the World” and a Playboy centerfold in 1955 at the age of 32. The Tennessee native created her signature look herself, as she designed her own costumes, did her hair and makeup and cultivated her trademark flair behind-the-scenes. 

Funny enough, a chance encounter outside of New York City changed her life forever when she was discovered. “A photographer approached her on the beach in Coney Island and asked if he could take her picture,” Karen explains. “It all took off from there.”

While Bettie always looked radiant in her photos, her personal life was full of hardships starting from a very young age. “Her mother was very jealous of her, and her father sexually abused her,” the author says about the model’s childhood. “In spite of it all, Bettie graduated high school salutatorian and put herself through college.”

Before becoming a bonafide star, Bettie became a teacher after graduating from Peabody College, which is now part of Vanderbilt University, and even married her high school sweetheart, Billy Neal. Neither turned out to be a good fit. 

Karen notes that Bettie and her first husband “had nothing in common,” while the model herself admitted she “couldn’t control [her] students” during a previous interview. Her split from Billy led her to study acting in New York, where she was eventually discovered. 

Although her career was cut short, her life outside of the spotlight proved challenging, as well. Bettie had two more marriages fall apart and battled mental illness However, she found solace in Christian faith, which “brought her back around,” Karen notes 

Luckily, Bettie was celebrated decades after her retirement after she caught wind of Karen’s work about her in the 1990s. “I wrote [an] article, and Bettie spotted it at a supermarket in Ventura County,” Karen recalls. “She was stunned about her revival.”

Amid her comeback, Bettie reflected on what she wanted her career to mean to others. “I want to be remembered as a woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form,” she said at the time. “I don’t even believe God disapproves of nudity. After all, he put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden naked as jaybirds.” 

Bettie died in 2008, but lived long enough to cash in on her newfound popularity and embrace her legacy with pride.