Part two of our “Reformed Whores” series. Bettie Page, one of the most iconic pin-ups and bondage models of the twentieth century, had an on-and-off again relationship with Evangelical Christianity.
Bettie Page is one of the most iconic figures of the mid-twentieth century, known for her pin-up photos and risqué modeling. But what many people don’t know is that Bettie Page got her start in the sex work industry as a young woman, before eventually finding her way to evangelical Christianity later in life.
Bettie Page began modeling for erotic photography and appearing in fetish films in the early 1950s, quickly gaining a following for her unique look. She posed for a number of photographers, including Irving Klaw, who specialized in fetish and bondage photography.
But Bettie Page’s modeling career was not without challenges. She was arrested several times for posing nude, and was even called to testify before Congress as part of a moral panic over BDSM. Despite these challenges, Bettie Page continued to model and work in the sex industry until the late 1950s, when she abruptly left the scene and disappeared from public view.
So what happened to Bettie Page? Bettie Page found her way to evangelical Christianity in the late 1950s and devoted the rest of her life to the church. She worked as a Bible school teacher and became involved in missionary work, traveling to countries like Haiti and Cuba to spread the gospel. She also was married and divorced a number of times, eventually being diagnosed with schizophrenia, and spending some time in a mental institution and group home. At the end of her life she was able to enlist the help of an attorney who won back the rights to her image, today Bettie Page is one of the highest grossing top-earning dead celebrities earning $10 million in 2013.
For many years, Bettie Page was a somewhat forgotten figure, known only to a small group of dedicated fans and collectors. But in the 1990s, she experienced a resurgence in popularity thanks to the work of filmmakers and artists who rediscovered her iconic pin-up photos and celebrated her unique style.
Today, Bettie Page is remembered as a trailblazer who challenged traditional gender roles and paved the way for future generations of sex workers and models. Her legacy is a reminder that sexuality and spirituality are not mutually exclusive, and that people have the right to make choices about their own lives and bodies.
There’s no denying that Bettie Page was a woman ahead of her time. Her journey from sex worker to missionary is a testament to the complexity and fluidity of human experience, and a reminder that our identities and beliefs are always evolving. Bettie Page’s life is a fascinating story that touches on issues of sexuality, gender, and spirituality. Whether you’re a fan of her iconic pin-up photos or simply interested in the history of sex work and gender in America, Bettie Page’s legacy is one that continues to captivate and inspire.