From Dorothy Gale to Jenna Jameson, These Are My Top 5 Beauty Icons

See who has shaped my "look" since 1991.
Publish date:
March 30, 2016
marilyn monroe, beauty icons, judy garland, Bebe Buell, edie sedgwick, Jenna Jameson

I'm kind of set in my ways, beauty-wise. I chopped off all my hair and just let it curl the way it wants to. I have lash extensions, so I don't usually wear any other eye makeup. I slap on some foundation, do my brows, add some blush and red lipstick, and go.

That might be my day-to-day look, but even though it's simple, it has roots. I've been into beauty since I was a teeny girl, and I highly doubt that will ever change.

In my 28 years, I've taken beauty inspiration from a variety of sources, including a famous porn star and a '50s movie star.

Dorothy Gale

My earliest makeup memory is standing on a little stool at the bathroom counter, digging in my mom’s "As Seen on TV" Victoria Jackson makeup and applying big streaks of blue eyeshadow to my eyes and swaths of hot pink lipstick to my little mouth. At four years old, I thought I looked stunning, an exact clone of The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy Gale.

I watched the movie on repeat for nearly a year and wore a hand-sewn gingham dress everywhere. (Thanks, Mom!) My brother Dylan thought my name was Toto because, in my head, a toddler brother could easily stand in for a Cairn terrier, so that was what I called him.

Dorothy was everything my tiny self wanted to be: courageous, loyal and cute. I had a pixie cut for most of my childhood, but when it was long, I demanded my mother braid it in pigtails just like Dorothy. I hobbled along gravel roads in my own ruby slippers, and even today, I still reach for The Wizard of Oz when I'm feeling sad.

Marilyn Monroe

I bet you're like, “Wow, Kara! We had no idea that Marilyn Monroe was your most influential beauty icon!” Really? My platinum-blonde curls and penchant for tight dresses and red lipstick didn’t give it away?

I fell in love with MM at 14, and I spent a lot of time requesting her movies (on VHS!) from my local library and reading everything I could about her, not to mention winding my hair on hot rollers and wiggling into a pencil skirt in imitation.

It’s not Marilyn’s glamour that I’m really attracted to, though. My favorite Marilyn beauty moments are the ones when she looks vulnerable, innocent, less glamour-puss, more like a real woman.

Milton Greene's photos of Marilyn are my favorites, because he really saw through all the makeup and the tight dresses to the person she actually was, and I get that. You can put on all the trappings of glamour and be remembered for it, but it doesn't define who you are. Girls can post those dumb, fake Marilyn quotes all they want and consider her an icon solely based off her image, but any true Marilyn fan knows that a) she didn't say anything about being a size 0 (because size 0 wasn't around in her time) and b) she was much smarter, intuitive and real than any meme.

Today, I still mimic MM beauty-wise. I slick on red lipstick nearly every day, and I'm learning to wet set my hair into Marilyn curls that I can rock for a week. I might just go to an old-lady beauty shop for this, honestly. I don't think this obsession will ever really end.

Edie Sedgwick

Even I roll my eyes at this one.

Every “cool” teenage girl goes through an Edie phase, and it’s pretty cliché. But Edie’s life seemed very glam and very much out of my reach when I was living in a town of 360.

I was obsessed with her silver crop and her crazy smoky eyes and giant lashes, and I used to wear Edie outfits to high school trying to capture some of her unique style. I’m pretty sure my peers thought I was nuts.

Edie's beauty look inspired me when I felt very bored and stifled by my surroundings, and painting it on in my teenage bedroom made me feel cool as hell.

Bebe Buell

Seventies super-babe (and mother of Liv Tyler) Bebe Buell has been one of my beauty inspirations since I read her book, Rebel Heart, at 18. She was so naturally stunning that of course the biggest musicians of the day, from Todd Rundgren to Steven Tyler to Rod Stewart and Jimmy Page, flocked to stand by her side. I've interviewed Bebe a few times, and every time we chat, I love her more.

Bebe Buell was my go-to inspiration when I was really into '70s style, growing my hair long and listening to Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground. I thought she was so glamorous, and what I loved about her was that even if she was partying at Max's Kansas City or playing her music onstage in the '80s, she always looked like herself. She never looked out of place, and she never looked like she was dressing up for someone else.

I'll always remember a line from her book about how she used to clip her nails very short and paint them bright red, which wasn't fashionable at the time, and now that I'm acrylic-free, I'm trying to channel Bebe's short, red look. Bianca Jagger told her it was chic, OK?

Jenna Jameson

When I say Jenna Jameson is one of my beauty icons, I’m referring to the '00s Jenna, back when she was in her world-dominating, billboard-owning heyday. Jenna basically owned the porn industry, and she made herself insanely rich and incredibly famous by taking her career into her own hands and not giving a fuck what other people thought. She was gorgeous, she was battling Bill O'Reilly on TV, and she was making a crap-ton of money, all because of her charm, moxie and badass attitude.

I reread Jenna's book How to Make Love Like a Porn Star once a year. It's such a wild ride of a book that you can't help but fall in love with her even when she's making really bad choices. I've always liked my women just a little on the trashy side, so Jenna's California tan, bellybutton ring, bleach-blonde hair and smoky eyes obviously appeal to me. From Jenna, I learned that the constructs of femininity can be a path to power, and that sometimes, a fake tan and a few highlights can be a suit of armor in themselves. When I need to feel strong and powerful, a coat of paint on my lips and a fresh bleach job tend to help my confidence immensely.

  • Who are your beauty icons today?
  • Who were they when you were a child, and why?
  • Have they changed a ton as you've grown?