Beautiful Curse by Amy Walton
I found this lovely - and very damaged - illustration at an estate sale in North Texas. The estate belonged to the artist, Jane Hill, who I was told had been a local fashion illustrator. I had to rescue her (i mean, that attitude!) and give her a story.
They said Maxine was a beautiful baby. And she had to pay for those looks her whole life.
Girls were jealous. Men had to have her. They did – even against her will. By the time she was 15, she had figured out how to imagine herself far away. And how to never think of it again.
In May of 1954, the day she graduated high school, she changed her name Jacqueline LaRue. If Norma Jeane Baker could become Marilyn Monroe…
She had been stealing money from her dad & plotting an escape for years. In Hollywood, her beauty could finally get her somewhere.
She got on a bus with enough money to get her to Dallas. While she quickly figured out a few tricks from some traveling grafters, she didn’t have to use them much. Men wanted to buy her meals and take her places.
She soon got a job on the west side of town at a dance club called The Lusty Lady. And quickly lost it after she slapped an aggressive patron.
But she still needed money to get to the next leg of the trip.
When Jacqueline saw a “model wanted” ad in the Dallas Times Herald, she was smart enough to know what that meant. And tough enough to know she could forget it soon enough.
But Jane Hill was an actual artist and her husband was one, too. Jane wanted someone to model, every day for a week, to help her develop her skills in different mediums. When Jane realized the financial predicament Jacqueline was in, she invited her to stay in their home.
It was the best week of her life. She was treated as a respected guest.
She modeled different outfits and styles. And she and Jane talked.
Her kinship with Jane enabled her to process the feelings she had suppressed for so long. In each sitting, Jane asked her to portray a new emotion. Allowing herself to feel wasn’t as scary in the safety of the Hill’s home.
At the end of the week, Jane asked her which of the nine paintings was her favorite. And she picked this one.
The starched lace collar had been so itchy. But it was during this sitting that Jane shared something bad had happened to her, too. She told Jaqueline they were both survivors and that they deserved to hold their heads high.
I wish I could tell you there was a storybook ending. But there wasn’t.
Jacqueline made it to Hollywood. She made a meager living in films, but not the kind that would play at her hometown theater.
Alone on her deathbed, Jacqueline reflected on the happy memories that were few and far between. The feeling of power she felt when looking this portrait. And, so many years later, the relief she felt when she finally lost her looks.