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Legendary Icons – Female Sex Symbols Through the Years

Featured, Pop Culture — By on June 15, 2012 12:00 am

Beauty, sex appeal, that certain je ne sais quoi – all these legendary female icons have them.  We’ve worked long and hard to compile a list of the end-all, be-all most amazing female sex symbols from the 1920′s through today.

1920′s

Lillian Russell

Lillian Russell Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Helen Louise Leonard in Clinton Iowa – 1860.  Died June 6, 1922.

Best Known For

Numerous operettas, including Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, and she later did vaudeville and burlesque.

Her Love Life

Married 4 times, had two children – one with Harry Braham, her first husband (1879 – 1885), one with Edward Solomon (1885 – 1893).  The marriage with Solomon was annulled because it turned out he was already married to someone else.  Her third marriage to Giovanni Perugini lasted only from 1894-1898, and her last marriage to Alexander Pollock Moore lasted from 1912 – 1922 when she died.

What Made Her Sexy?

She was a singer, actress, and activist.  Her stage presence was legendary.  She captivated audiences with her beauty, her sexuality, and her charisma.  She also had brains – she was a newspaper columnist, lecturer, and women’s sufferage advocate.

Lillian Russell

Measurements:  38″ bust, 24″ waist, 40″ hips

1930′s

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Harlean Harlow Carpenter in Kansas City, Missouri, 1911.  Died June 7, 1937.

Best Known For

Howard Hughes’ 1930 film Hell’s Angels was her first break, and her role as Lola in Bombshell.

Her Love Life

Ran away from home at the age of 16 to marry the 23 year old Charles McGrew.  They moved to Los Angeles, where she got small parts in movies and caught the acting bug.  She and McGrew divorced in 1930, and two years later she married screenwriter Paul Bern.  He committed suicide just two years later.  In 1933 she married Harold Rosson, but they divorced only six months later.

What Made Her Sexy?

The original blonde bombshell, Harlow was not afraid of her overt sexuality, posing nude at only 17 years old, always playing a sexy role, and being know for never wearing underwear and sleeping in the nude.

Jean Harlow

Measurements:  34-25-36

Claudette Colbert

Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra

Just the Basics

Born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin in Saint-Mande, France – September 1903

Best Known For

Her role in It Happened One Night, for which she won the Oscar.  She was a versatile stage and film actress, and exuded charm and sex appeal.

Her Love Life

She was married to director Norman Foster from 1928 to 1935 (they never lived together), and then married Dr. Joel Pressman four months later.  They were married until his death in 1968.

What Made Her Sexy?

Frank Rich said she was “a lady of piquant, irrepressible, ever-so-amusing common sense…with big Betty Boop eyes, light curly hair…and her low, one-of-the-boys voice, effortlessly hurling asides like pool balls into every pocket of the house.”  Plus, she was a true beauty.

Claudette Colbert Pose

Measurements:  32 1/2-25-34

1940′s

Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Margarita Carmen Cansino in New York, New York – October 1918

Best Known For

The film Gilda, though her career was never the same after it.  She was an accomplished dancer, and shone in the 1941 film You’ll Never Get Rich, in which she danced with Fred Astaire.  She was also one of the most popular WWII pin-up girls.  You’ve seen that movie, after all, haven’t you?

Her Love Life

Hayworth was married five times.  The first marriage lasted days under five years, and then she married Orson Welles.  They were married for just over five years, and had one child together.  She said she couldn’t “take his genius any more” and they divorced.  Then she married Prince Aly Khan.  They had one child during their 4 year marriage, and Hayworth was the first movie star to become a princess.  She then moved on to Argentinian actor Dick Haynes, but that marriage would also end in divorce after just over two years.  Her last husband was director James Hill.  That marriage ended after three years.

What Made Her Sexy?

Perhaps it was her stunning figure, her sultry portrayal of Gilda, or her innate glamor.  Either way, Rita Hayworth goes down in history as one of the most iconic sex symbols of all time.

Rita Hayworth 2

Measurements:  32 1/2-25-34

Betty Grable

Betty Grable Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Elizabeth Ruth Grable in St. Louis, Missouri – December 1916

Best Known For

Truthfully, she’s best known for the image you see below.  She was the #1 WWII pinup.  But she was an actress and entertainer, and one of the twenty original Goldwyn Girls along with Lucille Ball.

Her Love Life

She dated Desi Arnaz before he loved Lucy, and then married actor Jackie Coogan, who had also been a child star, in 1937.  Their marriage ended in 1940 because of too much outside stress, and she carried on a relationship with George Raft, whose Catholic wife would not give him a divorce.  She married Harry James, a bandleader, in 1943, and they had two children together in their 12 year marriage.

What Made Her Sexy?

The legs, of course.  She was “The Girl With the Million Dollar Legs.”

Betty Grable

Measurements: 34 1/2-24-36

 

1950′s

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Norma Jean Mortensen in Los Angeles, California – June 1926

Best Known For

Her film roles, her scandalous love affairs, her tragic death, and that “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” thing.

Her Love Life

Norma Jean married James Dougherty at the tender age of 16.  They divorced in 1946, four years later, and he immediately remarried.  She married Joe DiMaggio in January of 1954, but that marriage only lasted until October of the same year.  After her death, DiMaggio would put fresh flowers on her grave every year.  In 1956 she wed playwright Arthur Miller – once in a civil ceremony and once in a Jewish ceremony.  She had converted in order to marry him.  They divorced in 1961, and she was reportedly romantically linked to President John F. Kennedy, though nothing definitive has been released.

What Made Her Sexy?

She once said, “sex is a part of nature.  I go along with nature.”  She was unabashedly sexy, tortured, and the ultimate damsel in distress.

Marilyn Monroe 1

Measurements:  37-23-36

 

Bettie Page

Bettie Page Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Betty Mae Page in Nashville, Tennessee – April 1923

Best Known For

Her shocking and racy pinups, depicting her in black bondage gear and spanking and being spanked by other women.  She also appeared in burlesque films.

Her Love Life

She married a guy named Billy Neal in 1943, divorced in 1947, married Armond Walterson in 1958 and divorced him in 1963.  She married Harry Lear in 1967 and they divorced in 1972.  Her life was very mysterious, and she was troubled by a painful childhood and mental illness.

What Made Her Sexy?

Did you read that part about the burlesque and the sexy pictures?  She was called “The Girl With The Perfect Figure” and appeared in Playboy in 1955.

Bettie Page 2
Measurements:  36-24-36 1/2

 

Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield Close Up
Just the Basics

Born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania – April 1933

Best Known For

Unfortunately, she was known for being “the poor man’s Marilyn Monroe.”  There was already a blonde bombshell on the scene and Mansfield tried far too hard to bring herself into the limelight.

Her Love Life

She and Paul Mansfield married when she was just 16 years old.  They had one child and divorced in 1958 after almost 8 years of marriage.  She then married Hungarian actor Mickey Harigtay (Mariska Hargitay’s father) five days after her divorce from Mansfield was final.  They stayed married six years and had three children together.  A month after that divorce was final, she married director Matt Cimber in 1964.  They were married two years and had one child together.

What Made Her Sexy?

That figure, for one, and she set out to be a sex symbol.  And so she was.

Jayne Mansfield

Measurements:  40-21-35

 

1960′s

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor in Hampsted, London, England – Feburary 1932

Best Known For

Her role in National Velvet made her a star, and her work in the fifties secured her as one of the world’s famous beauties.  By the 1960′s she was a bona-fide sex symbol, her personal life and charisma making her one of the most envied and sought-after actresses in Hollywood.

Her Love Life

She’s been married eight times total, twice to Richard Burton (1964 – 1974 & 1975 – 1976).  She was married to Conrad Hilton, Jr. first from 1950-1951, Michael Wilding from 1952-1957 (they had two children), Michael Todd from 1957 – 1958, Eddie Fisher from 1959-1964, then Richard Burton twice, then John Warner from 1976-1982, and finally Larry Fortensky from 1991-1996.

What Made Her Sexy?

Violet eyes, a notorious love life, a fantastic screen presence, and a fantastic figure.  What more does it take?

Elizabeth Taylor
Measurements:  36-21-36

 

Ann-Margret

Ann Margret Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Ann-Margret Olsson in Sweden – April 1941

Best Known For

Her roles in 1963′s Bye Bye Birdie and 1964′s Viva Las Vegas.  She was discovered by George Burns, and good friends with Elvis.

Her Love Life

She revealed in her autobiography that she did, in fact, have a relationship with Elvis Presley.  Other than that, her love life has been pretty tame.  She’s been married to fellow actor Roger Smith since 1967.

What Made Her Sexy?

Her “sex kitten” persona and wholesome, yet languid, good looks, her figure.

Ann Marget

Measurements:  35-23-35

 

Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch Close Up
Just the Basics

Born Jo Raquel Tejada in Chicago, Illinois – September 1940

Best Known For

One Million Years B.C. and that fur bikini.  That became THE pin-up of the time.

Her Love Life

Married to James Westley Welch from 1959-1964.  They had two children.  Married to producer Patrick Curtis from 1967-1972.   Wed cinematographer Andre Winfield in 1980 and they were married a decade.  Married restaurateur Richard Palmer in 1999.  They’re still married, but currently separated.

What Made Her Sexy?

She was (and still is) a true beauty with some truly impressive genes.  She found being a sex symbol limiting, which speaks to her perseverance and ambition, and she has aged gracefully and beautifully.  She’s still a sex symbol today, for sure.

Raquel Welch

Measurements: 37-22 1/2-35 1/2

 

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Brigitte Bardot in Paris, France – September 1934

Best Known For

Her sex kitten persona and the interest shown in by American men.  The guys (what can we say?)  They loved her.  My mom says it was like the boys in school had never seen a girl before.  She was French, exotic, sexy, and adorable all at the same time.  She was in some American movies, but her modeling and pin-ups were far more popular.  Even her poorly-dubbed French films that aired in the US were popular.  American men simply couldn’t get enough of her.

Her Love Life

Married four times to three different Frenchmen and a German – French actor/director/producer/writer Roger Vadim from 1952 (when Bardot was 18) to 1957.  She married actor Jacques Charrier in 1959.  They had one child and divorced in 1962.  She married German playboy Gunter Sachs in 1966, but they divorced just three years later.  She and French nationalist and industrialist Bernard d’Ormale wed in 1999 and are still married.

What Made Her Sexy?

American men, apparently, thought she was the sexiest thing ever.

Brigitte Bardot
Measurements:  35 1/2-19-35

 

1970′s

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Farrah Leni Fawcett in Corpus Christi, Texas – February 1947

Best Known For

Charlie’s Angles, that infamous poster, and her out-in-the-limelight love life.

Her Love Life

She was married to actor Lee Majors from 1973 to 1982.  She never married Ryan O’Neal, but they lived together for 17 years and had one child together.  They split in 1997, and she dated writer/director James Orr, but she refused his marriage proposal.  He attacked her in a rage and she had him arrested.

What Made Her Sexy?

All-American good looks, that famous hairdo, and that famous poster made her the ultimate sex symbol of the 1970′s.

Farrah Fawcett
Measurements: 35-24-35


Pam Grier

Pam Grier Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Pamela Suzette Grier in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – May 1949

Best Known For

She started out in Roger Corman pictures, was a regular on Miami Vice, and had a resurgence of her career via Jackie Brown in 1997.  She was and is more than a mere sex symbol, but many a fella had her picture hanging on their wall in the 1970′s, so she makes the list.

Her Love Life

She is said to have dated Richard Pryor, Freddie Prinze Sr., and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but she’s never been married and has no kids.  More recently she was romantically linked to music exec Kevin Evans and marketing businessman Peter Hempel.

What Made Her Sexy?

Confidence, a smoking hot body, talent, and fearlessness.  She’s a survivor, a role model, and an all-around badass.

Pam Grier

Measurements:  38-22-36

1980′s

Madonna

Madonna Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan – August 1958

Best Known For

Her pop career, her horrible movies, her halfway decent movies, her constant image changes, her high-profile romances, her religious conversion, her daring attitude…her moxy, shall we say.

Her Love Life

Boyfriend at the time Stephen Bray helped her break into the music industry.  She broke into the film industry and met and married Sean Penn.  That lasted for about four years, and they divorced. The marriage lasted from 1985 to 1989.  She pretty much chose, based on his genetic attributes, the father for her first child, Lourdes.  She married filmmaker Guy Ritchie in 2000, but they divorced in 2008.  She’s since been seen with dudes much younger than her.  Go Madge.  She and Ritchie had a child (Rocco) together, and adopted a Malawian baby named David in 2005.  Amid a bunch of controversy.  Of course.

What Made Her Sexy?

She’s pushed boundaries, she’s pissed off almost everybody, she’s done her own thing and reinvented herself every decade or so. She released a book called Sex, and that Justify My Love Video nearly burned up our televisions.  She’s Madge.

Madonna

Measurements:  34-23-33

Daryl Hannah

Daryl Hannah Close Up
Just the Basics

Born Daryl Christine Hannah in Chicago, Illinois – December 1960

Best Known For

Mermaid?  Cave girl?  Roxanne?  There are so many to choose from.  In the 1980′s, Daryl Hannah was a captivating and fascinating ingenue.  She’s not bad to look at these days, either.

Her Love Life

She’s never been married, but she had a long-term relationship with rock man Jackson Browne, and later with JFK, Jr.

What Made Her Sexy?

In the 1980′s it was the body, the hair, the lips, and the animal-like grace and movement.  Nowadays, it’s her commitment to equal rights and environmental responsibility.

Daryl Hannah
Measurements:  34-24-35

Kelly LeBrock

Kelly Le Brock Close Up
Just the Basics

Born Kelly LeBrock (as far as we can tell) in New York, NY – March 1960

Best Known For

The nerd-redeeming hottie Lisa in Weird Science.  And those super sexy lips.  And those legs.  She also was the model who said, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

Her Love Life

She was married to film producer Victor Drai from 1984-1986, to Steven Seagal from 1987-1994, and has been married to a guy named Fred Steck since 2007.

What Made Her Sexy?

The aforementioned lips and legs, and that oozing self confidence.

Kelly Le Brock
Measurements:  34-24-34

1990′s

Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone Close Up
Just the Basics

Born Sharon Vonne Stone in Meadville, Pennsylvania – March 1958

Best Known For

That scene (you know the one) from Basic Instinct.

Her Love Life

She dated Dwight Yoakam, she has been married to George Englund Jr. (Cloris Leachman’s son), Michael Greenburg (film producer), and some dude named Phil Bronstein.

What Made Her Sexy?

That scene in Basic Instinct, provided you can forget Basic Instinct 2 ever happened.

Sharon Stone

Measurements:  36-25-35

Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Pamela Denise Anderson in Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada – July 1967

Best Known For

Her beach-ready body and those gravity-defying implants.  And, that sex tape.  (See below).

Her Love Life

She was married to rocker Tommy Lee (and they made a world-famous, if not totally creepy) sex tape.  Then she got married to Kid Rock, but that didn’t last a full year.  Then she married Rick Salomon, but that lasted an even shorter time.

What Made Her Sexy?

Well, being on a television show where her main wardrobe was a bathing suit probably didn’t hurt.  She’s an overblown doll of a bombshell, and was every boy’s fantasy for a lot of years.  Playboy Playmate of the Month February 1990 – she’s actually appeared in Playboy a whopping eleven times.

Pamela Anderson
Measurements: 36-22-34

2000′s

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Angelina Jolie Voight in Los Angeles, California – June 1975

Best Known For

Her dramatic love life (see below), her full lips, and her huge family, in addition to several stunning performances in films such as Gia, Girl, Interrupted, and The Changeling.  Also, she was Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider movies.

Her Love Life

She married Trainspotting cutie Jonny Lee Miller in 1996 with his name scrawled across her t-shirt in her own blood.  They divorced in 1999, and in 2000 she married bad boy Billy Bob Thornton.  They wore vials of each others blood around their necks.  (Notice a theme here?)  Since 2004 or so, she’s been linked to Mr. & Mrs. Smith co-star Brad Pitt.  They’ve had three natural children, and have adopted two more since they’ve been together.

What Makes Her Sexy?

What about her ISN’T sexy?  She’s a bad girl, a crazy girl, a smart girl, a dangerous girl, a goodwill ambassador, an Earth Mother, and she’s married to the second hottest guy on the planet (sorry, Brad, Johnny Depp’s got you beat).  Love her or hate her, she’s Queen Bee of Sexy Town.  #2 of “VH1′s Hottest Hotties”, #6 of Stuff’s “102 Sexiest Women in the World”, etc.

Angelina JOlie

Measurements:  36-27-36 (before pregnancy, when she was actually hot.  Now she’s skeleton woman)

Christina Hendricks

Christina Hendricks Close Up
Just the Basics

Born Christina Rene Hendricks in Knoxville, Tennessee – May 1975

Best Known For

She’s best known for her role as Joan Harris on Mad Men, AMC’s fabulous original series.  She was also in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and she is known for her fiery red hair.  She’s actually a natural blonde, but she’s been dying her hair since the age of 10.

Her Love Life

She’s married to indie film staple and funny man Geoffrey Arend.  They just celebrated their first wedding anniversary on October 11, 2010.

What Makes Her Sexy?

Her bodacious figure, her refusal to confirm to Hollywood’s rail-thin standard, and her considerable acting chops.  She’s sweet, sultry, and sassy and she’s around to stay.

Christina Hendricks
Measurements:  39-30-39

Beyonce Knowles

Beyonce Knowles Close Up
Just the Basics

Born Beyonce Giselle Knowles in Houston, Texas – 1981

Best Known For

Her solo singing career, her old singing group Destiny’s Child, her awesome figure, and her high-profile marraige to Jay Z.  Oh, and that Single Ladies video.

Her Love Life

Pretty much the only relationship the media ever covered was the one with Jay Z.  They got married in 2008, but dated for at least 2 years before that.

What Makes Her Sexy?

The moves, the voice, the body, and the style.  She’s the Queen of Hip Hop, and she’s undeniably sexy.

Beyonce Knowles
Measurements:  34-26-40

Halle Berry

Halle Berry Close Up

Just the Basics

Born Halle Maria Berry in Cleveland, Ohio – 1966.

Best Known For

A number of successful movies, but her most notable role is of Storm in the X-Men movies.  She was also a Bond Girl in 2002′s Die Another Day, making her one of two Bond Girls to have one Oscars (obviously for roles that weren’t their Bond roles).  Halle won an Oscar in 2001′s Monster’s Ball.

Her Love Life

Was married to baseball player David Justice from 1992-1997.  Their marriage ended badly, and Halle had a restraining order against him.  She got engaged to singer Eric Benet in 1999, and they were married until 2005.  Berry even adopted Benet’s daughter, India.  She dated The Good wife’s Michael Ealy from 2004-2005.  In 2008 she had a baby with a guy named Gabriel Aubry – Nahla Ariela – but they broke up early in 2010 and she’s now dating French actor Olivier Martinez.

What Makes Her Sexy?

FHM’s #7 Top Sexiest Women of 2004, VH1′s #7 of the 100 Hottest Hotties, etc.  And, hello, Monster’s Ball?  She didn’t look half bad in that catsuit in Catwoman, even though the movie killed a little piece of our souls.  Esquire Magazine’s 2008 Sexiest Woman Alive.

Halle Berry
Measurements:  36-22-37

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johannson Close Up
Just the Basics

Born Scarlett I. Johansson in New York, New York – 1984

Best Known For

Iron Man 2, most recently, but she gave her best performance in 2003′s Lost in Translation.  She’s also released an album of Tom Waits covers, and she is Woody Allen’s muse, having appeared in several of his films.

Her Love Life

She’s been romantically linked to Josh Hartnett, Faiz Ahmad, and Benicio Del Toro, and she married Ryan Reynolds in 2008 after dating about a year.  Pretty tame for the “sexiest woman alive.”

What Makes Her Sexy?

She has an old-fashioned style with a modern appeal.  She has those lips, those curves, and that sly smile.  She’s also not afraid to admit that she likes cheese.  And, if these are not compelling enough details, she’s been named Sexiest Celebrity by Playboy (2007), #1 of FHM’s “100 Sexiest Women of 2006″ (2006), and “Sexiest Woman Alive” by Esquire Magazine (2006), among more such honors.

Scarlett Johansson
Measurements:  36-23-35

21 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Great post, too bad my browser kept getting stuck on the pictures at work when people would walk by…
    Realizing there will always be countless opinions on this topic, I’d like to add 2 more all time classics that have stood the test of time…Charlize Theron & Michelle Pfeiffer.
    Oh, and Daryl Hannah is kinda busted these days…even without the eye patch in Kill Bill.

  2. Hermitbiker says:

    …. yep, I’ll agree !!

  3. TheDarkOne says:

    What about megan fox?

  4. Tarun says:

    where is jessica alba?

  5. San says:

    Where´s Monica Bellucci, Claudia Cardinale and Sophia Loren? the beautiful italian bombshells across the times?

  6. iva says:

    I would definitely include Ava Gardner, Monica Bellucci and Cindy Crawford…

  7. John says:

    You forgot Lil Kim.

  8. mook says:

    …Ere Debbie Harry lead singer with Blondie was one of the biggest sex symbols of 70s/80s And was the most photographed woman in the world in 1980.

  9. mioj says:

    where is greta garbo???

  10. Druid says:

    What about Milica Natasa Jovovic ?

  11. claudia says:

    what about monica bellucci?

  12. Jeri says:

    Jenny McCarthy
    Carmen Electra
    Alicia Silverstone
    Jessica Simpson
    Britney Spears
    Brittany Murphy
    Eva Mendes
    Jennifer Lopez
    Christina Applegate
    Jessica Biel
    Cameron Diaz
    What is wrong with you? How can these women be excluded?

    • Jeri says:

      Add
      Katy Perry
      Lindsay Lohan
      Gwen Stafani
      Milla Jovovich
      Cheryl Ladd
      Hether Locklear
      Heather Thomas
      Kathleen Turner
      Kim Bassinger
      Alyssa Milano
      Drew Barrymore
      Tawny Kitean
      Jaclyn Smith
      Olivia Newton John
      Toni Braxton
      Janet Jackson
      Phoebe Cates
      Samantha Fox
      Gabrielle Union
      Jennifer Aniston
      Emma Stone
      and one for the ages what about Mae West

      • Alex says:

        lol, silly boys. you’re adding you you like.who the media brainwashes you to say is hot, not who is a SEX SYMBOL.

        also, Gisele Bundchen? Audrey Hepburn? Brooke Shields?? where are they?!

        and please, to the author- TAKE SCARLETT OFF. not curvy, not sexy, not cute at all.

  13. Jami says:

    What about Joan Crawford in the 20′s 30′s or 40′s and Bette Davis

  14. GG says:

    I miss:

    Gina Gershon and Sofia Vergara!

  15. JasmineSun says:

    Sophia Loren deserves to be on this list. She’s hotter than most of them put together and she’s still hot at like 70! Also for current sex symbols, how could you leave out Britney Spears?! Minus the past couple years she has dominated the sex symbol market since she was just a teenager. Megan Fox and Rihanna are also in there too.

  16. JP Marat says:

    There is NO way in hell Christina Hendricks’bust is under 43″. I’ve dated 40″ women, and she has a way bigger bust than them.

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