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Debbie Harry’s identity crisis
Deborah Harry never intended to be a sex symbol, says Lucy O’Brien in Mojo. In the 1970s, as the lead singer of Blondie, she created a vampy, come-hither persona that was very consciously—and ironically—based on Marilyn Monroe. She combined her retro-Holl
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eborah Harry never intended to be a sex symbol, says Lucy O’Brien in Mojo. In the 1970s, as the lead singer of Blondie, she created a vampy, come-hither persona that was very consciously—and ironically—based on Marilyn Monroe. She combined her retro-Hollywood look with punk flourishes, such as torn T-shirts, high leather boots, and little black dresses. “In the truest sense of the word, pop music is very influenced by cartoon art,” she says. “Blondie was a comic coming to life. Satire played a big part in a lot of things we did.” To Harry’s horror, her record company ignored the irony and marketed her as a bombshell. Feminist music critics started calling her a “publicity hooker” and other punkers wrote her off as a sell-out. “I was highly offended at everything the record company did. We came from the New York City underground. We were trying hard to be artists. We’d say, ‘God, they’re not taking us seriously, they’ve missed the point.’ The whole thing was a complete, gigantic shock and smack in the face. Everything was horrible.” Despite the marketing, or perhaps because of it, Blondie was wildly popular for several years, until the band broke up. Just as she became too old to be sold as a sex symbol, Harry says, Madonna filled the culture’s need for a reigning blonde. “Maybe it’s my paranoia, but if you look closely, there’s pictures of her and me that completely overlap.”

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