On 2 May, the reality star arrived at the Met Gala in a gown previously worn by Monroe in 1962 when she serenaded John F Kennedy on his 45th birthday. The outfit choice was made possible with the help of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, who had loaned Kardashian the dress for the occasion.
On Instagram, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not also revealed that while Kardashian was at her dress fitting, she was given “a silver box that contained an actual lock of Marilyn’s iconic platinum hair”.
“This is so special to me,” she said in response. “Thank you so much, this is so cool.”
Fortner, who is the collector of The Marilyn Monroe Collection, has since responded to the franchising company’s post, on social media. And according to him, the lock isn’t legit, as the caption of his recent Instagram post reads: “News Alert: Marilyn Monroe Hair Gifted to Kardashian by Ripley’s is Fake.”
He also referenced Ripley’s Believe It Or Not website itself and claimed that there were false statements made about Monroe’s stylist.
In the Instagram post, he shared a screenshot of an article on the website, which offered an “exclusive look” or Kardashian’s dressing room and included a display of Monroe’s hair that “has been authenticated by John Reznikoff”. The site also said that the lock of Monroe’s hair was cut by her hairstylist Robert Champion, right after she performed for Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.
However, Fortner claimed that Monroe’s stylist for the JFK gala was actually Kenneth Battelle and included a receipt from the salon he worked at that night.
“One could assume the hair given to KK was part of this lot of hair that was cut by Robert Champion ‘just prior to her MSG performance,’” he continued. “News Flash: Robert Champion did not cut and style Marilyn’s hair for the JFK gala. It was actually the one and only ‘Mr. Kenneth’ who had the honours. Battelle is responsible for Marilyn’s famous hairstyle from that night, as documented by a receipt from Lilly Dache Beauty Salon.”
Since the Met Gala, Kardashian has faced criticism from fashion historians, including Fortner, for wearing the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes star’s iconic gown. While speaking to People, Fortner claimed the Kardashian’s outfit was a “cause for concern,” since Monroe’s dress was designed to “precisely match every curve” in the late actor’s body.
“While I understand the appeal of wanting to wear such an iconic gown, it can’t be dismissed or overlooked that anyone other than Marilyn Monroe wearing the famous ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ dress might be cause for concern for several reasons,” he said. “The dress was custom-made for Marilyn Monroe.”
“Marilyn stood nude as the fabric for the dress was literally sculpted to her body to precisely match every curve,” he continued. “The fabric, which is a flesh-colored soufflé gauze imported from France, was layered strategically so she wouldn’t need to wear undergarments.”
However, Nick Woodhouse, the president of Authentic Brand Group, which runs Monore’s estate, toldTMZ that he and his partners believe that Monroe would have been “thrilled” to see Kardashian wearing her gown. According to Woodhouse, the actor would have found it “pretty astonishing” that her dress was once again worn many years later at the Met Gala, which he called the “centre of fashion and pop culture”.
He also expressed how there was “no better person” to wear Monroe’s gown than Kardashian, as he sees many “similarities” between them, including the fact that they are both “strong, powerful and independent entrepreneurs who love being in front of the camera”.
Ahead of the fashion extravaganza, Kardashian told Vogue about how much she has respected Monroe’s gown and “what it means to American history”.
“I’m extremely respectful to the dress and what it means to American history,” she said. “I would never want to sit in it or eat in it or have any risk of any damage to it and I won’t be wearing the kind of body makeup I usually do.”
In order to keep the outfit safe, she said the it was transported by guards and that she wore gloves when trying it on. The 41-year-old reality star also noted that after climbing the stairs and posing on the red carpet at the Met Gala, she changed into a replica of Monroe’s dress.
Speaking to The Independent, a representative for Ripley’s Believe It or Not said that its article about Kardashian’s dressing room has been amended. The article no longer features Champion or Reznikoff in the description of the Monroe’s lock of hair.
However, the representative also expressed how “Ripley’s exhibit collection contains six different samples of Marilyn Monroe’s hair — all authenticated and truly Marilyn’s”.
“The hair gifted to Kim was given by Marilyn Monroe to Robert Champion,” she explained. “This clipping was authenticated by John Reznikoff, one of the most respected and trusted experts in the field of hair collecting. It was gifted to Kim at Ripley’s Orlando HQ on April 23, 2022 – not the night of the Met Gala. A second, different clipping was exhibited in Kim’s Met Gala dressing room on May 2, 2022.”
In a letter sent to Ripley’s from Reznikoff in 2006, he said that he got the hair from the Robert Champion’s collection in 2005. “I find the provenance to be 100 per cent credible, and I stand by the authenticity,” he wrote.
The Independent has reached out to Fortner for comment.