This past month, the hottest star on the planet wasn't Angelina Jolie or Kim Kardashian -- it was Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn's image has been everywhere this August -- on magazine covers, international web sites, anniversary tributes, even in art galleries -- and you'd never know from all those timeless, luscious, teasing photos of her, so vibrant and alive, that she'd have been 86 this year. But her age doesn't matter, because we simply can't forget her.
This week, another stunning leading lady is giving her a run for her money in the international press: Princess Diana. Since she passed away 15 years ago, Diana has remained our eternal "People's Princess" -- and she continues to be an object of fascination. Ever glamorous, ever vulnerable, still beloved -- even as the world has changed around us -- she remains forever alive in our collective memory.
What is it about these icons that make them so unforgettable? And why do some stars fade away, while others continue to burn brightly long after they leave us? Is it only when they die young? Is it more about their accomplishments? Is it simply photography? Or is there some inherent quality that makes them eminently watchable -- a vulnerability of some kind that allows us to feel close to them, even from a distance?
I think icons are unforgettable because they -- in some way -- remain unmatched by their predecessors and those who follow. For some, it really is about extraordinary talent, accomplishment and vision. Others break down walls and change perceptions through their art or their actions. And some -- through their achievements or their personal stories -- come to symbolize a period in time or a cultural movement that had an impact.
But whatever their singular story, we collectively recognize them in an instant. We feel like we know them; and regardless of whether they died young or lived long, they left something special behind -- something that still fascinates and holds our attention long after they have gone.
As her brother noted at her funeral, Diana Spencer "was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty...she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic." Fifteen years later, she remains that way in our memory -- as the people's princess, a loving mother, a sensitive soul, forever young and vital.