The famous Farrah Fawcett Red Swimsuit poster from 1976 sold in over 12 million copies, making it the best-selling poster of all time.
Besides having a title of a best-seller, it is likewise considered the last pin-up poster ever shot.
The story behind this poster is a mixture of serendipity and the amazing character of this Charlie’s Angel.
The photograph did not help only Fawcett to reach fame based on her astounding beauty, but also boosted the reputations of photographer Bruce McBroom, the Trikilis brothers’ poster company, Pro Arts Inc., and the designer of the red swimsuit, Norma Kamali.
According to People magazine, Kamali still sells a style called the “racer tank” based on the suit that Fawcett wears in the picture.
As McBroom recalls for the Times, Fawcett was supposed do to a photo shoot for Charlie’s Angels, but she wanted to do it exclusively on her own terms.
She wanted to be able to choose the pictures of her liking and destroy the negatives she did not want to be used afterwards.
She had expensive photo shoots with two photographers and did not like the results of either. She then insisted on arranging a session with her close friend, Bruce McBroom. He arranged to do the photo shoot at Fawcett’s Mulholland Drive home.
The Trikilis brothers wanted her to wear a racy bikini but, McBroom recalled in an interview for Time, Fawcett did not like the way she looked in a bikini, so she chose a swimsuit to be photographed in.
However, after taking endless shots, the photographer still didn’t feel satisfied that he had captured “the” image.
McBroom finally asked her if she had another swimsuit and this is when the magic happened. When he saw her in her red swimsuit, he knew this was exactly what they need.
According to Time, his reaction was the real aha moment: “I literally said to myself, ‘Oh my God.’ I knew that was it. I had an Indian blanket from Mexico that served as the seat cover for my beat-up 1937 Chevy pickup with colors that, it just popped into my head, would match the suit.”
The photo shoot was far from planned and strategic — it was a chemistry between the photographer and Farrah leading to an iconic historical moment.
The agent who oversaw these shoots hated the end result, so much so that he did not want to pay McBroom for the work he had delivered. Nevertheless, people around him recognized the potential of the picture and made him change his mind about printing, which proved to be a great decision. The brothers made a fortune out of the sales.
As reported by Vanity Fair, McBroom told American Photo: “I have tried over the years to understand why the Farrah poster attracted so much interest from so many people. I think it was a lucky combination of this wholesome, beautiful, all-American girl looking directly at you with a dazzling smile and a red suit that covered a lot but revealed a little.”
The Farrah Fawcett Black Label Barbie Collection doll embodies the picture, the doll mimics the actress wearing a red swimsuit and gold necklace.
The designer of the Barbie, Bill Greening, says for People: “Farrah is a fashion icon. She made such a lasting impression on so many with her style, signature hair and smile.”
The designer of the swimsuit Norma Kamali is still grateful for the circumstances that helped the development of her career. She says that she did not even like the model Farrah was wearing. She could never understand why the actress chose it.
When she saw the poster she had immediately started working on improving the style so that it fitted more generously on people who are not built like Farrah. Forty years later the redesigned swimsuit is still on the market so that people can wear the iconic style.
The legendary swimsuit was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., where it exists in recognition of the legendary photograph.