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Meet The Woman Who Inspired Miss Piggy

As we know of her from television, Miss Piggy is an obsessed hopeless romantic, with a nasal voice and glamorous appearance that had a very different beginning behind the scenes. Miss Piggy’s embodiment is actually that of a famous jazz singer who stole the hearts of several men in the 1940s.

The inspiration was Peggy Lee, a talented musician who lived a life of luxury until her very last days. From rags to riches to an eventual fall from grace, Peggy Lee lived a life that many would only dream of. This is her story.

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The Beautiful Peggy Lee

The famous puppet, Miss Piggy, was designed back in 1974 by the talented Bonnie Erickson. When asked who inspired the character of Miss Piggy, Erickson said that it was made in the likeness of jazz singer Peggy Lee. 

Miss Piggy started out as a relatively minor character but became a hit by 1976. The glamorous blonde, with eyes only for Kermit the Frog, became one of the most famous and notable Muppets. The golden blonde hair, silk dress, and glamorous appeal that we know Miss Piggy as today came from the true-life demeanor of the famous Peggy Lee.

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Life Before Stardom

The singer was born in 1920 by the name Norma Deloris Egstrom. At only four years old, Peggy Lee’s life got turned upside down as her mother died unexpectedly. Lee says that it was not even a year after her mother’s death that her father remarried. Peggy described her new stepmom as an abusive woman, only finding solace when listening to the radio, writing songs, or singing.

There were special instances, like birthday parties and talent shows, where Peggy would perform for crowds of people. This taste of attention led her down a path of entertainment, landing her a job at a radio station at only 17. This was when she met Ken Kennedy, the program’s director and the person who gave her the new name: Peggy Lee.

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Discovering “The Voice”

In 1940, Ken Kennedy got her a gig as the lead singer of his cousin’s band. It was this job that eventually got her a position in the Will Osborne Orchestra. Eventually, the group broke up, but by then she had already made a name for herself.

Peggy traveled to California in hopes to sing and it was there that she found her signature voice. Peggy started composing lyrics, distinguishing her from almost every other female singer of her era. She produced some of the most remarkable musical poetry the music industry at the time would have ever seen.

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A Fake Cinderella Story

There was a time when her childhood story came to question. Peggy often described her stepmother as abusive, recounting stories of her stepmother hitting her with a frying pan and getting dragged around by the hair. 

It was said by a childhood friend of Peggy that, “she created the evil stepmother who forced her to scrub floors and beat her, the emotionally unavailable father, and the Prince Charming who swept her off her feet.” However, for Peggy, this was the truth.

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Affairs, Drugs, And Loneliness

However, there was a sadder side to Peggy’s life, one filled with drugs, affairs, and loneliness. It was said that Peggy was often terrified of being alone, leading her to fill the void with a carousel of men and casual sex. 

The urge to escape reality was always present in Peggy’s life and eventually got the best of her. Her career was later sullied by alcoholism and the abuse of tranquilizers. Four years before her death in 2002, Peggy suffered a massive stroke possibly related to all the complications caused by her addictions. Bedridden, Peggy died at the age of 81.

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Her Lasting Legacy

In total, Peggy was involved in over 700 recordings and 59 albums. Peggy’s absolute favorite song was “The Man I Love,” released in 1957, and conducted by her past lover, Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was invested in the album and even had a hand in creating Peggy’s misty look for her album cover photo.

With several talents and a voice that filled the ears of American radio listeners, Peggy Lee was known for many things. With her famous satin gowns, earrings that dangled, and tinted glasses, Peggy Lee has left a legacy that many will emulate.