Would I be dating myself if I referenced Madonna’s hit “Vogue” and its name-dropping some of the sexiest, sassiest females ever to walk this earth? Ah, the hell with it: Greta Garbo and Monroe/Dietrich and DiMaggio/Grace Kelly; Harlow, Jean/Picture of a beauty queen/They had style, they had grace/Rita Hayworth gave good face/Lauren, Katherine, Lana, too/Bette Davis, we love you. Sure, the Material Girl mentioned some dudes—namely Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio; heck, he was married to Monroe. And that’s a great roundup of the classics, but in 2017, from Marilyn to Madonna and far beyond, here’s our list…
1. Marilyn Monroe: She defined sex appeal for more than half a century and has been dead for almost that long! What’s more, she continues to define it, from gracing the fronts of T-shirts to sexy young pop stars emulating her to lyrics and films referencing the late Norma Jean. Was it her beauty mark, her whispery voice, those blond curls, her outrageous curves? How ’bout all of the above? Once the hot air beneath that grate blew her skirt up, Marilyn laughing slyly, and the flash went off, there would be no turning back.
2. Madonna: Rolling around in a wedding gown live at the MTV Music Awards singing her latest smash “Like A Virgin” (circa 1984), Madonna made no secret of her playbook, going so far as to channel Monroe in the video for another hit, “Material Girl.” Sure, on occasion she’d want to be seen differently (Evita), but she has never really shed her sexy image. Heck, she returned to that MTV stage two decades later to make out with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
3. Beyonce: Destiny’s Child Beyonce showed little of what was to come. Once she went solo, got “Crazy In Love,” and demanded you “put a ring on it,” the hit-making trio faded from memory and this living, breathing sex bomb in heels was before us all, with vocals as on point as the dance moves. The closest she ever got to not being hot was playing Foxy Cleopatra in the third Austin Powers flick. OK, and maybe “Lemonade.”
4. Brigitte Bardot: The name alone can give ya a boner, never mind hearing her say it. She seduced an entire generation of musicians, from the Beatles to Bob Dylan, and wasn’t even trying. Back in the day, Bardot simply could not take a bad picture, but what was infinitely more interesting is the fact that there was a girl-next-door quality somehow lurking beneath that knee-wobbling, sultry pout.
5. Raquel Welch: Still as sexy as ever at 77, Welch turning off the sex appeal isn’t even a possibility. In One Million Years B.C. she had three lines, yet her fur-bikini-clad photo became a best-selling poster and had her treading the line between actress and pin-up girl in an instant. While repeatedly cast in sex symbol roles, Welch finds ways to make the characters formidable, exuding both strength and sex appeal. Craziest part? That poster pic is still hot as hell.
6. Sophia Loren: The Italian Marilyn Monroe’s sex appeal sprung largely from her background, with her rise to international stardom coming via Italian film. Americans were simply seduced—and not by the sub-titles. At 83, Loren is still killing it, perhaps at her best in her mid-60’s, when she had Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon fighting all over again in Grumpier Old Men. And she pulled that off alongside Ann-Margret, who really could be on this list herself.
7. Cindy Crawford: When being interviewed or—God forbid—acting, Crawford couldn’t come across as more of a bore. But in her heyday, a Cindy Crawford magazine cover was the equivalent of Viagra. Is it the beauty mark? The Brooke Shields-ish innocence fused with a sort of come-hither intensity? The Rolling Stone cover or cameo in George Michaels’ “Freedom” video? All rolled into one is the answer. Crawford remains the very definition of sex appeal. She doesn’t have to say a word.
8. Angelina Jolie: Jolie just oozes sex. Even when she’s in full-on “I hate Brad”/total mom mode there’s a gravitational pull that can be difficult to define. She played it up in Girl, Interrupted, scoring an Oscar, and then even more in the Tomb Raider films (she looked like a cartoon come to life), but efforts to take it down a notch and kick some ass, like in Salt or Mr. & Mrs. Smith only succeeded in making her more appealing.
9. Jennifer Lopez: J-Lo. Jenny From The Block. Fly Girl. Whatever ya wanna call her, J-Lo changed the game, first with that plunging Versace gown while on Diddy’s arm on a red carpet, then by all but abandoning acting in favor of snging, and ultimately by only getting sexier as she got older. Today the American Idol judge and Shades of Blue star still takes her show on the road relentlessly, continuing to let the world in on a little secret: Lots of guys like a little sumthin’ sumthin’ ’round back.
10. Kim Kardashian: Speaking of sumthin’ sumthin’, nobody peddles it more successfully than Kim K. Her Instagram is on fire, especially when she shows that ample Armenian tush off. Homegirl breaks the Internet. While the reality show is mind-numbing, and the family’s rise to such prominence a sad statement on our culture, one thing that cannot be argued: Kim and her derriere have undeniable sex appeal.