From her bright red lipstick to her vintage-inspired eyeglasses, Mary Gasker has fully embraced a retro lifestyle.
Nowhere is that lifestyle more evident than in her new hobby as a retro pin-up model. Styled after the models of the 1950s, retro pin-up models embody the classic style and grace of a bygone era. The Jim Thorpe woman has even embraced the figure of 1950s models, celebrating her newly-discovered curves after losing a substantial amount of weight.
"I always loved Marilyn Monroe. She was a classic icon," said Gasker, naming the popular actress and model who she remains "fascinated" with.
"She was very shapely. She had curves, and that's what everyone loved about her."
Much of Gasker's modeling focuses on the details that defined the 1950s, including hair, makeup, and clothing, like garters that are modest by today's standards, but were considered borderline risqué at the time.
Gasker has now had two photography sessions with professional photographers who specialize in retro pin-up, once in New Jersey and more recently at the Mahoning Drive-In Theatre in Mahoning Township.
Her photographs have been accepted into Star Maker magazine, a magazine specializing in retro pin-up photographs. She submitted three photographs to Star Maker and out of 2,000 submissions, two were selected to appear in print. Approximately 180 photographs were chosen.
Upon acceptance into the third and final issue of Star Maker magazine, Gasker was thrilled to realize that the magazine's parent company, Retro Lovely, has ties to the Jim Thorpe area. The founders of Retro Lovely were inspired in part by the Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival and Dragontown Corsets, which is also in Jim Thorpe.
Gasker is believed to be the first Jim Thorpe resident included in Star Maker.
"I feel honored to be the hometown girl, to be featured in a magazine whose roots originate in Jim Thorpe itself," she said.
She noted that there "are so many opportunities for worldwide exposure in this field, if you want it."
Modeling has always been a dream of Gasker's, even before she began her weight loss journey. She was proud of her body but at more than 350 pounds, felt something holding her back.
"There are girls of all sizes" starring in these photographs, she said, noting that it wouldn't have been unusual for an overweight woman to submit photographs to a retro pin-up magazine.
"I never held myself back from anything, but there was something holding me back from this."
It wasn't until her mother became terminally ill with cancer that Gasker realized her weight wasn't just about vanity. She realized that her health should be a top priority, and that becoming healthier would need to start with losing weight.
Gasker soon resolved to have gastric bypass surgery. She told her mother about her decision, but asked to keep it between the two of them.
Unfortunately, her mother passed away just four months before the surgery.
To qualify for the surgery, Gasker first had to prove that she was serious about losing weight. She underwent evaluations and was asked to begin changing her lifestyle, and to lose a small amount of weight on her own through diet and exercise.
After meeting the hospital's requirements, she underwent gastric bypass surgery on May 5, 2011.
"The process wasn't easy. There are drawbacks," she added recently, one year after the surgery. "But I'm down 200 pounds and I'm very happy," she said, noting that her weight has recently stabilized but she is happy with her current size.
"I never was a little girl, and I have no ambition to be a little girl. I don't have to be a size 8."
Perhaps her only regret during her weight loss journey, and the start of her new hobby, is that her mother is no longer here to share in her joy.
"I wish my mom could see the pictures, and to see me healthy," she said.
Area residents and visitors can now see Gasker's pictures in several local establishments, including Riverwalck in Parryville.
"I tell everyone I know to go and look for my pictures," she says. "I'm tickled pink to be hanging next to Marilyn."
As more friends hear of Gasker's newest hobby, they are also expressing interest in having pin-up pictures done.
"Everyone says that I look so good, but I tell them that they can look good too."
She is already planning her next potential photo shoots, which might include a vintage claw-foot bathtub (ala Marilyn), or a classic "old Hollywood" shoot. Gasker is also considering hosting a pin-up party to take group photos with friends who have expressed interest in the hobby.
"I can't wait to do this again," she added. "Everybody has their own hobby that makes them feel good, and this makes me feel good. I'm healthy and I'm happy. There isn't anything more to it."