Audrey Hepburn, my idol.
I know it’s always been rather fashionable to cite Ms. Hepburn as an inspiration. There are many girls with Breakfast at Tiffany’s posters adorning their walls when in truth, most of these girls haven’t ever seen an Audrey film. They admire her for her face and the iconic status she carries.
Now, I’m not judging, it’s just that there’s so much more to Audrey that makes her a fantastic role model.
So I’d like to write a little post on my favourite lady. I hope you like it, feel inspired and perhaps learn something new.
Audrey has topped the “Most Beautiful Woman in the World” list so many times that it’s fair to say her good looks will be a talking point for many more decades to come. But when Audrey became famous in the early fifties, she represented a total change in the standards of beauty. Back then, fashion was based around overtly sexy women with curves and a pout to match (think Marilyn Monroe). Audrey was totally different, with her gamine waif-like figure and elfin features. Even today people mimic Audrey’s thick brows and catwing eyeliner – her large doe eyes and broad grin decorating everything from boxes to pillows. Funnily enough, she never considered herself to be beautiful – although she did concede she “made an effort”. She thought she was too thin, with big feet and a big nose. I think this is a lesson to us all to see the beauty we have, rather than criticising what we feel are our “bad features”.
But it’s not just the face- Audrey’s gone down in history for her fantastic sense of style. In a rare interview Audrey modestly described her style as ‘obtainable’, saying “girls can look like ‘Audrey Hepburn’ by cutting off their hair, by buying the large glasses and getting sleeveless dresses. I created a look“. The interview is actually here, if I’ve entranced you to hear more from Audrey.
Audrey didn’t fall for trends, she wore what suited her. In doing so, she created a timeless style and had pieces of clothing she became famous for: the little black dress, black capri pants, a crisp white blouse, a belted trench coat, ballerina flats and oversized sunglasses. Have you noticed, these items are always in?
There are genuinely whole books on this topic, so I’ll keep it short and sweet and add in a few pictures!
Audrey was born in Brussels to a wealthy family, her father an English banker and her mother a Dutch Baroness, but her childhood was less than perfect. Her father left the family when Audrey young and much of her childhood and adolescence was spent in Nazi occupied Holland where she suffered illness, malnutrition and depression. These early experiences sparked her commitment to UNICEF, a humanitarian charity she supported for much of her life. UNICEF appointed Audrey as a Goodwill Ambassador near the end of her life and she was able to visit countries like Ethiopia, Turkey, Vietnam and Somalia to deliver immunisations, clean water programmes and food. I love this quote from Audrey:
“The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world.”
And this quote from John Isaac, a UN photographer, says it all:
“Often the kids would have flies all over them, but she would just go hug them. I had never seen that. Other people had a certain amount of hesitation, but she would just grab them.”
The Acting Career
Audrey always remained very modest about her acting career. Ranked as the 3rd Greatest Female Screen Legend, she also won an Oscar, an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Tony, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and 3 BAFTAs. That’s an awful lot to be modest about. Her acting skills, childlike charm and expressive nature impressed and enchanted directors, co-stars and audiences alike.
Audrey always had star quality. Her first starring role was in Roman Holiday (1953), which was set to have co-star Gregory Peck’s name above with title, with “Introducing Audrey Hepburn” beneath in smaller font. However, Peck insisted her name also appear in large type before the title, claiming “You’ve got to change that because she’ll be a big star and I’ll look like a big jerk.”
Greg Peck knows his stuff. Just for the record – he’s my very favourite of Audrey’s leading men and Roman Holiday is my favourite Audrey movie.
I’ve only ever heard good things about Audrey’s personality. We all know Audrey to be synonymous with grace, elegance, courtesy and kindness. People who knew her always referred to her charming and loving nature. What can I say here that isn’t evidenced in the other categories? Her personality translated onto the big screen, it helped shape her quirky appearance and style and it greatly influenced her humanitarian work.
Audrey’s zest for life has given way to some pretty fantastic quotes – they are really worth a Google. I’ve included some of my favourites here…
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone”
“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present – and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.”
And a personal favourite… “Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.”
So you see, external beauty wasn’t as important to Audrey as inner beauty. That in mind, I’m sure she’d be flattered that today she is still a beauty and style icon, but would much rather we remembered and imitated her many charitable acts. We can all learn something from Audrey; to be a little kinder, enjoy life a little more and to never be afraid to express ourselves.