Breakfast with Audrey

7 Feb

There is a distinct possibility that I love Audrey Hepburn more than you. There, I said it. It’s the truth. I have had a still from Breakfast at Tiffany’s in my room since I started decorating my own room. She had to go away for a few medieval years, also known as a previous marriage, but she is back and there to stay. I don’t know what it is about her. Wait, yes I do: the haircut, the tiny waist, the elf-like, adorably shaped face, the big eyes, and of course, every woman’s envy, the eyebrows. She is the only one I know who can pull off the short bangs too. Well, her and Rooney Mara.

Her petite frame inspired fashion designers including Givenchy to model their collections after her. Salvatore Ferragamo created a shoe for designed his 1999 collection after her namesake. Her “little black dress” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s was sold for just under one million dollars at Christies in 2006. Famed, fashion photographer Richard Avedon attributes some of his success to being able to capture her face in his portrait of the star, saying ‘I am, and forever will be, devastated by the gift of Audrey Hepburn before my camera. I cannot lift her to greater heights. She is already there. I can only record…’. These are just a few examples the reverence the fashion world has for the amazing star.

Born in Brussels in 1929 to a British born father, thought to be a descendant of James Hepburn, third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and a Dutch aristocrat, Baroness Ella van Heemstra. She was NOT the daughter of famed American actress Katharine Hepburn, although some still speculate that they were distantly related as 19th cousins, once removed. Audrey traveled between England, Belgium, and the Netherlands most of her childhood, and spoke fluently in each country’s native language. During her adolescence she moved to the Netherlands after her parents divorce, hoping to avoid the impending World War II invasions. If you ever paid attention in History class, but just in case you didn’t, Germany did invade and occupy the Netherlands. Hepburn’s family was forced to be split up, one of her brothers sent to a labor camp, while she suffered many difficulties during wartime. She struggled with malnutrition, respiratory problems, and anemia. Her health issues from the war would later affect her dreams of becoming a prima ballerina.

Having irreparable damage done to her body through wartime struggles, she decided to pursue modeling as a career choice, while also taking jobs in musical theatre as a chorus girl. A Paramount Pictures scout discovered her one day while performing on stage and offered her some small roles in a handful of pictures. Her first major role came in 1952 in Thorold Dickinson’s “The Secret People” , in which she ironically played a ballerina, and because of her previous experience, she performed all her own dance numbers.

It wasn’t until meeting Gregory Peck and filming Roman Holiday that she gained recognition, even winning an Oscar for the role. She became a Hollywood favorite, and quickly rose to stardom. Her role as a bookstore clerk turned model in Funny Face still makes me laugh to this day. And who could forget her Cockney accent in the musical My Fair Lady, still my favorite musical of all time. Her curious and trusting personality as Regina Lampert in Charade, and the entitled attitude she gave to Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a role originally intended for Marilyn Monroe. No offense to Marilyn, but I couldn’t see the role played ANY other way than the way Audrey brought the emotion to the screen. You definitely didn’t want to be her, but you knew her all too well.

Through her fame she began work with UNICEF and The Red Cross, dedicating her life to helping and supporting those in need, as inspired by the struggles she faced during WWII. After a trip to Somalia in 1992, Hepburn began to complain of stomach pains. After medical care in Switzerland proved to be inconclusive, she traveled back to Los Angeles where they found her to have a rare form of abdomen cancer, having spread from her appendix. Hepburn underwent several surgeries to try to remove the cancer, as well as chemotherapy but to no avail. Her family decided to have her travel back to Switzerland to spend her last Christmas with family and friends. Unable to travel on a commercial flight because of her condition, Hubert de Givenchy arranged for Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon to send her private jet to accompany Ms. Hepburn. The plane was filled with flowers that carried her home to Geneva. She died on January 20, 1993, in her sleep in her home in Tolochenaz, Vaud, Switzerland. Gregory Peck tearfully recited a poem on camera titled “ Unending Love” after her death was announced to the world. I was 12 years old when Audrey Hepburn left this world. I still remember the day and how sad it made me feel, even at a young age.

Audrey’s legacy definitely lives on, almost 20 years after her passing. She was inducted into the American Film Institute as the third Greatest Female Stars of All Time. Her famous, “funny” face still appears in television commercials, including a Gap ad in 2006. “Shirley Maclaine, wrote in her 1996 memoir My Lucky Stars, ‘[Hepburn] had very rare qualities and I envied her style and taste. I felt clumsy and old fashioned when I was with her,’ “. Funnier still is the fact that she prefered comfier clothes, as opposed to the image most people had of her as a fashionista. I have a feeling that even in her “comfy clothes” she looked ready for a runway. Oh Audrey, how I adore you still! You still inspire us daily, Ms. Hepburn.


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