Audrey Hepburn, who would celebrate her 85th birthday today, is still considered to be the personification of fragile beauty and timeless elegance. She once said that the beauty of women is not in what she is wearing or what kind of hairstyle she has, but the true beauty shines from her eyes. Although she had an incredibly successful career, Audrey is now primarily known as a style icon, especially in Givenchy creations. In her rich career, Hepburn won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award. In the second half of her life, the actress was wholeheartedly devoted to humanitarian work.
Audrey Kathleen Ruston was born on May 4, 1929 in Belgium to a Dutch Baroness Ella Van Heemstra and an Anglo-Irish banker Joseph Victor Ruston. Her childhood was happy and carefree, until her father abandoned the family when Audrey was 5 years old. In order to provide Audrey the opportunity for a good education, she and her mother moved to London, where Hepburn attended a private school. When Hitler began his conquering expeditions, Audrey and her mother returned to the Netherlands, where they survived the horrors of World War II. The Nazis soon occupied the Netherlands, and many of Audrey’s relatives ended up in concentration camps. Hepburn’s mother wanted her daughter’s name to sound less English than Audrey, so she changed it to Edda. This was not the only time that Audrey changed her personal information. When her father discovered that his ancestors had the surname Hepburn, he and his daughter both started using it.
During the World War II, Audrey actively participated in the resistance movement, illegal ballet performances and she also helped the wounded soldiers. At that time, Hepburn was only 16 years old and she ate the tulips in order to survive. When the long-awaited end of the war finally came, there was plenty of food and Audrey gained a few kilograms. At that time, the actress vowed to herself that she will never have more than 46 kilograms (except in pregnancy). She has kept her promise until the day she died. When the war ended, Audrey returned to the ballet school in London, which she adored, although she was aware of the fact that she is too high to become a prima ballerina. Therefore, Hepburn focused on modeling, which has led to her first acting ordeal. Ground-breaking was the one from 1951, when she won a small role in the Monte Carlo Baby movie.
On the set of the Monte Carlo Baby movie, skinny Audrey was noticed by Collette, an author of a book Gigi. Collette has seen the title heroine of her book in Audrey and after a long persuasion, Hepburn agreed to a challenge on a Broadway stage. The reviews of the performance were not so good, but director William Wyler recognized Audrey’s talent and offered her a role in the Roman Holiday movie. For the interpretation of Princess Ann, the actress received a lot of praise, but she got further recognition, when she received an Academy Award for the Best Actress in 1954.
At Gregory Peck’s party, Audrey met Mel Ferrer. An actor and a father of four children, fell in love with 12 years younger Audrey and immediately demanded a separation from his wife. The love between the two of them did not last, because Audrey had a short love affair with an actor William Holden, who she met during the movie Sabrina. Thanks to this contemporary story of Cinderella, the actress found a new love – fashion. Hepburn knitted a friendship with a young designer Hubert de Givenchy; she became his muse, cooperated with him in most of her movies and wore his creations in a private life. After she ended her short relationship with Holden, Audrey once again converged with Mel Ferrer, with whom she also got married. Three years after the wedding, they were joined by a new family member, son Sean. “I was born with a great desire for attention. Already as a child, I wanted to have many children. It’s definitely nice to experience that at the age of 18, but after waiting for several years, happiness is indescribable,” said Audrey, who experienced several miscarriages before she gave birth to a son.
Only three months after she gave birth to Sean, she was offered with the role in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, where Audrey again confirmed her status of a fashion icon. “My appearance is accessible to everyone. With hair tied in a bun, big sunglasses and black dress, every woman can look like me,” Hepburn commented on the fact that she was being recognized as a personification of timeless elegance and adored by both men and women. Audrey’s great success as an actress had a bad influence on her marriage, as people eventually called Mel in order to reach Audrey and not because they wanted to offer him a role. Soon, the actress filed papers for divorce and moved back to Europe with her son.
On a cruise around the Greek islands, Hepburn met a Roman psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, who immediately charmed her. Just a few days later, she called Givenchy and informed him that she was in love and happy again. The designer did not waste any time and he immediately started creating a wedding dress, which the actress then wore on her wedding day, only six weeks after she separated from Ferrer. In 1970, the couple welcomed a baby boy Luca. While the actress completely devoted herself to the family and has departed from the world of film, Andrea preferred partying. Their marriage lasted until 1982, when the actress filed a divorce request due to cheating. Although Audrey filmed just a few movies during the marriage, she was not unemployed. She became a UNICEF ambassador and was devoted to humanitarian work for the rest of her life.
Audrey finally found her soul mate in Dutch player Robert Wolders. They both fell in love quickly, but although they lived together until the actress died, they never got married. After two failed marriages, Hepburn did not want to get married again. The actress died quickly and unexpectedly. After traveling to Somalia, she went to the doctor because of stomach problems. Specialists in Los Angeles have discovered that Audrey has a stomach cancer that has already spread to the other digestive organs. Hepburn was so weak, that the doctors prohibited her to travel to Switzerland, where she spent the last 20 years. As soon as the actress’s great friend Givenchy heard the news, he sent his plane, which took Audrey home, where she spent the last Christmas with her family. Audrey Hepburn died on January 20, 1993 and even today, she remains a true personification of timeless elegance.
By Janette Verdnik