Tue, 2 Oct, 2018Over60

15 facts you never knew about Audrey Hepburn

15 facts you never knew about Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn is a legend, and it’s not hard to understand why. Just think of that exquisite neck, those impossibly high cheekbones, the overall elfish persona and charismatic enthusiasm, not to mention her incredible intellect and compassion. While we could stand around all day touting the tremendous talent of this actor/dancer/humanitarian (now that’s a triple threat!), we’ll content ourselves with 15 of the most obvious reasons we still love Audrey Hepburn.

1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Hepburn’s portrayal of Holly Golightly not only catapulted her to icon status, it also spurned a fashion trend that has yet to go out of style – and likely never will. The little black dress (or LBD, if you will) is a wardrobe staple for scores of women across the globe. More than 50 years after the film first captivated audiences, the image of Holly gazing through the Fifth Avenue Tiffany & Co. store windows – with THAT Givenchy dress swathed over her slight frame – is still recreated and adored. In fact, the original dress sold for a whopping $923,187 at Christie’s in 2006!

2. Dancing prowess

First tapping her teenage toes during the Dutch Resistance in a bid to raise money for the cause, Audrey was taken with the art form from a young age. She took ballet lessons, taught dance and portrayed Gigi in a stage version of Colette, among just a few of her early accomplishments. Audrey’s most memorable performance, however, came when she starred as Jo Stockton in Funny Face (1957) and floored audiences with her wacky beatnik dance.

3. Turbulent childhood

With an English banker as a father and a Dutch baroness as a mother, it seemed inevitable that Audrey would enjoy a charmed early life, but things weren’t quite as they seemed. Her parents split prior to WWII and Audrey’s mother carted her to the Netherlands in an attempt to avoid the conflict. Before long, though, the war made its way to Holland where German occupation began. Despite having been schooled in England and speaking fluent English, Audrey was forced to take on the Dutch alias of Edda van Heemstra. As Edda, she even acted as a courier and secret messenger for the Dutch Resistance.

4. Multilinguistic

More than just a pretty face, superb actress and accomplished dancer, Hepburn also spoke a handful of languages, including English (of course), Italian, French, Spanish and Dutch/Flemish.

5. A great survivor

Malnutrition, anaemia and respiratory problems are just a few hurdles Audrey Hepburn was forced to overcome during the Second World War. The result of food shortages and rationing, some reports suggest she even ate tulip bulbs and attempted to make bread from grass during her years in the Netherlands. She also struggled to cope with the capture and imprisonment of her brother in a Nazi labour camp.

6. Hollywood immortal

On February 8, 1960, Audrey Hepburn was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Located at 1652 Vine Street, the small patch of pavement is transformed into a shrine on the anniversary of her death every year (January 20), proving just how strong her legacy is, and how many people love her still.

7. Ageing gracefully

Never one to favour nips and tucks, Audrey Hepburn aged with a grace we can all aspire to. Hepburn once said: “The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.”

8. Animal lover

Audrey Hepburn had a particular fondness for animals, and this bond was evident in the 1959 film, Green Mansions. A pet deer named Pip and a dog named Famous were just two of the furry friends Audrey adopted over the years, and she was staunch in her support of animal rights. 

9. She attended the coolest parties

The now infamous Rothschild soiree – the Surrealist Ball – was held in France in 1972, and ranks as the most extravagant, ridiculous party we wished we’d been invited to. This photograph was taken by Cecil Beaton and reveals a costume inspired by Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s famous birdcages. Other prestigious invitees included artist Salvador Dali, supermodel Marisa Berenson and Baron Alexis de Redé.

10. Muse

The one and only Givenchy called Audrey his muse, and as the daughter of a baroness, she seemed almost born to inspire in a slightly regal sense. Her classic brand of femininity will always be on-trend, and she continues to inspire artists today. Indeed, her likeness has been recreated countless times in modern adverts and she will always be a go-to favourite for costume parties. Who wouldn't be inspired by that face?

11. Her work with UNICEF

From 1988 until her death in 1993, Audrey Hepburn held the position as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. So powerful was her desire to help children in need, she crusaded to the very end, even while battling cancer. “Taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicization of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanization of politics,” she said.

12. Fearless nature

Not afraid to tackle difficult roles and subject matter, her performance in the controversial 1961 feature film, The Children’s Hour, revealed Hepburn’s ability to embody any character thrown her way. Weaving the tale of two best friends, Karen Wright (Hepburn) and Martha Dobie (Shirley MacLaine), the movie is a complex story of love and friendship in the face of discrimination and accusations.

13. Women’s advocate

Never shy to voice her opinions on women’s issues, Hepburn coined a number of memorable phrases. “There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.” Another of her finest: “The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair … True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” 

14. A great role model

Unlike modern movie stars and pop singers, Audrey Hepburn is a role model you wouldn't mind your daughters looking up to. With great talent and supreme intellect, she was articulation personified. “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.”

15. Charming chameleon

With immense talent resting on her narrow shoulders, Audrey Hepburn was spectacular at inhabiting characters of all varieties. Each portrayal was genuine and some of her finest work can be seen in Sabrina (1954), Roman Holiday (1953), My Fair Lady (1964), Paris When It Sizzles (1964) and so many more. 

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