For my first celebrity addition to this Wonderful Women Wednesdays feature, there could be nobody better to start with than Audrey Hepburn. She epitomised Loveliness in all she said and did, and it is this legacy that for me almost outshines her style icon status. There's no doubt she forever changed the way women dressed and that her inimitable style continues to inspire women and fashion designers today... But it is the way that she treated people with kindness and respect regardless of their backgrounds or age, the graceful, elegant way in which she lived her life and her ability to alter how women view themselves still to this day that will keep her legacy alive forever.
Audrey Hepburn will of course always be remembered for the famous roles she portrayed in movies that have become timeless classics: From the princess in Roman Holiday, the girl next door in Sabrina, the model in Funny Face and the socialite Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's to my personal favourite, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and many more...
However, to her it was the role of mother to her two sons Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti that she saw as her biggest achievement. It was this role that taught her the biggest lessons and inspired her to become a UNICEF ambassador in later life. She went on to help those children in the greatest of need and worked at changing the world one act of goodness at a time.
Instead of my usual 20 questions, I thought I'd share 20 pieces of wisdom I've learned from Audrey Hepburn over the years. She has been a part of my life for 25 years now and I think it is so lovely that long after her passing she continues to have such a positive effect on people all around the world. She has inspired me to live a better life, to be true to myself, to be grateful for the life I have, to appreciate family above all else, to hold my head up high and to always treat others with kindness... I am extremely grateful for the wonderful movies she has left behind, for all of the many books and articles that have been inspired by her life & style and for her wise words that echo through time, continuing to influence generations of women to come. I for one will always love her! x
20 LESSONS FOR A LOVELY LIFE:
1. Happiness comes from being grateful for the life you have.
"If my world were to cave in tomorrow, I would look back on all the pleasures, excitements and worthwhilenesses I have been lucky enough to have had. Not the sadness, not my miscarriages or my father leaving home, but the joy of everything else. It will have been enough." A.H.
Time and again it has been proven that money can't buy happiness. Like Loveliness, it is not something you can fully define as it means something different to each of us... It is so easy to fall into a pattern of blaming the world for our misfortunes, envying other people what they have or wishing for something more, to always be striving for something better. But I firmly believe that happiness comes from within and is a state of mind that you choose. If you truly appreciate all that you already have and seek out those small beauties and simple pleasures of everyday life, you will be fulfilled. Your life is the whole sum of all your experiences, good and bad. Who knows how long we all have on this earth? By being grateful here and now we are taking responsibility for making this the best possible life we can. And by finding your own happiness, you will spread it wherever you go!
2. Today is the day.
"Pick the day. Enjoy it - to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come..." A.H.
Not every day can be a perfect day, but by taking things for what they are and making the most out of whatever situation presents itself, you will find happiness. Your past doesn't have to define you and your future holds endless possibilities... Whatever will be will be! So enjoy today for what it is, discover what simple pleasures bring you joy and be at peace with yourself. In the end it's the small everyday things that fill up a lifetime so take a walk, smell the flowers, surround yourself with family and loved ones, laugh out loud, read a good book, cook a nice meal, make some jam - whatever feeds your soul and fills you up!
3. Family matters above all else.
"I want to be home with my family. Now, how does that look in print? But I really do! I am quite a simple person... I may not always be offered work, but I'll always have my family... For me there's nothing more pleasant or exciting or lovely or rewarding than seeing my children grow up... and they only grow up once, remember." A.H.
Dear Audrey, I could not agree with you more! The joy I get from watching my daughters, seeing the world through their eyes and witnessing the journey they are on surpasses everything else. I could spend forever at home just being with my family and enjoying the simple joys of everyday life.
"She loved just being home with her family. We'd have dinner in the kitchen and she loved sour apples for dessert. She certainly loved and respected her career, but her family came first..." - Connie Wald, a close friend
4. Treat everyone with kindness.
"I think, in retrospect, it was that Audrey was such a lady herself. You knew she wasn't a real princess, but you still gave her deferential treatment. She had class the average young American girl never had. And, you know, she never changed all her life. All the years that I knew her and worked with her. Wherever she was, in Europe or America, people respected her. I can't think of anybody else that I have worked with that would have such devotion from her friends." - Bob Willoughby, photographer
Audrey was an extremely thoughtful person and treated everyone with kindness, regardless of their age, background or position. She is remembered for having been kind and respectful towards everybody she worked with and came into contact with. Whether a director, photographer, fellow actor, gaffer or anyone she met during her UNICEF years, she treated them all the same and simply spread love wherever she went.... She was openly grateful towards all of the people involved in any of her successes and always said that she was just a product of all their combined talents. Her mother had always taught her to be kind, to be thoughtful, to give love and to be useful, so writing thank you notes, sending thoughtful gifts and helping out wherever she could was just part of her nature. What a lovely way to be!
"She had the rare capacity to listen to people and come up with the right advice, by instinct as much as anything." - Christa Roth, UNICEF
5. You are stronger than you realise.
Audrey to me resembles a pillar of strength and was the living proof that you can indeed get through anything with grace, class and style. She survived Nazi occupation, scraped for years to find food during the war and had to take whatever jobs she could to help support herself and her family. She suffered several miscarriages, had two failed marriages, endured infidelity and struggled with insecurities her whole life... Yet through it all she dreamed of a better life and knew that she could get through anything. She never lost sight of who she was or where she'd come from and regardless of her situation, she always conducted herself with grace and elegance, which earned her the respect of everyone around her. This strength is truly inspiring!
6. Believe in yourself, BE yourself...
"I've never believed in this God-given talent. I adored my work and I did my best... I had experience in working, working hard. Ballet is hard. Discipline. Those were the things I could contribute." A.H.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Audrey never studied acting, never went to drama school and was a complete novice when she first stepped on a sound stage. But she worked through her nerves, acted from the heart and brought the life she'd lived through to her work. She believed in herself and believed that what she had was enough...
"Audrey was so impish and yet so simply beautiful. A lot of other celebrities depended on other things, physically - on their breasts and their shape. She didn't make a big thing of that, and for that reason, I thought she was wonderful. Because you didn't have to be conscious of the physique, you were only conscious of the persona." - Sid Avery, Photographer
"She has lots of flaws that make her Audrey Hepburn. Thick eyebrows, uneven teeth. She doesn't mind if her hair is disheveled or she falls into a pot of soup. She's a real girl." - Franz Planer, Cameraman
7. Insecurity can be overcome.
"As a little girl I had a terrible complex about my big feet - I wear eight and a half - and I'd grown up with ballerinas who were little things. I was always too tall and if I wore white socks, people were going to see what big feet I had, compared to the girls I always admired with pretty little feet and pretty shoulders and a bosom and everything I didn't have." - A.H. filming Funny Face
Like so many women, Audrey thought she was "funny looking". She had body issues and insecurities just like the rest of us which only adds to her charm. She was always surprised and genuinely grateful for the compliments she received and never understood the fascination people had with her. But she learned to accept herself, love herself, make the most of her particular features and in so doing inspired women all around the world to do the same. Almost every woman I know struggles in some way with feelings of insecurity or inadequacy - Audrey serves as a great reminder to us all that we are in fact enough, exactly the way we are.
8. Seize opportunities when they present themselves.
"This is how I got into movies: not because I thought it was so wonderful to be in one and, gosh, here's my dream coming true, but because I needed money to live. And so when another opportunity was offered to me, I took it. Gratefully." A.H.
Audrey's somewhat fairytale life seemed to be a series of perfect opportunities seized... Of being at the right place at the right time, with the proper attitude. She proved that hard work and perseverance pay off if you are open to new things. Her mother encouraged her to "Just get on with with it!" and she did. She didn't set out to become a movie star, in fact all she ever wanted to be as a young woman was a ballet dancer. But she took opportunities as they came and the rest is history. If you are open to things, luck will find you!
9. Believe in Fairytales.
While I've decided that "Happily Ever After" is a myth, Audrey Hepburn - through her movie roles and her life - has always inspired me to keep believing in Fairytales, to believe that anyone is capable of transforming themselves and their life... To have faith that anything is possible and nothing is final, that times of misfortune and sadness come to an end and that there is always something wonderful just around the corner.
In the same way as many of the characters she played went through fairytale like transformations, Audrey's life too was a fairytale. She'd gone from rags to riches, from famished to famous and so she understood the way the characters she played felt, the uncertainty they had, and the hope and yearning for beauty that burned within them. This was the story of her life and so she played them effortlessly.
10. Good manners will get you a long way.
"Audrey was known for something which has disappeared, and that is elegance, grace and manners... God kissed her on the cheek, and there she was." - Billy Wilder
"Audrey, like Hubert [Givenchy], behaved so well at every moment of life" - Dreda Mele, former Givenchy directrice
"We were about the same age and she was just charming, with beautiful manners. But we were all brought up like that then, we had to be. We were raised that way, it was a different milieu, when graciousness and manners mattered." - Polly Mellen
Audrey was living proof that good manners will get you a very long way. Just like her mother did, both of our mothers taught us the same thing and we are in turn trying to pass on this vitally important lesson to our two girls. Regardless of where you find yourself or who you are with, good manners will always keep you one step ahead.
11. Eat well, live well and never stop learning.
"My life isn't theories and formulae. It's part instinct, part common sense. Logic is as good a word as any, and I've absorbed what logic I have from everything and everyone... From my mother, from training as a ballet dancer, from Vogue magazine, from the laws of life and health and nature." A.H.
Eat Well... Audrey always looked after herself, ate well and led a healthy, disciplined life which gave her great energy and no doubt added to her beauty. After struggling to find food for years during the war and then making herself sick by binge eating afterwards, she was forever changed about the way she viewed food. She appreciated what she ate and loved food (cooking as well as eating), but had what she called an in-built shut off valve so she just knew when she'd had enough.
Live Well... She much preferred her life in the country to the times she spent in cities and loved being outdoors. She went to bed early, surrounded herself with people and things that she loved, laughed a lot and didn't take life too seriously. She knew what was good for her but also knew the importance of allowing yourself a treat now and then!
"You have to be as relaxed as possible about food and fitness and the rest of it, or you'll be a slave to your beauty habits... You may have great skin, but you'll be a robot... I love to walk, so I do get lots of air... lots and lots of oxygen. And I sleep marvellously well... I'm very relaxed and unmethodical about myself. I do what I have to do and let it go at that." - A.H.
"She always followed the program and her life was very continuous. She tried to get up and eat and take her walks and go to sleep at the same hour." - Sean Ferrer, Son
And never stop learning... Audrey was fluent in five languages - English, Dutch, French, Spanish & Italian - which stood her in great stead through both stages of her life. She went through life with her eyes, heart and mind wide open and never stopped learning. We are never too old to learn new things, to improve ourselves, to grow as human beings... We live in such an amazing time with endless learning opportunities right at our fingertips, so open your eyes and take it all in!
12. Style is a personal journey - Know who you are and who you are not.
"You see people imitating her, and they are Audrey Hepburn clones - it becomes laughable because they are trying too hard. Imitation is not what she would have wanted. She would have wanted women to develop their own style. She just happened to have a propensity of style." - Pamela Fiori, Town & Country magazine
Audrey's exceptional sense of style stemmed from the fact that she knew exactly who she was, what her assets and flaws were and how to make the most of what she had. She knew what suited her and what didn't work. She was always very specific about what she would and wouldn't wear and it is this self confidence and self awareness that defined her style - a style that would become an adjective in itself, so Audrey! She didn't see herself as an icon, she just did her own thing and it worked beautifully. When talking about individual style, she said: "When you have found it, you should stick to it."
13. Less is more.
"I prefer an unmade-up look, simply because it is better for me." - A.H.
Audrey was very restraint in what she bought, what she would wear and always chose minimal make up when not working. She came from the European school of quality over quantity and so chose her outfits and accessories very carefully. Her longterm partner Rob Wolders said that "she felt strongly that elegance is in simplicity, not in opulence or sumptuousness." In terms of the way she conducted herself, she also believed that subtlety was far more preferable and attractive than outright obvious sex appeal. A lot of today's generation could learn a lot from the wise Audrey!
"Sex appeal is something that you feel deep down inside. It's suggested rather than shown. I'm not as well stacked as Sophia Loren, but 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 appeal fully clothed, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain." - A.H.
"I would look at some of the other stars like Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe, and I would think - there's just no way, I could never be like them. That was a man's idea of beauty, and Audrey was more like a woman's idea of beauty. It was something that was attainable, that I could identify with." - Cynthia Rowley
14. Do what you can with what you have.
"I'm the sort of person who has done the best with what I've had." - A.H.
This particular phrase seems to be the thread that has woven its way through my life, something my own mother taught me so well and always lived by. Remembering Audrey and thinking about her life just reminds me to persevere when I might be struggling... Even when she had nothing, she had courage, she had strength, she had resilience, she had dreams. She refused to be broken and endured the hardships and heartaches that permeated her life with dignity and grace. She chose to live her life with joy despite everything that was thrown at her and used the talents she had to do whatever she could... which ultimately opened up the doors to a wonderful life.
During her film career she often felt very nervous as she lacked training, but by making sure the costumes were perfect - by using what was available - she said she found it much easier to step into whatever role she was playing. "Clothes, like they say, make the man, but in my case, they also gave me the confidence I often needed."
Later in her life, she once again decided to make the most of what she had to do something meaningful. She used her name and celebrity status to make a difference in the world working with UNICEF. She said: "Fame creates a certain curiosity. I'm using that curiosity for the children."
15. Your Home is your Haven.
"As you get older, it's nice to feel you belong somewhere - having lived a rather circus life." - A.H.
Audrey found her true calling when she discovered the house that was to become her home for the rest of her life, La Paisible in Switzerland. It was her happy place, her haven and where she was more at peace than anywhere else.
"It's everything I long for. All my life, what I wanted to earn money for was to have a house of my own. I dreamed of having a house in the country with a garden and fruit trees. I've lived in Switzerland for more than half my life. I love it. I love the country. I love our little town. The shops. I love going to the open market twice a week with all the fruit and vegetables and flowers. There is no place in the world where I feel so much at peace. It's my private stomping ground." - A.H.
She decorated for herself, using all the things that made her happy. It was a house filled with love, laughter, sunlight, happy colours and treasured memories she'd collected throughout her life... She loved cooking, gardening, having friends over for dinner and nothing made her happier than being surrounded by her family at home.
"You go back, you search for what made you happy when you were smaller. We are all grown-up children really... So one should go back and search for what was loved and found to be real... It's the flowers you choose, the music you play, the smile you have waiting. I want it to be gay and cheerful, a haven in this troubled world. What I always wanted, what I still want, is to create a warm and loving atmosphere for those I care about - my family and friends." - A.H.
My thoughts exactly Audrey on what a home should be and what I inspire to create wherever we find ourselves living... Decorate for yourself and fill your home with the things that make you happy. Styles and trends come and go but there is no substitute for a home that is a true reflection of your own personality, a place that you truly love coming back to at the end of the day.
"I cannot look back on a movie with the nostalgia I would have for a house where I have lived and been happy or sad, or a place I have been with my child... Those are the things that effect me emotionally." - A.H.
16. Appreciate and enjoy nature.
"The more there is, the less I want. The more man flies to the moon, the more I want to look at a tree." - A.H.
"I'm not a city person... I'm very bored by cement. I always wanted the countryside." - A.H.
I feel exactly the same was as Audrey about cities and the countryside. I love being surrounded by nature, watching the seasons come and go, picking flower and fruits, lying on the grass with the children and just breathing the clean air. Being outdoors surrounded by all that life makes you appreciate your own more and instills a sense of peace and tranquillity. Growing your own garden is also great for learning the art of patience and acceptance... Everything takes time but is unfolding exactly as it should.
"I'm grateful for everything that's green. When I didn't have a dime, I held to the dream of one day having my own orchard with fruit trees and a place to grow vegetables." - A.H.
17. Friends are the family we choose.
There is nothing better than a great friend that will lift you up and make you laugh, even when you perhaps feel like crying. Appreciate these friends and make sure they are a regular feature in your life. Audrey knew the value of great friendship and cherished the family she'd chosen for herself till the day she died.
In 1953 when she was cast as Sabrina, she met the man with whom she would have her most famous friendship of all, Hubert de Givenchy. They came from a very similar background, had similar personality types, were both intelligent, organised, dedicated to hard work, disciplined and posessed exceptional manners. Of him she said: "There are few people I love more than Hubert [Givenchy]. He is the single person I know with greatest integrity."
"Audrey was always very definite in her taste and look. She came to him because she was attracted by the image he could give her. And she entered that dream totally. She entered into his dream too. They were made for each other." - Dreda Mele
To her friend Ralph Lauren she said: "You conjure up all the things I most care about. The country, misty mornings, summer afternoons, great open spaces, horses, cornfields, vegetable gardens, fireplaces, and Jack Russell terriers. As a man, I respect your total lack of pretension."
Gregory Peck always considered Audrey's sense of humour one of her greatest assets:
"Most people think of Audrey as regal. I like to think of her as spunky... She was a cutup, she was a clown. I think that would surprise people who didn't know her. She could always make me laugh between scenes."
18. Growing old gracefully is a thing of beauty.
Many people would agree that Audrey Hepburn was at her most luminous and beautiful stage in her later years whilst working as a humanitarian. Far from the glamour of Hollywood, she dressed simply, travelled light and avoided much make up. She was growing old gracefully and her beauty shone through from her caring heart more than ever. As she so eloquently put it:
"You know, one would love to be younger, to have more time. Yet, there's a big advantage in being older... It's an excuse in a way to get rid of a lot of the tension you have when you are young... If I were twenty years old, I doubt I'd be able to say that so serenely since I'd have to get out and prove things to myself, make a living and still see the world. I couldn't just relax under my apple tree in Switzerland." - A.H.
When she died, an editorial in the New York Times summed her up beautifully:
"Nearly forty years later Audrey Hepburn's face was that of someone who'd squinted into the sun, laughed a few laughs, shed a few tears. The forehead showed some wrinkles, the eyes showed some more, and the strong jawline was softening around the edges. As unwilling to fake youth as she'd been to fake voluptuousness, she looked like the 63-year-old woman she was. Which is to say, better than any 63-year-old woman who's pretending she isn't. Would that she were going to be around longer, to teach us all how to grow old."
19. We can all do something to make a difference.
"The question I am most frequently asked is 'What do you really do for UNICEF?' To fully understand the problems of the world's children, it would be nice to be an expert on education, economics, politics, religions, traditions and cultures. I am none of these things, but I am a mother... Children are our most vital resource, our hope for the future. Until they can be assured of not only physically surviving the first fragile years of life, but are free of emotional, social and physical abuse, it is impossible to envisage a world that is free of tension and violence. But it is up to us to make it possible." - A.H
For the last five years of her life Audrey worked as a UNICEF ambassador, using her status to highlight some of the problems in the world. She had been a UNICEF recipient when relief came to Holland after the war and so she was keen to give back to the organisation as well as help children in any way she could. She travelled to the poorest war-torn countries on fifty humanitarian trips in those five years, putting herself in dangerous circumstances with no concern for her own safety in order to visit the children. She rolled up her sleeves, showed she cared and made an amazing difference in the world.
"Since the world has existed, there has been injustice. But it is one world, the more so as it becomes smaller, more accessible. There is just no question that there is more obligation that those who have should give to those who have nothing." - A.H.
"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." - A.H.
20. Be remembered for how you make people feel.
Having appeared on uncountable magazine covers and at the top of various polls over the years, there is no doubt that Audrey will forever be remembered by people all around the world. But it is the effect that she had on people that is inspiring and proves that it is how you treat people that makes all the difference. Perhaps it is those that worked with her, knew her best and were most touched by her life that best qualify to summarise how she made them feel...
"Audrey had a angelic quality about her. She didn't act like she was better than everyone, she just had a presence, an energy, a sort of light coming from within her that was overwhelming." - Kevin Aucoin
"She was the dearest soul I ever met or worked with. She has that quality of 'recognizing' you even when meeting you for the first time. She looked at you in those first seconds with a delicious surprise - as if, 'My dearest friend, you've suddenly appeared, how wonderful to see you again!' She made you feel there was some special secret you shared with her, some beautiful melody playing that perhaps the two of you could hear." - Michael Tilson Thomas
"She is a marvellous, lovely, and charming lady! Yes, she's wonderful!" - Albert Finney
"She was the best that we could possibly be; she was perfectly charming and perfectly loving. She was a dream. And she was the kind of dream that you remember when you wake up smiling." - Richard Dreyfuss
"She believed love could heal, fix, mend, and make everything fine and good in the end. I still carry her every day in my heart, she is still my best friend." - Sean Ferrer, Son
"What I have come to realize is that the memory of Audrey is with us today, as it will remain with us, not because she died but because she lived a life too short, that was distinguished by its humanity, long enough to leave us a message of hope, trust, with love... If there is anything she would have wished for, it is that her work be continued." - Robert Wolders, partner & soulmate
Dear Audrey, I thank you for these lessons!
Love Holly x