Audrey Hepburn, who was born as Audrey Kathleen Ruston on 4 May 1929 and died on 20 January 1993, was a British actress, humanitarian and fashion icon.
She was ranked by the American Film Institute as the third greatest female screen legend in the history of American Cinema and has been placed in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
She studied ballet in Amsterdam with Sonia Gaskell before moving to London in 1948 to continue her ballet training with Maria Rambert and perfom in West End musical theatre productions.
After played in several British films, Audrey played the Academy Award-winning lead role in Roman Holiday (1953). She also played in successful films like Sabrina (1954), The Nun’s Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964) and Wait Until Dark (1967), for which she received Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. For her role in Roman Holiday, Audrey was also the first actress to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for a single performance in 1954. The same year, she accrued a Tony Award for Best Actress in the Broadway play Ondine. She remains one of few people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards. Audrey won a record three BAFTA Awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role.
She was appointed Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF. Then George Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work for UNICEF, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity, with her son accepting on her behalf.
Audrey became a fashion icon in 1961 but this has continued long since her death, proved by tittles like “most beautiful woman of all time” and “most beautiful woman of the 20th century”. Despite being far from the Hollywood preference actresses like Marilyn Monroe, she was very feminine by her grace, huge eyes and long legs.
Audrey redefined glamour with “elfin” features and a gamine waif-like figure that inspired designers like Givenchy who is credited for creating her style. He started to design her dresses since the film “Sabrina”. Since then their collaboration formed a lifelong friendship and partnership; she was often a muse for many of his designs and her style became renowned internationally. The black dress of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was designed by him.
She also inspired fashion photographer Richard Avedon, who captured an intentionally overexposed of Audrey’s face. Avedon said: “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. I cannot interpret her. There is no going further than who she is. She has achieved in herself her ultimate portrait”. Also Shirley Maclaine, one of her costars, wrote in her memoir My Lucky Stars: “She had very rare qualities and I envied her style and taste. I felt clumsy and old fashioned when I was with her.”
Salvatore Ferragamo created a shoe for her and made her ambassador of his fashion house in a 1999 exhibition dedicated to her, titled “Audrey Hepburn, a woman, the style”. Fashion experts affirmed that Audrey’s longevity as a style icon results from her “clean lines, simple yet bold accessories, minimalist palette”.
Although Hepburn enjoyed fashion, she did not place much importance on it, preferring casual and comfortable clothes. She never considered herself attractive, she also said once in an interview: “you can even say that I hated myself at certain periods. I was too fat, or maybe too tall, or maybe just plain too ugly… you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I couldn’t conquer these feelings by acting indecisive. I found the only way to get the better of them was by adopting a forceful, concentrated drive.”
Audrey died on the evening of 20 January 1993 at home in her sleep of appendiceal cancer.