The word that gets thrown around altogether too much these days is “icon.” Everyone is an icon, it seems, or is trying to be one. When I see the tabloid headlines admonishing celebrities for gaining weight or divorcing or communicating with Elvis, it makes me shake my head and wonder what happened to our world. I’m not one of those people who think our culture is going straight down the tubes, but every so often I flip through magazines and find myself shutting them. My inspiration comes from a true icon, someone whose face has begun to grace the covers of tacky polyester tote bags, but it seems the people who carry this bag have no idea why her face is there.
I am, like so many girls my age, inspired by Audrey Hepburn. It started when I was very young and saw “Sabrina,” but it has more to do with just her movies, of course. Lately it seems that everyone I talk to is absolutely in love with her and they show this by spending lots of money on the t-shirts, bags, belt buckles, posters and such with her face on it that have begun to pop up everywhere. This may have something to do with the popular book series, “Gossip Girl.” I love these books, as a matter of fact, partly because the lead character seems to feel exactly what I feel about Audrey. The glamorous lead of Blair cuts her hair short to be like Audrey, writes her Yale admissions essay about Audrey, and lives her life according to Audrey. The books have handled Blair’s obsession and her reasons for obsession very well; I say this because they’re just like mine. Blair watches her movies, admires her taste in clothes, and tries (usually failing) to handle all situations like Audrey would. However, since the books’ release, I have seen more and more girls claim to love Audrey Hepburn (I had one girl say “Because she wore such beautiful clothes in ‘Gone with the Wind’,” when I asked her why she liked Audrey) but who know less and less about her; they simply idolize Blair from the books. Because of the young infatuation that I still have, I feel almost as though Audrey belongs to me, and therefore get upset when I see her face on purses and on MSN picture boxes.
Sometimes I want to grab the person carrying the bag and demand, “Name five of her movies, NOW,” just to prove that they can’t do it. I know that may sound pretentious ? just because I can name five of her movies (more than five, and in chronological order?but that’s besides the point) and they can’t doesn’t mean I’m entitled to tell them how to accessorize. It’s just that if they knew anything about Audrey Hepburn, they wouldn’t wear her face on their sleeve so to speak. They would understand the proper way to admire someone, because Audrey was proper with everything.
Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston was born May 4, 1929 in Belgium, and grew up in London. She was vacationing in Holland when Hitler’s armies occupied the Netherlands; during the war, she suffered from depression and malnutrition, admitting that she had to eat tulip bulbs and bake grass into bread to survive. After the war, she attended ballet school in London and was discovered as a model. Audrey began with bit parts in movies before landing her big break, “Roman Holiday” in 1953, for which she won her first and only Academy Award. She was nominated for best actress at the Academy Awards several times; after her last nomination for “Wait Until Dark” in 1967, she decided to retire while she was ahead of her game, and only appeared in a few more movies. From 1988 to 1993 she worked as a UNICEF ambassador helping children in Africa and Latin America. She died January 20, 1993 from colon cancer.
Audrey, with her classic features and impeccable style, was the muse for Hubert de Givenchy, who outfitted her in some of my favorite films, like “Funny Face,” “How To Steal A Million,” “Sabrina,” and of course “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” According to imdb.com, as of 2005 she is only one of nine performers to ever win a Grammy, Tony, Emmy and Oscar award. My favorite quotation of hers is, “I know I have more sex appeal on the tip of my nose than many women in their entire bodies. It doesn’t stand out a mile, but it’s there.”
Self-confidence, poise, style, charm, intelligence, real beauty ? she had it all. Audrey Hepburn never gave up her dark hair because blonde was more popular at the time, or danced topless on a table, or made terrible movies just for the sake of making movies. I read an article once ? I believe it was Elle magazine, but I’m not sure ? talking about the disappearance of the true lady. I never forgot one line where the author said that she doubted Audrey Hepburn would be caught dead wearing a trucker hat that proclaimed Jesus as her homeboy.
It may be a joke, but it is something to think about when it comes to fashion. When I see what is acceptable for teenagers my age to wear I sometimes feel like shuddering ? every time a girl walks into Urban Outfitters and walks out giggling because her shirt says “C is for Crunk” or “Trust Me, I’m A Virgin,” I think I’d like to sit her down and make her watch one of Audrey’s movies so that she can see the error of her ways. And then I’d feed her purse with Audrey’s face on it to my cat. It’s time that people stopped just saying meaningless words like, “I worship Audrey Hepburn” without ever seeing one of her movies and started thinking about why they worship this women who was fluent in six languages, the twenty-first greatest film star of the twentieth century, declared the eighth sexiest movie star of all the time and number three on the American Film Institution’s list of 50 Greatest Screen Legends. These are accomplishments that really are accomplishments ? she didn’t achieve fame through sex tapes and scandal, she achieved them with true talent.
What I’m trying to say is this: Audrey Hepburn was a proper icon who embodied so much class and style it is impossible to emulate. Yet even though we live in an entirely different time, I don’t think its impossible to wish that fashion could go back to being about black turtlenecks, trench coats, tasteful heels, pearls, big sunglasses, and black eyeliner with matte pink lips. It’s time to say enough to the “just okay” celebrities of today and actually uphold some standards for what is acceptable i.e. no flashing your breasts at award shows, no sparkly green eyeliner, no reality television shows. It’s time for us, fashion conscious intelligent women, to really consider what it means to idolize someone, and do justice to their image. Would Audrey carry a purse with your face on it? I think not. Turn off your television set, for the love of god put down Us Weekly, and please rent an Audrey Hepburn DVD. You’ll thank me for it.