We all know her name—It’s a name that, for the past 60 years, has continued to grace the covers of countless magazines, infinite television sets, and endless conversations from all around the world.
From her iconic work in films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, and Funny Face, it’s no secret that Audrey Hepburn is one of the most revered and beloved women in Hollywood’s history. However, what many don’t know is that Audrey was far from being “just another pretty face.” With her work as a UNICEF ambassador, devotion to being a mother, and life founded on kindness and compassion, Audrey has remained a treasured household name; and not just from of her style and career as an actress, but from her inner beauty, wisdom, and love that touched everyone around her.
As women, I believe we have a lot to learn from Ms. Hepburn. And while she had many memorable traits, here are the top 10 reasons why Audrey Hepburn should be every girl’s role model.
1. She lived for helping others.
“Remember; if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others” ~Audrey Hepburn
At the peak of her career in the mid 1960’s, Audrey Hepburn did the unthinkable; she walked away from Hollywood. Instead, she decided to devote the rest of her 38 years to feeding the world’s starving children through UNICEF.
With this organization, Audrey traveled around the world, to places like Turkey, El Salvador, Bangladesh, Venezuela, and Vietnam; using her star power to be a voice for the people who didn’t have one. Throughout her journey, Audrey also testified before Congress, launched UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children reports, and gave speeches to the media to help support the cause. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush presented Audrey with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award to be given in the United States. Later that year, Audrey was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, but despite her illness, she continued to work with UNICEF until she died four months after her trip to Somalia in September of 1992.
2. She was always humble.
“I’m not beautiful. My mother once called me an ugly duckling. But, listed separately, I have a few good features.” ~ Audrey Hepburn
As one of the most idolized beauty icons of her time, it’s hard to imagine Audrey Hepburn as someone who acted as humbly as she did. I mean, really, only a "few" good features?
In interviews, Audrey was known to joke over and over again that she couldn’t act or sing, and didn’t deserve being on the big screen with Hollywood’s best. However, to this day, Audrey is still voted as one of the best actresses and one of the most beautiful women to ever live, showing that, above all, humility is the most attractive quality.
3. She valued the power of hard work.
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.” ~ Audrey Hepburn
Whether it was through her work with UNICEF, her duties as a mother, or her passion for acting, Audrey never failed to tackle all that she did with a driven and admirable work ethic. From the very beginning, Audrey worked hard to achieve her goals. With years of dance classes, followed by years of rejection, Audrey never slowed down. Not everything she did as an actress was a success either, but her tenacity proved that unfaltering determination will always produce the greatest results.
4. She possessed a childlike optimism.
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” ~ Audrey Hepburn
Despite the many hardships, Audrey faced growing up during WWII in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, and she never failed to celebrate the small beauties of each day. Everything she faced, she faced with a joy and sense of humor that is rarely found in today's society, and in believing that goodness was all around her, she was able to find it.
5. She only spoke of others in a positive light.
"You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him." ~Audrey Hepburn
Audrey was a huge proponent
of practicing what you preach. In Pamela Keogh’s book,
What Would Audrey Do?,
friends of Audrey’s said that no one ever had a bad word to say about the
actress because she never had a bad word to say about anyone else. Of course, that didn’t mean she never had harsh thoughts, but rather that she practiced
restraint and empathy for those around her. As women, gossip can seem like a
second language. However, Audrey shows that having compassion for your neighbor is always the higher road to take.
6. She denied society's idea of beauty.
“There is more to feminine charm than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much femininity, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.” ~Audrey Hepburn
At a time when Marilyn Monroe dominated what it meant to be an attractive woman, Audrey portrayed a very different look. She was smaller, possessed much darker features, and had a child-like beauty that greatly contrasted the popular idea of voluptuous sexuality. However, Audrey never let those standards define how she saw herself. Instead, she eloquently created her own look by celebrating who she was, and, in turn, forever altered the fashion industry for years to come.7. She preached forgiveness.
“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.” ~ Audrey Hepburn
When Audrey was six years old, her father divorced her mother and left the family as a supporter of the Nazi regime. This regime was then responsible for her later years of malnutrition, starvation, and anemia that occurred after the Nazi’s occupied the Netherlands in 1940. However, despite his betrayal, Audrey decided to search for her father after the war and help support him financially.
In our own lives, it can seem like the best option is to cut people who have wronged us out of our lives. However, Audrey shows that no one deserves to be cast aside, and instead we should rise above and forgive. Everyone is on his or her own journey, and if we are able to forgive, we can ultimately live our lives more fully and peacefully in return.
8. She believed in the power of knowledge.
"A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labor exploitation and disease, and given them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential." ~ Audrey Hepburn
One of Audrey’s most notable talents was being bilingual in English and Dutch, as well as being fluent in Italian, French, German, and Spanish. Through her trips with UNICEF, Audrey frequently saw villages where most people didn’t know how to read or write. Because of this, she made it her duty to bring the power of education to those in need so they too could help to create a smarter and more efficient world.
9. She kept family as number one.
“I may not always be offered work. But I will always have my family.” ~ Audrey Hepburn
Despite her glamorous life outside of the home, Audrey never forgot the most important people were the ones who would be there even after the curtain went down. According to her son Luca, Audrey was never happier than when she was home with her family. She even left her career at the height of its success to be a more dedicated mother.
10. She was unapologetically herself.
"I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.” ~Audrey Hepburn
Above all else, Audrey knew who she was and what she wanted, and she never compromised. She got into the acting world because it was what she loved to do, and pursued that passion as no one but herself.
The women of today can learn a lot from this philosophy, especially in a world that’s constantly telling us to look a certain way and act another. The most beautiful quality a woman can poses is confidence, and Audrey knew the best way to go about life is to just “do yo thang.”