MUSE: a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
Audrey Hepburn has been a great love of mine for years and years. Of course I’d seen the iconic images of her in the Breakfast at Tiffany’s stills and I knew the name, but I hadn’t seen any of her films until my mum bought me a boxset featuring six films she starred in. The first I watched was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I completely fell in love with her vulnerability, poise and of course, her style.
I then moved onto Sabrina, My Fair Lady, The Nun’s Story and Roman Holiday, the latter of which is not only my favourite film of Audrey’s, but one of my all time favourite films. Her oscar winning performance as the runaway Princess Ann is touching, the on-location filming of Rome is sublime and obviously Gregory Peck is dreamy.
Once you fall in love with Audrey Hepburn, it’s impossible to come back from it. She was constantly overcoming obstacles throughout her life; abandoned by her father; surviving the war in the Netherlands during Nazi occupation; two divorces; fertility problems and then cancer. Yet she remained ever graceful, polite and charming, which is why she was and still is so beloved by all.
In September of last year I visited the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery titled ‘Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon’. It was one of the most moving exhibitions I’ve been to, chronicling her life in photographs and memorabilia. The item that moved me most was her own ballet slippers, in a glass cabinet in the corner of the first room. I stood and stared at them for SO long, blinking fast so the tears in my eye’s didn’t spill over (I didn’t really want to full on sob in the middle of one of Britain’s most prestigious galleries). It took a lot for me to pull myself away from that cabinet, because that was the closest I’d ever felt to Audrey herself.
The year before, in October 2014 my whole family visited Orlando, Florida for all the theme parks. My favourite of all of them was Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
One of the features of Hollywood Studios is the replica of the Hollywood Chinese Theatre, which hosts The Great Movie Ride (also my favourite). Outside the theatre, they have casts of all the handprints made by actors at the real Chinese Theatre.
The thing that makes it particularly special is that this is the only place in the world to see Audrey Hepburn’s handprints. When Disney were creating the attraction & realised Audrey’s weren’t at the original theatre they called her to create hers here, where she cried because no other place had ever asked for her handprints. Two weeks later she was asked to make handprints at the real Chinese Theatre, which she turned down saying:
“my hands are exactly where I want them to be”
The ride worker who lead our tour, Caitlyn, told me this whilst I was sat in complete awe and a lump in my throat as I placed my hands where her’s once were (I have the exact same hand size as her).
In her later life, her work with Unicef was extraordinary. Although she’s been contributing to the organisation from the early fifties, between 1988 and 1992 she worked in some of the poorest communities of Africa, South America and Asia. As recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, only one month before her death.
I fully realise that people reading this who cannot relate may think this is all a little over the top, and it is something difficult to fully explain feeling so attached to someone who you never lived in the same lifetime as. But there is something timeless about Audrey; and even now she inspires me and so many others to live life gracefully, with humour and grace and never forget what’s important in life.
So today, on the twenty-third anniversary of her death, remember Audrey for not only the talented actress she was, but for the truly remarkable woman she was throughout her life.