I thought “je ne sais quoi” was a stupid saying until I watched My Fair Lady. That’s when I experienced a real conversion. And following my initial entry into the cache of Hepburn’s films, I immediately sought after more: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, War and Peace, How to Steal a Million, Sabrina (my personal favorite), Funny Face, and the rest. I could watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s daily and not get tired or irritated—but why? What is it about Audrey that inspires such a devoted following?
She’s beautiful. I’m sure you’re thinking, “What movie star isn’t?” But it’s that old Hollywood delicate beauty. A subtle essence of poise and ladylike elegance that made her the perfect choice for a film like Roman Holiday, where she plays a princess desiring to experience a normal life (cue Ariel’s Part of Your World). There’s an innate class to her that can’t be taught. A “je ne sais quoi” that adds a perfect pull of mystery and intrigue. Her characters seem to almost fall into a type cast category, but she plays all of them with varying levels of wit, innocence, and her inescapable charm.
I guess it’s the inspiration she brings. Watch an Audrey Hepburn movie and you’re simply caught by the hopefulness, strength, and ingenuity of the characters she portrays. Sure, her characters have all that sweetness and darling characteristics of the girl-next-door, but they’re also foreword thinking and multi-faceted. They’re unsatisfied with their lot in life and actively try to change that. They’re self-starters, responsible, and strong-willed, but they’re also romantic, hopeful, and dream big. It’s not just all rainbows and daisies either. Hepburn fills out characters who are hopeless, struggling, heart-broken, and depressed. They’re multi-faceted, full of life, and add that touch of truth and reality to an otherwise Hollywood-manufactured ideal.
It’s these kind of characters that instill us with the hope that rolls along during the closing credits. Audrey Hepburn portrays real women, not just women who are beautiful and romantic and get the guy at the end of the flick (though they do all this as well). Her characters are fully fleshed: relatable, inspiring, and a touch unachievable at the same time.
It also helps that the woman behind these personas was a stellar being. Audrey Hepburn spoke more than three languages, was an incredible humanitarian, and one of the few starlets to win Academy, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony awards. She was also a style goddess. Audrey inspired millions to be better people and continues to do so until this day. I hope desperately that young women of today remember Audrey as a role model—someone who was lovely inside and out (excuse the cliché). Too often, I find girls obsessing over women who present nothing more than vapid self-obsession and a complete lack of ladylike qualities (*cough * Kardashians).
So here’s to Hepburn. Thank you for showing that women in Hollywood can be more than fetishized objects or inaccurate representations of real women. Thank you for bringing us laughter, hope, reality, and dreams. And thank you for giving us such a glorious ideal to reach for.