When you think Audrey Hepburn, you probably think pastry, Tiffany’s, and the famous Little Black Dress. But, in addition to being one of the most sophisticated film stars of all time, Audrey was also wise.
Audrey has been my idol since I first watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s aged 13, and the more I read about her, the more I think she makes a very worthy role model. She was intelligent, kind, compassionate, and very hard working – and despite being one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars, she never lost her sense of modesty and perspective. She liked the simple life, and even though she was famously stylish, her family, farmhouse and her work with UNICEF mattered more than the glamour of the red carpet.
There will never be another like Audrey, but she had some great life lessons that many people can learn from today.
Your style makes you memorable
When Audrey Hepburn was cast for her first film, Roman Holiday, nobody knew who she was. When the film was released, she became an overnight style icon. Why? Because she was just…so…Audrey.
In the 50s it was still relatively uncommon for women to wear trousers – let alone ballet pumps as actual shoes. Yet there Audrey was, doing it, regardless of the fact that it was unconventional. Why? Because it represented her. It was understated and tasteful, like her, and she really was trained in ballet. In short, the way Audrey dressed worked because it was authentic, not because it was on-trend.
This doesn’t mean everyones’ clothes need to be as iconic and unique as Audrey’s – but it does show how your sense of self influences your sense of style. If you love the sound of dressing more you, but don’t know where to start, check out this guide from Anuschka Rees.
You can look after your body and have fun
Today, we’re used to viewing health and fitness as a gruelling task – one that takes willpower, sacrifice and self-deprivation. Celebrities regularly discuss their regimented diets and torturous gym routines. Many people wear their suffering like a badge of honour, the implication being that if you can’t manage to exercise every day, you just aren’t trying hard enough.
Compared to this, Audrey’s approach to looking after herself seems totally alien. She didn’t go to the gym. She didn’t follow any particular diet. Instead, she simply pursued healthy activities she already enjoyed. She liked brisk walks in the Swiss countryside, gardening, and dancing. She liked eating high quality, simple food, often grown in her own back yard. She indulged in a few things, like dark chocolate, but knew when to stop.
The good news is that you don’t need much to make health and fitness more fun. Really, all you need is to look at it differently. What sports or hobbies did you love to do as a kid, but no longer do? What healthy foods do you genuinely love to eat? Focus on those things.
Looking after your mind is just as important
Perhaps one of the things that inspires me most about Audrey Hepburn is that despite all the media attention and stardom, she was an introvert – and did not shy away from admitting it. On the contrary, she understood (even before Susan Cain’s Quiet) how important it was to look after herself in order to succeed as an actress, mother and later, humanitarian.
Introvert or not, we could all do with more time to switch off – especially now that our lives are increasingly digital. Try working a ‘digital detox’ into your routine, even if it’s only for an hour each day – your brain will thank you for it.
“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”
Small gestures make a big impact
Has anyone ever surprised you with a small gift, a bunch of flowers, or random act of kindness? If so, you’ll know how happy they can make you. Even something as simple as a hand-written note can make your day.
Audrey knew this. She wrote many letters to many people during her lifetime, and had a knack for sending really thoughtful gifts. In short, she showed her friends and family that she appreciated them – not with grand displays of affection, but in the time and effort she spent on them. These gestures are even more poignant in the modern world.
Remember what really matters
Audrey was a successful film star, and at one time, the highest paid actress in Hollywood. However, she never lost sight of what truly mattered to her: her family. When her children reached school age, she made some serious compromises in her career so she could spend time with them.
We all have ambitions, but we also have deeply-rooted values – the kind of things that give us a sense of purpose. There will be times when your values and ambitions clash, forcing you to choose between them. It might be family vs career, but it could be many other things – either way, the choice is always difficult. Audrey might have lost some opportunities because of her decision, but she knew that if she hadn’t, she would always have regretted it.
Never stop being grateful
Audrey experienced some horrible things in her childhood. She endured Nazi occupation during World War II, nearly starved when food supplies ran dangerously low, and never fully regained a normal metabolism as a result. But, rather than remain traumatised by this, Audrey developed an amazing sense of perspective – she knew how fortunate she was.
“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.”
Part of what made Audrey (and, indeed, any other universally popular person) so charming is that she saw life as an opportunity – for fun, for new experiences. Today, we know that this mindset protects us from developing mental health problems, with gratitude being one of the most powerful ways to ward off anxiety and stress.
Use your powers for good
Generosity is also beneficial for our wellbeing, and Audrey had it in spades. She was generous and thoughtful with her friends and family, especially her children, and later in life she became UNICEF’s Ambassador for Children.
She flew around the world to impoverished areas to raise awareness of their campaigns, and was one of the first world-famous celebrities to use their renown for a good cause. The cynics among us today might wonder if this was for publicity, but it wasn’t – she was already at the end of her acting career when she took on the role.
Having someone to look up to can be reassuring when you’re not sure where to turn. Who do you look up to for inspiration? Let me know in the comments 🙂