Audrey Hepburn is more than just a Hollywood icon, she is a humanitarian who dedicated 37 years of her life to saving the lives of others. Hepburn was iconic, she was a leader, an actress, a dancer but above all a woman who refused to be controlled by patriarchy. Breaking free from the acting tradition, Hepburn forged a new path that would be critiqued for many years to come. Join me as I explore the secret Audrey, an introverted fragile humanitarian who shunned the Hollywood lifestyle in favor for promoting egalitarianism.
The Real Audrey
The real Audrey was not a fashion icon nor was she a stereotypical actress chasing after an unattainable vision of luxury and fame. Money did not matter to Audrey, it repulsed her as she thought about the plight of millions who led impoverished lives , unsure where their next meal would be coming from. The real Audrey was the-girl-next-door who put others needs before her own , who would visit war-torn zones to save children and adults alike from death. As an ambassador for Unicef since 1954, Hepburn worked in profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia between 1988 and 1992. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in December 1992. Despite the accolades Audrey received during her lifetime, posthumous appreciation commented on her ‘elegance’ and ‘beauty’ rather than her work for charity. I think to myself, how can a woman with such fierce intelligence and compassion be presented as a superficial entity in popular culture? Thousands adore her but does the admiration stem from her beauty or through her actions as a humanitarian?
Why Hepburn Is Seen As A Beauty Icon
At the age of 63 Audrey sadly lost her battle against appendiceal cancer and left behind a legacy that would cite her as ‘the most influential woman in Hollywood’. Audrey’s ‘natural’ beauty set her apart from all the other Hollywood starlets and is often stated to be her best asset, ignoring her talent as an actress, dancer, singer and above all a humanitarian . It is important to note why this is.In a modern culture defined by Photoshop we have lost sight of what real beauty is and to many Audrey is the ‘most beautiful woman alive’. Audrey lived through an age where technology was in it’s preliminary stages and her beauty was untouched, understated and stunning in it’s simplicity, without the need for excessive makeup.
Look Beyond Superficiality
As a feminist I champion Audrey’s quiet confidence that allowed her transcend her fixed gender role and become a leader of the people, who sought to change the political landscape in which she lived in. Audrey left behind the glitz and glamour for a simpler life, driven by the desire to create a brighter vision. Audrey’s vision was simple, it was the idea that superficiality was no longer a trait that existed and instead in it’s place was the resounding need to help others.
I recognize Audrey’s iconic status not for her admirable beauty, nor is it related to her fashion choices. Instead I challenge the social norm and state that we need to acknowledge her as an icon of social justice, who challenged the general consensus surrounding the plight of the poor and determined that they were just like us. No matter how rich or poor you are you can never be too ‘important’ to help another human being in times of need.
So I ask you this, why is our society so fixated on beauty. Is it because we are puppets of the media , with no mind of our own or is it because we are too scared to fight the social norm?