Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston was born in Brussels in 1929. When she was five, she started at an English boarding school, which is where she first began to study ballet. Her time there was cut short by the declaration of war, afer which she returned home. Unfortunately, Holland wouldn’t stay neutral for long, and Germany invaded in 1940.11 Hepburn and her family were eventually liberated on her sixteenth birthday in 1945.
When she moved to London after the war, she was told that the five years of malnutrition she had suffered during the occupation meant that she would never be able to dance professionally. It was a huge blow. In 1951, Hepburn was discovered by Colette, the author of the novel Gigi, who asked her to play the title part in her secret’s theater adaptation that same year. This would launch Hepburn’s career. Soon after, she got the part in Roman Holiday (1953), the role that apart from Holly Golightly would come to define her and for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress. Director William Wyler famously said of her, She completely looked the part of a princess. A real, live, bona fide princess. And when she opened her mouth you were sure you’d found a princess.
Alexander Walker, the author of a biography on Hepburn, took it further, saying that Roman Holiday defined Hepburn’s personality and talents for the rest of her life: innocence and good sense, wide-eyed eagerness for life, a gift for happiness, a vulnerability that invited protection, but also an air of natural independence. Her liberated princess had her hair cut by a barber in the film, and the androgynous gamine style was set as the Hepburn look for a generation or more of female filmgoers.13
If Roman Holiday established her as the gamine, doe-eyed princess, then it was her 1961 portrayal of the fragile, beautiful Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (loosely adapted from Truman Capote’s novella) that would cement her status as one of the twentieth century’s greatest icons.
Throughout her career, Hepburn always worked with Italian makeup artist Alberto de Rossi. She is quoted in an interview as saying, not only is Alberto simpatico, he’s a really great makeup artist. When he is finished with me, I have the assurance that I look much better than I really am
De Rossi is credited with creating her legendary eye makeup, which Hepburn’s son Sean described as being a slow process of applying layers of mascara and then separating each eyelash with a pin. I remember her saying when he died, crying as though she had lost a brother, that she would rather not work again.
Hepburn’s makeup changed quite a bit between the fifties and sixties. In the fifties, her brows were very thick and dramatically penciled in, and she mainly wore red lipstick. In the sixties, although her eye makeup stayed pretty much the same in her signature doe-eyed style, her brows were much lighter and she wore a very soft peachy-pink shade of lipstick, as was typical of the time.
In 1988, she became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. She was passionately devoted to her cause, visiting over twenty countries in order to spread awareness of poverty. She was particularly interested in helping children and founded Audrey Hepburn’s Children’s Fund, which is still providing funding to support healthcare and education for children.
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