Audrey Hepburn Smashed My Beauty Myths

audrey-hepburn-style-1By Jessica Minasi

Most of us fall far from today’s beauty ideal: Blonde, blue-eyed, and skinny yet buxom.

Audrey Hepburn opened my eyes to how beauty can be defined.

After all, she only fits one of those narrow criteria. And her beauty is so much more than physical.

She was thin due to malnourishment during the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, which compromised her immune system. But once fame came, her slight frame did lighten some psychological loads. As the New York Times observed, her looks were celebrated yet,

It’s not that she was a clotheshorse, though she was, or a great beauty, because she wasn’t. It’s that she came along in the age of the sex bomb — the Monroes, the Mansfields — and blew most of them away.

Thanks to their first glimpse of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, half a generation of young females stopped stuffing their bras and teetering on stiletto heels.

Ms. Hepburn shows young women that you needn’t be just one shape — or fake — to be attractive. In fact, beauty comes from within, she says:

There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.

She was so down-to-earth that designers, photographers and directors were anxious to work with her.

Audrey Hepburn unicefWhen she left Hollywood, she became UNICEF’s International Goodwill Ambassador, dedicating her last years to helping those who were hurt, as she had been in childhood. As she aged she kept her laugh lines and her worry furrows, embracing the life that had imprinted on her face. Again, from the Times:

Audrey Hepburn’s face was that of someone who’d squinted into the sun, laughed a few laughs, shed a few tears. The forehead showed some wrinkles, the eyes showed some more, and the strong jawline was softening around the edges.

Life brought wisdom. You can even Google “Audrey Hepburn quotes” and get some great stuff like these gems from a “Top 12” list (10 aren’t enough):

  • For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.
  • The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.
  • Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm.
  • Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!
  • I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles.

Yes, the iconic Audrey Hepburn smashes all sorts of beauty myths.

Jessica is a student of mine who gave me permission to post this.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 8, 2014, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Ever since I saw “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, I have just loved and admired Audrey Hepburn. She is lovely inside and out.

    • Yes she is. Like the author, I also see her as a role model.

      One of my male student’s said that one of his favorite movies is Breakfast at Tiffany’s because he finds her so attractive.

  2. Love this perspective. And so right, when we’ve heard from Audrey she talks about beauty in a way that inspires and empowers.

  3. I really, really like Audrey Hepburn. Ever since I watched “Roman holiday” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” I have been attracted to her; not only to how she looks but how she lived her life. Having had a strong interest in Audrey, I read some books about her and was astonished to know that she had a tough childhood. She once was almost caught by a Gestapo, but she escaped somehow, hided in a basement of a building and stayed there for days without foods or water. Even after she became famous as a bright actress, she never forgot the days of what she went through in childhood. Her hope of piece must have been strengthened when she knew she was as old as Anne Frank if the young, talented writer weren’t killed by Nazi. This might have pushed her to dedicate herself as UNICEF’s International Goodwill Ambassador for children in difficulties. She demonstrated for the rest of her life how women could be in the world. It is said that she is the first woman who wore black clothes which at the time like Sabrina pants, which might be a symbol of women’s freedom. She took action following her strong will, in the face of inequality of men and women and showed us that we shouldn’t prejudge what we can and can’t because of gender. That could be one reason she attracts many people like me even today.

  4. It’s true, Hepburn was seen as a role model for most girls, but for me, a woman of color, and a woman of size (as in I am overweight, which strays from conventional beauty), it’s hard to say that she speaks much depth for me. Hepburn still held white privilege, she was beautiful, so she held beauty privilege. She had an advantage when she seemed “less conventional” and simultaneously inspiring. Her visibility in society proves that she could truly inspire only a certain group of girls in society, and that’s white girls that fit in the size spectrum of “fit”.

    The beauty myth told women that we’re only good for being loyal wives and homemakers for our husbands. It told us that we are only desirable if we looked a certain way, and acted a certain way, which was feminine. With Hepburn’s small, feminine features, to me, she still had the appearance of “conventional beauty”. I understand that in her times, “beauty” meant voluptuous hips and full breasts, but that’s still very much like that today. Today, it’s full hips and breasts, BUT small waists. I don’t feel like she looks THAT much different than what a conventional woman “should” look like.

  5. May I add this to the comments ?
    .

  6. I actually did not know that Ms. Hepburn was not only a beautiful women, but also a great role model for girls and women of all ages. I only knew of Ms. Hepburn from TV shows about beauty that showed pictures of her and focuses only and her looks. I never knew that she had a tough childhood or suffered from malnutrition until I read this. It is sad to think that some TV shows only focus on peoples looks instead of what they have done for the world and who they were before they became known.

    The more I think that society is moving forward and not only looking at peoples looks, the more I seem to proven wrong. Young girls everywhere look up to models and I feel like Ms. Hepburn was one that young girls looked up to and still can, even though she had a figure that most girls didn’t, she sill had a attitude that most girls, and people everywhere admired. This goes to show that no matter what you look like, you can have a life that people admire just because you are who you are. Ms. Hepburn wa amazing person and someone that everyone should know about, and not only because of her looks, but because of who she was.

  7. Reading this blog made me feel so much better about myself. We live in a world where young girls have troubles feeling confident and beautiful because of the worlds idea of beautiful. The stereotypical blonde hair, blue eyes, and skinny, but Miss Audrey Hepburn made it possible for girls to feel pretty. She wasn’t the stereotypical “beautiful” but who she was made her beautiful. After reading this blog I realized that I don’t need to be all the things that people but in the media to be pretty. All her quotes make me want to live by them. I actually believe that Miss Audrey Hepburn is my new role model. She didn’t let the media change her, she was extremely down to earth and helped others in need. And the fact that she never got plastic surgery like most celebrities do when they get older makes her even more beautiful and shows that she isn’t fake.

  8. After reading this blog on Audrey, I came to the realization that beauty is not just what’s on the outside. She helped women t realize that sexy is not a size number of a dress or how attractive you are, but it’s how you carry yourself and what you do with what you’ve been given that counts the most in life. To me, she is even more beautiful because she left the lime light of Hollywood and dedicated herself to charity work and helping those who are less fortunate, that is true dedication and what makes a person not just desirable but intriguing as well.

  9. Older Perspective

    Love this article because beauty is so much more than just the outward appearance. Have you ever met a very beautiful person but because their heart or attitude was ugly it made them not attractive at all. And then you’ll meet the person who may not be so physically attractive but yet they have a heart of gold and make them radiate beauty. Since the beginning of time we all have desired to be beautiful, even Snow White asked, “Mirror on the wall whose fairest of them all”? Beauty has been such a driving force for women all over the world to do things such as breast enhancements or liposuction or botox, willing to reconstruct our bodies for the sake of beauty. But who is defining what beauty is? Or better yet who are we allowing to define what beauty is? The media, models, and other forms of public platform…
    Beauty like most other attributes and character is truly an inside job. How is your attitude or the condition of your heart? Is it filled with love or deceit, bitterness and anger? Because these are the key factors that determines what comes out of us, beauty or ugliness.
    Of course looking good helps you to feel good about yourself, but that’s not the only component to beauty and this is what needs to be vocalized more. How do you look on the inside?

  10. I am so proud and happy to have a woman like Audrey Hepburn in this world. I believe that true beauty comes from inside. My favorite quotes are

    “For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
    For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day”

    “The greatest victory has been to be able to live with myself, to accept my shortcomings and those of others.”

    The first depicts her life after leaving Hollywood and becoming the ambassador of UNICEF, and the second one makes us think that the true beauty comes from truly being yourself.
    I am a man, but her words and deeds inspired me and led me to celebrate the phenomenal beauty as a human being.

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