That great woman was of course Audrey Hepburn, who was as well known for her talent as an actress as she was for her incredibly kind and generous nature.
Today when you think of Audrey, you think of a life spent well, a life used to help others with the beauty she felt for the world. “God kissed her on the cheek, and there she was,” director Billy Wilder once said of the star.
Weeks ago, I found a little treasure in the bookshop called What Would Audrey Do? by Pamela Keogh. It told the reader how to walk, talk and look like Audrey Hepburn. And as I began to read, a startling question formed in my mind: If Audrey was alive now in 2013 and was a student at UCC, would society accept her? Would she be out of sync with us, dated? Was it possible to become another Audrey Hepburn?
So I set myself a challenge. For one day, I would become Audrey Hepburn.Task 1: A Very Stylish Girl
It is said: “Audrey looked like every girl and like no girl”. That’s really not very helpful! (But Wikipedia is!). Audrey loved black and never wore patterns, jewellery and most definitely not UGGs. She favoured a minimalistic look. So I picked out a white dress which fell just below the knee and ballet flats.
With a belt I attempted to achieve Audrey’s unbelievable 22” waist (I probably got to 28” before I collapsed in a heap!). She would also have taken the time to separate her eyelashes with a safety pin, but frankly I have neither the patience nor the steady hand. I swept my hair up to replicate that ever-so-gamine cut she bore in the 50s.
Missing however, were the giant sunglasses and neck scarf (but I thought that would be a bit too much for a day traipsing around between Boole three and four!)“Never slouch,” she said. “Display impeccable posture.”
To remain as poised as a ballet dancer all day long was challenging to say the least. Especially on the 7:47am train when one, you’re exhausted, and two, you can hear the dawn chorus! Arriving in Cork station was a lot less ‘Audrey’ than one might have hoped.
Everyone knows that wonderful scene in “Funny Face” when she’s standing on the platform, a morning mist circling her feet and she strikes a pose of pure elegance. In contrast, I stumbled off the train ...and there was no Fred Astaire to pick me up either.Task 2: Speak like a ‘Fair Lady’
My newfound TransAtlantic accent circa 1940 evolved through a series of YouTube videos speed-watched the night before. Very much aware of ‘Audrey Day’, a friend quipped: “Good morning Miss Hepburn,” to which I replied: “Hel-lo darling. It’s perfectly lovely, isn’t it?” (which had progressed from the usual “Hiya!”).
At lunch I proudly announced: “Hel-lo everybod-dy. How aw you oll?”, and they stared at me like I had a fish balancing on my head. 20 in, one of the girls started to complain about the lack of chicken in her roll, and delighted as I was to have an Audrey quote about poultry, I shouted: “I believe you are in league with the butcher!” What seemed like the entire Main Rest fell into convulsions of laughter as I sank one notch lower in my seat. Very un-Audrey of me, but to be fair, she had received a much better response from George Peppard when she said it!
For future reference, I would not encourage the use of random Hepburn movie quotes during lunchtimes. And definitely not “Do we know each other? Because I know an awful lot of people and until one of them dies I couldn’t possibly know anyone else!” That one’s not the best for making friends in first year.Task 3: “Anyone who does not believe in miracles is not a realist”
Be happy. Be kind. More so than any makeup trick, any LBD, any Hollywood heartthrob – if you want to be like Audrey Hepburn, give your heart to those who need it, and you will get it back. In the last years of her life, Audrey worked with UNICEF to help the children of the Third World and showed us how important it is to donate. I willingly did so. Knowing that I made the smallest of differences, I felt more like her than ever before.
And so concluded my day as Audrey Hepburn. In the end I learnt that it’s hard to be an icon of 50 years ago. Rules have to be broken, updated, and changed. Audrey would have, I have no doubt, hit the Savoy dance floor on a Thursday night, but with as much elegance, charm and beauty as waltzing in a ballroom with Humphrey Bogart.