“She thought she had a big nose and big feet, and she was too skinny, and not enough breast. She would look in the mirror and say, ‘I don’t understand why people see me as beautiful.’”
Who was she?
She could’ve been a friend or a sibling. The neighbor down the street. A daughter or a mother. Any one of us really.
But no, this perplexed bundle of insecurities also happened to be one of the most jaw-dropping beauties of all time. Muse to Givenchy. Fashion icon. Doe-eyed and demure yet stunning in anything, from ball gowns to ballet flats.
She was Audrey Hepburn.
When I read the portrait in Vanity Fair, I was stunned by this account from her son, Luca Dotti, who shared her belief that her signature look appealed to people because it “must be a good mixture of defects.”
How could the infamous, impeccable Holly Golightly possibly think such deep thoughts?
When she’s on screen, you literally can’t take your eyes off of her. She’s effervescent, flawless, floating above mere mortals in haute couture creations, gliding across the ether of unattainable glamour and blinding beauty.
Yet the image projected on the silver screen was only a facet of who she was. In this account, she is also human—with her share of sadness born out of the “hunger and danger” of World War II, insecurity, marital strife, indignance at the suffering she saw as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, and later in life, fatal illness.
Not that she was at all buried under the weight of these things, but rather, like all of us, they were deeply a part of who she was and how she perceived and pursued life.
What I find most interesting is that though the famous images of her are seared into our brains, it’s these quiet, beautiful qualities—her individuality, her simplicity, her elegance, her essence—that those closest to her loved and remember.
Hubert de Givenchy was her couturier, close friend and confidant for decades. When asked about their relationship, he said, “She was wonderful. She was someone unique. She was real. She was natural.” She inspired his most iconic looks and surely her beauty fueled his incredible creativity, yet in his description are words that have nothing to do with her physical appearance.
Her son shares a similar sentiment. When asked in what way his mother remains most physically present in his life, Luca says, “Through scent.” Not perfume…there are certain scents, you know, a certain cake, or a flower, things like that. It’s not so physical, but it’s powerful. And every spring, especially here in Rome, you have this smell of orange blossom in the air. Spring is coming and it was her favorite season. It makes me think of her.