Remembered only for modelling and acting, Audrey Hepburn’s seemingly trivialised past is something that women throughout history are becoming worryingly (and more frequently) subjected to by modern society.


I choose to live my life by the quote: ‘In a world full of Kardashians, be more Audrey’. But what does ‘be more Audrey’ actually mean?

To be able to possess just half of her grace, elegance and class would be admirable, but too often when we hear Audrey Hepburn only this image of her springs to mind: the sophistication of Holly Golightly or Princess Anne, or her iconic and timeless fashion modelling in the 1950s and ’60s. There is no reason to discredit these things, but as a society we need to rewrite the history that characterises Hepburn solely based on her appearance.

I equally want to be the Audrey who continued to help the resistance against the Nazis during World War Two, despite her parents being Nazi sympathisers. She was utterly committed to helping this cause (whether it be through donating the money she received from her dance recitals, or acting as a courier for other resistance members), whilst at the same time experiencing, first-hand, the hardships that accompanied a Nazi occupation.

I equally want to be the Audrey who received the United States’ highest civilian award, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, for her tireless humanitarian work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, advocating for and partaking in projects to help malnourished children in some of the poorest African countries.

Imagine the dedication, determination and resilience you would need to emulate her achievements. And society simply remembers her as ‘pretty’.

What does this say about the social climate we live in today? It exemplifies how the presence of the media has created an obsession with the idealistic image of what beauty is. Audrey Hepburn’s appearance is used as a goal we, as women, should all strive to achieve. According to the media, her envied slender figure and beautiful collar bones are merely a result of ‘achievable’ yet strict dieting, because they ignored her actual history of experiencing extreme malnutrition in her adolescence. Even an article that wanted to discredit the two-dimensional perception of Hepburn opened with: ‘You would never think the elegant Audrey Hepburn suffered hunger as a child’. Her reputation is preceded by the sensationalised construct of the ideal appearance, and our society’s own idea that beauty automatically translates to a happy life.

But I think it goes further than this. Yes, ‘you would never think that the elegant Audrey Hepburn suffered hunger as a child’ or worked to prevent this from happening to children in the modern world, because women have become systematically marginalised in history, their true tales, hardships and successes simply left out.

I look to my GCSE syllabus to further this argument. In English I search for the influential works by female writers, but see only Dickens, Priestley and Shakespeare. In science and history I desire to see Rosalind Franklin praised for her discoveries, but read only about Watson and Crick. In maths, who knows what women pioneered, when we just have Pythagoras. Conditions have been introduced into society, that force us to subconsciously repudiate women’s history, because it has been removed. In the words of Alice Wroe (founder of the ‘Herstory UK’ campaign):

‘If you can’t see it, how can you be it?’

in order to develop stories of inspirational women for the future, we must celebrate those of the past.

Instead of articles that are entitled ‘5 Hidden Facts about Audrey Hepburn’ or ’12 Thing you Didn’t Know about Audrey Hepburn’, I hope the facts listed will become what the definition of ‘be more Audrey’ actually means. The full histories of all great women must become common knowledge that is fully accepted by society.——

Image Source