Audrey Hepburn: Life Of A Timeless Inspiration Of Mine
When I think of an individual who I look up to and aspire to emulate, the first person that comes to mind is Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn’s career in both entertainment and humanitarian work is a path I know I will follow because it is my career goal based on similar deeply personal experiences. As a fashion icon, entertainer, and philanthropist, Audrey Hepburn is the epitome of an ambitious and gracious icon.
An inspiration for confident women everywhere, Audrey was able to get to a point in her career where she chose humanitarian work over acting, distancing herself from the fame because altruism was her true passion. I want to get to this point in my career. Even though I love film and television, and the entertainment industry overall, my true passions lie in philanthropic work with communities that have directly impacted my life. I hope to make this passion a reality and give back to communities similar to Audrey Hepburn.
Audrey Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4th, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. (Zegarac, 4). She grew up in a challenging household, in which her mother and stepfather fought over political differences and financial woes. (Zegarac, 4). Audrey was a shy and introverted tomboy, which I can relate to as I was a shy and insecure child myself. (Zegarac, 4). Unlike my childhood of incredible constant support, Audrey was whisked off to boarding school in hopes of being molded into a proper lady by her mother. (Zegarac, 4). It is quite inspiring that Audrey, who was offered little attention and support from her family, devoted most of her life to helping others who were in drastic need of care and support to survive.
I not only wish to emulate her career but her giving disposition. As Audrey Hepburn famously said, “ I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it.” (Zegarac, 4). In the midst of her boarding school days, Audrey found a love for ballet and the escapism performing created. (Zegarac, 4). Escapism is extremely important in my life as it allows for challenging situations to be easier to get through. I relate to Audrey Hepburn in finding passion in performance, dance, and entertainment overall; to escape from my friendless childhood and insecurity of being the weird kid and try to embrace myself. Audrey Hepburn’s career is an inspiration, but so is her life story and growth as a person.
World War II changed everything in Audrey’s future, especially with her decision to become a humanitarian. This destructive war caused Audrey, who was reunited with her mother during this time, to almost die from starvation, surviving on “tulip bulbs and cooked grass.” (Zegarac, 4). When Germany surrendered in 1944, aid from UNRA, a precursor to UNICEF, saved her life. (Zegarac, 4).
Audrey would later devote her life to UNICEF, helping extremely underprivileged children around the world, just like the organization did for her. I aim to do the same work with an organization called NEDA, the National Eating Disorder Association. During the summer before my first year of college, I developed anorexia and bulimia. I was suffering on the inside and out, choosing to hurt myself through food obsession and starvation. My illness soon started to destroy my life and almost ended it until I found treatment through NEDA. The work of specialists, therapists, and my family helped me survive my illness and find an outlet through entertainment and art in film, fashion, television, and beauty.
My goal is to use these creative interests of mine through different media platforms to help other individuals survive the suffering and pain of eating disorders. I would like to become successful enough to devote my life to philanthropic work with NEDA. I do not want anyone else to go through the trauma and pain I endured, and instead know they are supported and will get through this illness. I wish to emulate Audrey Hepburn through this humanitarian effort, knowing my future philanthropic work reflects my own personal battles in life. I am grateful for NEDA, like Audrey Hepburn was grateful for UNICEF.
Audrey Hepburn’s acting career began when she immigrated to England with her mother, where she continued to perform ballet but was soon rejected for her appearance. (Shaina). Interestingly, her appearance and unique look would play a huge factor in her successful acting career, providing a look in which women did not have to be sex symbols to be deemed beautiful or worthy. Having faced numerous adversities in her life already, Audrey Hepburn did not allow this rejection to stop her pursing her passion, a determination I try to emulate.
She began modeling, leading her to work in theatre, and ultimately Hollywood. (Shaina). Audrey was able to continue to create art and performance at every turn, becoming a timeless fashion icon, a muse to famed designer Hubert Givenchy, an academy award winner, wife, and mother. (Zegarac, 6). Audrey was able to do it all, be a career woman and a mother in a time when these two paths were not believed to be achievable together. I do not want to allow my career to overpower my goal of having a family of my own because women can indeed do it all like Audrey.
Even though I do not wish to act or model, I want to use a platform to inspire and help others, similar to Audrey Hepburn. Having a fashion background in both work experience and college, I want to continue to express my personal style in any environment since it is a part of my identity. Audrey became a fashion icon with her timeless and classic fashion, straying from the sexy bombshells of her era – “She was a triumphantly tomboyish figure in a rising tide of sex symbols.” (Haskell, 10).
I wish to follow in Audrey’s footsteps of presenting myself as a strong, independent, and intelligent woman through my style without having to reveal skin to be accepted in the male-dominated entertainment industry. I want to continue Audrey Hepburn’s legacy of self-expression through fashion in a mature way that still allows one to stand out and be noticed. I have tiny piercings and small tattoos, and I don’t plan on changing these accents to my personal style to fit into a mold for society.
Based on my history of eating disorders, I do not want to have my appearance define my confidence in taking chances in my career. After studying Audrey Hepburn for years through film and essays, I think she would agree with my digression from this type of conformity. To further this personal goal, I will continue to separate myself from posting appearance concentrated images on social media platforms such as Instagram to try to reframe society’s constant focus on body image and sex appeal. Unlike Audrey Hepburn, who continued modeling and was a beauty icon, I think to blaze my own path, I need to find a different balance between being a fashion or beauty icon purely for myself while disillusioning our unhealthy image-obsessed society.
I honestly only wish to have a global platform in our society, like Audrey Hepburn, to bring attention and awareness to eating disorders, which are the lowest funded mental illness with the highest rate of mortality. In order to get to a similar point in life that Audrey Hepburn reached during her work with UNICEF, I have created definite steps I plan to take. I will continue to apply to different internships, during both the school year and summer to not only broaden my experience but to also challenge myself by expanding out of my comfort zone. Even though a lot of success comes from pure luck and timing in the entertainment industry, similar to Audrey Hepburn’s early career, I will continue to try to create my own luck by putting myself out there. Networking is incredibly important, and I truly believe by continuing to push boundaries as an eager student who is willing to do anything for experience, people will notice.
Through creating a plan based on networking in the entertainment industry, I will continue to find like-minded individuals, hopefully on the importance of media and mental health. Even though I desire to focus on specific philanthropic work with eating disorders, the global impact media has had on general mental health has become an epidemic. I hope to find other people who see this connection and wish to change the future of mental health through media in a healthier and mentally productive way. Similar to how Audrey Hepburn chose to challenge prosperity and elitist society through her UNICEF work globally, I wish to do the same through media and NEDA affiliated organizations.
I know my goal is attainable since many powerful women currently are continuing down similar career paths. For example, Meghan Markle has become a philanthropic powerhouse through her work with organizations focusing on gender equality and women’s rights as a biracial woman who married into the British royal family. Even though she has a leg up by marrying a globally loved royal figure, she still chose to use her global platform to inspire, catalyze change, and selflessly help others. Like both these powerful women of history, selflessness is vital in engaging in societal change. The entertainment industry can be quite self-involved, belittling, and valuing superiority complexes, especially towards women. This is a disheartening reality, and a current reality, I know I can challenge and ultimately change as Audrey Hepburn did with reframing the definition of attraction in old Hollywood.
In this vein, I can only continue to gain experience, have a strong work ethic, successfully network, and remember my ultimate goal. I used to be ashamed of my past challenges and felt incredibly lost when it came to my future, but now I am proud of my personal battles because they helped me recognize my passion and goals in life. I know my definition of happiness can only come by giving back to others alongside my creative aspiration in entertainment and media. As Audrey Hepburn famously said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” (“Audrey Hepburn Quotes”).
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