Thursday, May 27, 2010

# 26: Oh so Audrey

The second you say the name Audrey Hepburn people immediately know who you are talking about; if they don't then they have been living under a rock or they need to have the dog piss slapped out of them. I get on these kicks where out of the blue, I'll pick up a movie with a certain actress and watch it; then I'll want to watch everything else she's been in. Why in the past two weeks I've ordered four of her movies off of Amazon, and to be honest I can't think of anything better to spend my birthday money on (and I didn't spend a lot of it either, my highest order was only 20 bucks after shipping).

Audrey Hepburn is a household name; men swoon over her, women have a deep respect for her and lets face it, the woman knew how to dress. She set trends that fashion designers today only dream of and is still one of the most recognized and successful film actresses in the world. But what makes her stand out besides the fashion and fame? Why is it that even still today, women both old and young alike want to somehow emulate Audrey?

Well my dear readers, I'm going to attempt to answer that. Lets start with some basic biography courtesy of Wikipedia (not the best source I know):
Born in Ixelles, Belgium as Audrey Kathleen Ruston, Hepburn spent her childhood chiefly in the Netherlands, including German-occupied Arnhem, Netherlands, during the Second World War. She studied ballet in Arnhem and then moved to London in 1948, where she continued to train in ballet and worked as a photographer's model. She appeared in a handful of European films before starring in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi. Hepburn played the lead female role in Roman Holiday (1953), winning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for her performance. She also won a Tony Award for her performance in Ondine (1954).

Hepburn became one of the most successful film actresses in the world and performed with such notable leading men as Gregory Peck, Rex Harrison, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Peter O'Toole, and Albert Finney. She won BAFTA Awards for her performances in The Nun's Story (1959) and Charade (1963), and received Academy Award nominations for Sabrina (1954), The Nun's Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and Wait Until Dark (1967).

She starred as Eliza Doolittle in the film version of My Fair Lady (1964), becoming only the third actor to receive $1,000,000 for a film role. From 1968 to 1975 she took a break from film-making, mostly to spend more time with her two sons. In 1976 she starred with Sean Connery in Robin and Marian. In 1989 she made her last film appearance in Steven Spielberg's Always.

Her war-time experiences inspired her passion for humanitarian work, and although she had worked for UNICEF since the 1950s, during her later life she dedicated much of her time and energy to the organization. From 1988 until 1992, she worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia. In 1992, Hepburn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. In 1999, she was ranked as the third greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute.

Obviously everyone is fascinated with that "look" that she has, that absolutely adorable, classy and sophisticated look that could only be described as "Oh it's so Audrey." What is the "Audrey" look though? She wasn't considered a classic beauty like Marylin Monroe, but if you look at her she is absolutely extraordinary; she possessed a uniqueness that was all her own and unlike anyone that Hollywood had ever seen before. She was this petite little thing with big feet and a tiny waist, she had big brown eyes that, with one look, could break your heart, put words to shame or make you smile. She was modest, yet incredibly sexy; that dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's is probably one of the most recognized and mimicked looks of all time. She was considered, at the time, ill-proportioned, boyish, flat-chested with big feet, and scrawny; but ask anyone who knew her and they'll say she was beyond sexy.

It's been said that the clothes she wore were more than just for fashion, they were somewhat of an "armor of love", something that enabled her to be appropriately dressed which is what she believed in and where that sexy modesty comes in. She viewed herself as this package of imperfections, but isn't that what true beauty is all about? Not knowing how special you are? That is what, I think, is so appealing to women is that she's not this cookie cutter model, but they still know she's beautiful and its a unique quality that keeps her enduring. She was an "under-dresser" instead of an "over-dresser"; she bought her shoes an half size too big because she thought they lasted longer and looked better if you're not cramming your foot into them. Sticking to something practical such as that is what makes your look work. Designers today, when they see something they like: a clean, modern look that works they'll exclaim: "Oh that's so Audrey!" Its a look that works, a clean style that always looks fabulous and always works.

So what is the "look" that Audrey Hepburn felt most comfortable in? Polo shirts and jeans; casual, comfortable clothes that allowed her to move and breath easy during her UNICEF missions. Right up until the end of her life she remained an icon to simplicity, knowing what works with your body and sticking with it. She was so genuine in ever aspect of her life, and people saw that; it's so hard to see through a Hollywood actor, you never know if they really are a genuine person. Not with Audrey, somehow you knew that she was this classy and elegant woman both on and off camera. Audrey, when asked about how she felt being labeled and "icon" said:
I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people's minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.

Classy, elegant, genuine and humble. What did you expect from her?

I'm going to close with a few of my favorite quotes from her:
I decided, very early on, just to accept life unconditionally; I never expected it to do anything special for me, yet I seemed to accomplish far more than I had ever hoped. Most of the time it just happened to me without my ever seeking it.

Pick the day. Enjoy it - to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come... The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present - and I don't want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.

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.

Audrey Hepburn will continue to endure as an icon long after other stars have faded from the limelight (because after all, there are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girls complexion), because she has that staying power. She's cast a shadow that no other woman can begin to fill, and that is what makes her so special.

At least, that's how I see it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Column # 23: A Peek into my iTunes: Power to the Vag

Yes that's right, power to the vag. I don't know what possessed me to do this column on women singers/songwriters, oh wait yes I do. I'm a feminist ;] As you can imagine, the possibilities were endless; I decided to narrow it down to a few, more recent women who have come to be my favourites in the last years:

Madonna, let me count the ways you empower me. This is the perfect selection for anyone who is just starting to get into Madonna. It has all of her hits that you've heard on radio stations, plus a few of her less known ones as well. Her music preaches originality, encourages not to settle for second best and stresses the importance of being comfortable in yourself. She started a revolution, one of female sexuality and being comfortable in your own skin, and its one that my next singer is taking to a whole new level....

Oh Lady Gaga...where to begin. Well lets start off with the outfits. She's worn everything from something that looked like it was made from the slaughter of Kermit the Frog dolls, a fabulously dressed lion, the Phantom of the Opera experimenting with a bedazzled machine and something from a Poe short story. Like many people, I definitely raised my eyebrows. I bought her album and fell in love with the music, both the techno like sound and the incredibly well-written lyrics. All one has to do to appreciate Gaga is listen to her lyrics, seriously this chic can pen some amazing lyrics that can compete with the best poets. This is coming from someone who is hardcore about poetry and lyrics; I can't stand it when people call a song 'amazing' and it's nothing but the same thing repeating over and over again. With Gaga, she explores everything from experimenting with your sexuality to date rape. She is definitely an artist I respect...and I really would love to raid her closet.

Speaking of empowerment through songwriting...may I introduce Sara Bareillies. I honestly can't think of anything more empowering to women in the entertainment industry than those who write their own songs. Her songs a witty, with clear motives and beautiful use of language.

I love Kat DeLuna. I really do, she's responsible for getting me off of my ass and on a treadmill. This particular song is very empowering, taking the stance of 'I don't give a shit what you say'. I first thought she wrote it for me honestly, because its very much like myself: "You can talk all you want but my skin is really thick, I'm the leader of the crowd and my game is really slick." See? So me. This is the song you want to listen to before a huge exam or board meeting, trust me your confidence will go through the roof.

Fergiliscious def. Fergie is my girl because she basically takes this 'fuck off' attitude when she writes her songs. I love this CD because it's so diverse, from upbeat, get off your ass and dance numbers such as 'London Bridge' to intimate and serious once such as 'Big Girls Don't Cry'. Her titles and lyrics are just as inventive and unique as she is and they make this Black Eyed Pea stand up just fine by herself.

Do I really need to explain how amazing this is again? Okay fine...'Because I am a Wife'. Nuff said.