Audrey Hepburn remains a household name because of her incredible influence on the world of cinema and fashion

“My mother died in 1993, and still….she’s everywhere,” says Sean Hepburn Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn’s son, in his book Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit.

Year after year, posters of Audrey Hepburn grace the walls of college dorm rooms around the world. Her fame throughout her life is matched if not surpassed by the fame acquired since her untimely death. Hepburn died in 1993 at the age of 63 from abdominal cancer. In the 63 years of her life, Hepburn managed to change the world of film and fashion.

Jordan Christy, author of the book “How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World,” says “I think her [Audrey Hepburn’s] shining charisma is what made her timeless. All of her character and personality came through on camera, and it’s still captivating to watch, all these years later.” This might as well be a fact, considering the continued popularity of Hepburn’s movies today amongst people of all ages.

Hepburn’s entry into the world of film seemed to happen naturally, says Pamela Keogh, author of the book “Audrey Style.” Born in Belgium with the initial dream of becoming a ballerina, Hepburn practiced at the Arnhem Conservatory when she was a child. But Hepburn would never become a ballerina. She was too tall to be partnered.

So Hepburn now had a new dream – acting. She began making small European films, and landed her first big break when she was chosen to star in a Broadway show called “Gigi.” Hepburn’s career seamlessly flowed into American cinema, and her first American motion picture was starring alongside Gregory Peck in the world famous film “Roman Holiday.” The role won Hepburn an Academy Award and prompted a contract with Paramount to make seven pictures over the course of a couple of decades, according an article called “Who Needs Beauty!” by Mike Connolly, written for Photoplay.

Although Hepburn didn’t want the celebrity and fame that followed, it was something that came along with her acting career.

Hepburn was the third actor in the world to receive $1,000,000 for a role in a film. She earned this paycheck for playing the character of Eliza Doolittle in the movie “My Fair Lady.” Of the 30 plus movies Hepburn starred in throughout her life, the most famous ones include “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Roman Holiday,” “Sabrina,” and “Funny Face.”

A.H. Weiler, who wrote a movie review of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” for the New York Times in 1961, says, “It [Breakfast at Tiffany’s] has the overpowering attribute known as Audrey Hepburn, who…now is displaying a fey, comic talent that should enchant Mr. Capote

The famous still shots of Hepburn during a dance scene in “Funny Face” show her reconnecting with her first true love – dancing. She is wearing black cigarette style pants, a black tight sweater, and ballet flats. Her hair is tied back in a simple ponytail. These still shots, along with clips from this famous dance scene, were used in a Gap commercial in 2006 for their “Audrey Hepburn pant.” This skinny black pant was introduced for the Gap’s “Keep it Simple” campaign. In a press release from 2006, Kyle Andrew, vice president of Gap Marketing says, “This ad is a true testament to timeless style and we couldn’t be more excited to have Audrey Hepburn – the ultimate style icon – represented in our campaign.”

“I think Audrey made fashion look intelligent,” Christy says, “Her clothes looked smart, her shoes were polished, her accessories were brilliant.”

Hepburn had a very visual, clear eye, Keogh explains. She knew, stylistically, what worked for her and she didn’t deviate from it. “Hepburn was an artist,” Keogh says, “She didn’t have a stylist and she formed her own visual imprint. She would take the role of designer and sketch out looks that she wanted.”

But it wasn’t always easy for Hepburn. She grew up during a difficult time, living through World War II, and even famine in Holland. Both the war and the famine caused Hepburn to be very skinny for her entire life. Many people thought she starved herself, but in fact, her body was underdeveloped from the time she was a child. “She looked the way she looked because she suffered,” Keogh explains.

During the war, Hepburn was forced to work and support her mother. Her mother, a baroness and Dutch aristocrat, was forced to work as a seamstress while Hepburn worked odd jobs just to make ends meet, Keogh says. But it made Hepburn feel fortunate and grateful that she could earn a living and support her mother, Keogh explains.

In addition, Hepburn’s father abandoned their family when she was a small child, and this haunted Hepburn for her entire life, affecting her relationships with men, says Keogh. It could even be the cause of her two failed marriages.

Hepburn Ferrer explains in his book that he remembers many times when his mother would say she was sad. And Christy explains, “she was absolutely affected by fame; she said so many times that she felt the need to escape from everything. And many times she did.” Hepburn wanted to escape from a life of fame that she never wanted in the first place. It was simply something she dealt with in order to act, support her family, and ultimately do what she loved.

Escaping, most of the time, meant charity work. Ellen Fontana, Executive Director of the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, explains that Hepburn considered her fame to be good luck, almost accidental. “It was only when she became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador that she found what she considered a productive way to use her celebrity.”

“She [Audrey] had no interest in giving the public more than she had to give them,” Keogh says, “There was a clear line between her work life and her private life.” Later in her life, Hepburn would only give half an hour-long interviews. This was because she believed that after 30 minutes, the interview would turn too personal.

Since her death, Hepburn’s fame has remained on a steady rise. Her image is plastered everywhere – on posters, on commercials, on billboards and more, as explained by Hepburn Ferrer in his book. Perhaps it was the mystery behind her image, the seemingly perfect and always composed persona, which caused admiration during and after her life.

Her look, her talent, her elegance, her charm, and her humble personality have made Hepburn timeless and unique. “She represented such classic ideals that we rarely see these days – poise, class, style, character, talent,” Christy says, “Those attributes have lived on and made her a legend. I don’t think that there will ever be another Audrey.”