A few months ago, I wrote a review of Jordan Christy’s book, How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World. I found Ms. Christy’s tome to be shallow, bitchy, materialistic and judgmental, traits that the late Audrey Hepburn rarely showed. While reading Christy’s blathering, I thought to myself, “You don’t know Audrey Hepburn at all, toots.” I’ve been a huge fan of the late Audrey Hepburn for over twenty years. Not only do I love her movies, I also greatly admire her work with UNICEF. And on a shallow note, when it came to fashion and style, Audrey is primer on how to look stylish no matter your wardrobe budget.
So it was only fitting that I would be drawn to a book like Pamela Keogh’s What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living With Style and Grace. What Would Audrey Do? is a delightful combination of biography, helpful hints and analysis on a woman who was a movie star, style icon, tireless philanthropist, and wife, mother and daughter. And I must say, this book helped cleanse the stank of How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World.
What Would Audrey Do? is divided into different sections on how Audrey lived both her public and private life. You can cull wisdom on how Audrey handled dating and romance, how she managed her career and the glare of the spotlight, how she found solace in her home life and her two sons, and why giving back through UNICEF was so important to her. And you’ll also find out how the little black dress, big sunglasses, ballet flats and other classics became every woman’s wardrobe staples because of Audrey’s innate sense of style.
When it came to romance, did Audrey hang by the phone waiting for Mr. Right to call? No. She had a life and she lived it. Audrey kept her options open when it came to dating. Like a lot of us, she desired romance, marriage and family, but knew they would come in due time. She didn’t act like getting a big fat engagement ring was the most important thing in her life.
Throughout her career, Audrey made sure she stood out from the rest of the pack without being a transparent, grasping fame whore. In a time where women were supposed to be blond and buxom, Audrey was definitely memorable with her spare figure and dark hair. When it came to acting, Audrey trusted her instincts and relied on the discipline she gained from her dance lessons. She charmed the press and had no problem promoting her movies, and later UNICEF. But for the most part, she kept the press at arm’s length. And most importantly, she did not pull rank and expect people to cater to excessive whims. She treated everyone with decency and respect.
Considered one of the best-dressed women of the modern age, Audrey relied on the French couturier Hubert de Givenchy to outfit her both in her movies and in her real life. Granted most of us don’t have the money to buy haute couture, but many Audrey-like pieces like crisp white shirts, ballet flats and little black dresses can be found at most department stores and inexpensive mass merchandisers and they suit most figure types. Also, when it came to fashion, Audrey knew her body very well, and played up her assets while underplaying her flaws (not that she had that many). If something didn’t suit her, she didn’t wear it no matter how trendy it was. When it comes to fashion, the best thing we can glean from Audrey is, “do what works for you.” If you like the color yellow go for it, even if the fashion experts are saying yellow is out and red is in.
But Audrey was so much more than a movie star and fashion icon. Audrey spent the latter part of her life traveling the globe on behalf of UNICEF. Through her humanitarian efforts, she shed a light on the struggle and strife facing children in countries like Vietnam, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Somalia. Whereas some celeb philanthropic junkets seem like total PR pieces, Audrey got her hands dirty. She wrote her own speeches, researched the countries she visited and spoke to journalists in their native tongue.
However, Audrey’s life was not 100% charmed. Her father abandoned her family when she was a little girl. She nearly starved to death during World War II. She had her heart broken plenty of times, and experienced two failed marriages. She also suffered several miscarriages before she had her beloved sons Sean and Luca. Audrey was not an angel either. For one thing, she smoked nearly three packs of cigarettes a day.
Keogh, who also wrote the book Audrey Style, shows her passion for Audrey and the life she led on every page. For the most part Keogh has done a lot of exhaustive research and has interviewed the people who knew and loved Audrey best. Though I’m a true blue Audrey fan I found myself learning new things about her. For one thing, Audrey loved dark chocolate but hated garlic. She also had a great fear of getting her head dunked under water.
What Would Audrey Do? is not a perfect book. For one thing Keogh mistakenly claims that Audrey played a lesbian in the movie The Children’s Hour when she actually played a teacher accused of being a lesbian. And there is also a glaring typo on one page. I’m not sure if the typo is a mistake of Keogh’s or the publisher’s. But these quibbles are minor when it comes to learning about a true class act. If charm schools ever came back in style, What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living With Grace and Style would be the perfect text book.