What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style by Pamela Keogh

jpeg-3A 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.

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Audrey Hepburn-A Tribute

Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund Somalia 1992Jordan Christy’s book seriously ticked me off so I decided to dust off a tribute I wrote to Audrey Hepburn and post it here. Please forgive me for this self-serving indulgence. I’ll get back to writing book reviews and book/writer related-posts shortly.

 “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.” – Audrey Hepburn 1929-1993

If she had lived, Audrey Hepburn would have turned 85 years old in May of next year. Sadly, we lost her over twenty years ago. She never had the chance to reach this milestone. Being a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn, I could continue to mourn her death but I’d rather reflect on why she and her amazing life means so much to me.

I first became interested in Audrey when I first saw the movie Funny Face over as a teenager. In this movie, Audrey plays Jo Stockton, a mousy bookstore clerk turned haute couture fashion model. I figured I’d love this cinematic fairy tale for the Parisian sights, Fred Astaire dance scenes, smart and subversive humor and Givenchy fashions. But I had no idea I would become besotted with a wide-eyed gamine named Audrey Hepburn.

It was a mystery why Audrey grabbed me so much. Sure, she was beautiful, talented and charming, but so are plenty of movie stars. Audrey just had that “it factor” I couldn’t explain but I knew I wanted to see more of her movies and learn more about her as a human being. Who was the Audrey Hepburn beyond the flickering celluloid?

I began renting Audrey’s movies and watching them over and over again. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, My Fair Lady and Charade were just a few of Audrey’s movies I couldn’t get enough of. In these movies, she was both lady-like and spunky, at turns heartbreaking and strong, and so very Audrey. Sure, she made characters like Holly Golightly and Sabrina Fairchild household names, but she wasn’t afraid to court controversial topics like the possibility of lesbianism in The Children’s Hour or a nun questioning her faith in The Nun’s Story. And in her last movie, Always, she played an angel. Now she really is one.

And we can’t mention Audrey without discussing her impeccable sense of style. With her friend and confidant, the designer, Hubert de Givenchy. Audrey helped introduce women to fashionable basics we now take for granted-big sunglasses, the little black dress, ballet flats. How empty our closets would be without Audrey’s influence. And she was always willing to give Givenchy the important credit for creating the “Audrey Look.” Audrey wore his clothing in her movies and her in personal life. She often claimed knowing what she’d be wearing in a movie helped her develop a character, and complimented Givenchy’s outfits for making her feel protected.

Like any other woman, Audrey had her share of joy and heartbreak in her life. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and she rarely saw her father afterwards. She nearly starved to death during World War II after the Nazis took over her homeland, Holland. As an adult, she was married and divorced twice, finally finding lasting love with her final companion, Robert Wolders. Desperate to be a mother, Audrey suffered several miscarriages, finally giving birth to her first son, Sean, in 1960 with Luca following in 1970. Being a mother was Audrey’s greatest joy, and just like so many other mothers out there, she tried to achieve work/life balance and slowed down her career to devote time to her boys.

But Audrey’s care and concern went beyond her own children. In 1988, she got involved in UNICEF. UNRRA, UNICEF’s forerunner had helped Audrey at the end of World War II, and she wanted to pay them back. She became a Goodwill Ambassador and traveled around the world witnessing the atrocities of famine, drought, war, lack of education and how they damaged young lives. She took this new found knowledge and informed others, inspiring them to help.

It was during this time, I got to see Audrey in person. In 1990, my friend Nora and I saw Audrey read from the Diary of Anne Frank, accompanied by the New World Symphony and conducted by the legendary Michael Tilson Thomas. Audrey was one of those people who spurned us to action, and to this day, Nora and I are involved in causes within our communities and abroad.

On a final trip to Somalia, Audrey fell ill. At first she thought it was a simple virus, but it was soon found out that she had colon cancer. And sadly, she lost her battle to cancer on January 20th, 1993. Nearly everyone mourned her death. Tiffany & Co. took out an entire page of the New York Times to memorialize her, and People magazine devoted a special issue in her honor. To this day, I can remember hot, sticky tears pouring down my face when Entertainment Tonight played “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s as it showed scenes from her movie and her life.

After Audrey’s death, her sons founded the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund to commemorate her work on behalf of children everywhere. As for me personally, Audrey Hepburn has influenced me in countless ways. Probably the most important way is by improving my community and the world around us through self-education, volunteering, charitable giving, and donating my skills to causes I care about.

Audrey was like a lot of us, yet she compels us to aspire to things greater than ourselves. My life is richer because of her, and I know she will continue to inspire many others. You are missed my Huckleberry friend.

I Read It So You Don’t Have To: How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World-The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace by Jordan Christy

How to Be a HepburnThe late, great wit Dorothy Parker once claimed, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” Well, every once in a while I’m going to come across a book that should truly be thrown with great force. Hence, I’m starting a new series: I Read It So You Don’t Have To.

I do not want to write bad reviews, but sometimes I am compelled to because I come across a book so odious that I want to keep other people from wasting their time from reading total dreck. Please avoid the following dreck:

In a world of D-list celebs like table-tossing Real Housewives, teen moms turned porn stars, and famewhores whose last name starts with K, it can be a miracle to find a celebrity we can look up to for her talent, compassion, elegance and all-around good manners. No wonder so many people still look up to Audrey Hepburn even though she’s passed away over twenty years ago.

I am a huge fan of the late Miss Hepburn so at first I was thrilled to find Jordan Christy’s How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace. Because if there is one thing we can use more in this world it is style, class and grace.

Sadly, Christy’s book is less about style, class and grace and more about slut-shaming and ripping apart other women, or as Christy snidely puts it “Stupid Girls”. Throughout this book Christy cattily calls out women she deems cheap and low-class. What makes a woman cheap and low-class? Apparently a woman is cheap and low-class if she owns a bedazzled cell phone, wears a mini-skirt and dances on top of tables at nightclubs. Christy also spends time whining about her lack of popularity in high school while ripping apart a couple of her class nemeses who she’s convinced are still horrible bitches. Gee, Christy those two horrible bitches could have grown up to be perfectly nice people who live responsible, decent lives. Did you even think of that?

Well, I guess not. Christy doesn’t quite grasp on how people change over the course of their lives, and she also barely touches on how Hepburn can truly inspire us to be our best selves. Instead she name drops celebrities, and behooves the reader to invest in pricey, materialistic items. Christy just has to brag about one of her designer handbags and how everyone is jealous of it. She also intersperses this book with vapid, pointless personality quizzes that make those quizzes you find in Cosmo look like the New York State bar exam.

When Christy isn’t discussing celebrities, offering advice on fashion, or encouraging us to take her pointless quizzes, she’s telling us how to behave in the workplace or how to find and keep a man. When it comes to our jobs we should work hard, take on challenging projects and exude a professional attitude. I’m sure your mother taught you the same things. And even when discussing the workplace, Christy can’t refrain from ripping apart another “stupid girl”-her former intern whose antics sound completely made up (or Christy was too stupid to get references from her intern’s former employers or professors).

And what’s Christy’s advice on nabbing that elusive man, the ring and a trip down the aisle? Well, never call or text a guy because then he’ll think you’re a crazed stalker. Instead, let the guy ask you out a dozen times even though you’re not interested because eventually you acquiesce. Christy’s male input comes from mostly her husband, a half of dozen guys with the same mindset, and rock musician John Mayer. Yes, John Mayer; you might remember him as the guy who called actress Kerry Washington “white girl crazy” and his ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson “sexual napalm.” Ugh.

Ultimately, this book is more about Christy’s fabulous and perfect life and less about Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn is not a brand to sell books; she was a complex human being. She barely survived World War II as a child. Her parents divorced when she was young. She was estranged from her father and had an icy relationship with her mother. She was married and divorced twice and suffered from several miscarriages.

On-screen, Hepburn was so much more than a fashionable gamine. In her most notable role, Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” she pretty much plays a call girl. In “A Nun’s Story,” Audrey plays Sister Luke, a woman who at times doubts her faith and her vocation. And in “The Children’s Hour,” Hepburn and Shirley MacClaine play headmistresses who are accused of having a lesbian relationship-pretty heady stuff for the mid-1960s.

Off-screen, Hepburn could be bawdy, admitted she sometimes cussed, smoked, and enjoyed a glass of Scotch. She was a devoted mom to her sons Sean and Luca, loved to garden, paint and cook, and spent her final years with the love of her life Robert Wolders.

And what was truly inspiring about Hepburn, was her tireless work for UNICEF to help children in third world countries obtain proper nutrition, healthcare and education. If only Christy would have spent more time discussing this aspect of Hepburn’s life rather than ripping apart women who bedazzle their cell phones or telling us what eye shadow we should wear. Hepburn’s memory deserves so much more than the vacuous, judgmental and mean-spirited musings in How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World-The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace.

Cleansing the Palate

Instead of reading Christy’s awful books just go to the source-Audrey Hepburn herself! Just click to find books on Audrey Hepburn. Happy reading!