Audrey Hepburn was born on May 4th, 1929, in Brussels, specifically within the district of Ixelles. She received British nationality through her father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston. Those interested can trace the roots of Hepburn and visit the house where she was born. If you’re lucky enough to be around on her birthday, you’ll be invited by the current owners to participate in a celebration in her honor, complete with drinks and “Moon River” on repeat.
Her name went through a series of changes before becoming the name we know today. She was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston. During the German occupation, she looked for a pseudonym to hide her English provenance. The result was Edda Van Heemstra, but it never became a legal name. “Hepburn” comes from her father, who adopted the surname. Audrey decided to use it for her acting career.
While filming 1959’s Green Mansions, Hepburn was asked to take home and bond with a fawn since they were going to be together on screen. The bond ended up being so strong that Audrey ended up adopting the fawn for a while and named it Pippen. The actress took the pet deer everywhere, from the grocery store to parties. Rumor has it that her Yorkshire terrier, Mr. Famous, was jealous of her relationship with Pippen.
Hepburn was passionate about ballet. She started to dance at five and worked her way toward a professional career. She desired to become a prima ballerina and used her talent to raise money for the Dutch Resistance during World War II. Unfortunately, she was too tall to become a ballerina and so her dream never materialized.
Hepburn is one of few members of the EGOT club – those who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award. She received an Oscar in 1953 for her performance in Roman Holiday; a Tony in 1954 for her work in Ondine; an Emmy in 1993 for her program Gardens of the World With Audrey Hepburn; and a Grammy in 1994 for the album Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales. Quite a feat!
French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy and Hepburn became friends when Givenchy was asked to dress her for Sabrina in 1953. He then became her personal stylist as he understood Audrey’s complexion and she loved the Givenchy style. The relationship between Hepburn and Givenchy was so strong that Givenchy made the fragrance L’Interdit just for her. Years later, he decided to make the fragrance available to the public. Hepburn then became the first actress to be the face of a perfume advertisement.
Hepburn had an abnormal fear of water. During the production Two for the Road, the crew had to find a way to make her feel safe in the scene in which she is thrown into a pool.
Hepburn gave one of her most indelible performances as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But did you know the role was initially written for Marilyn Monroe? Truman Capote always had Monroe in mind to play Holly, whom he conceived as a New York prostitute. Hepburn almost declined the part for that reason, but the script was tailored to make Holly acceptable to her.
Many people are named after flowers but how many people can actually say that a flower is named after them? A cultivar of daylily, tulip, and rose each have the privilege to be named after Audrey Hepburn.
Hepburn founded and ran a non-profit organization, The Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. She had also volunteered as a nurse during World War II. In 1992, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded to her for her work with UNICEF.
This one-of-a-kind actress, model, and humanitarian activist remain an inspiring role model who achieved her goals while dedicating her life to serving others.