I’ve always believed if I was prettier, if I looked like Audrey Hepburn or Angelina Jolie, I’d be happier. That if I had some type of rare beauty, nothing would ever be wrong. What I’m realizing now, however, is that beauty is such an elusive, intangible concept that no one, even if we think they have it, feels they have it. And we’re all spending our lives running around wishing we looked different, only to deny ourselves the confidence we all need to actually be beautiful.
I know this because the woman I think is the most beautiful in the world, Audrey Hepburn, absolutely hated herself. According to her son, she battled with crippling insecurity her entire life. “She thought she had a big nose and big feet, and she was too skinny and not enough breast. She would look in the mirror and say, ‘I don’t understand why people see me as beautiful.”
Interviewer: How comfortable are you watching yourself on the screen?
Audrey Hepburn: Terribly uncomfortable. Always have been. I’ve always gone to see my rushes because I felt I should, because I thought maybe there’s something I can still correct. But I’m terribly particular of myself. I don’t like what I see. That’s why its always such a miracle to me. Because if I’ve been successful, the audience, the people, see something that I don’t see.
Interviewer: If you could change anything about yourself what would it be?
Audrey Hepburn: I’d like to have had smaller feet. I hate having big feet and my friends have pretty feet and wear such pretty shoes.
Of course, we can’t understand how Audrey Hepburn could hate herself. Who cares about big feet when you have that face, that aura, that talent? The last thing I’m looking at is Audrey Hepburn’s feet. Unfortunately, it’s the only thing she was ever looking at.
So how did she overcome these terrible insecurities? How does an actress who hates how she looks become such a star? I believe her answer is in her interview towards the end of her life with Barbara Walters.
Barbara Walters: Do you know how wonderful looking you are? I mean, you must hear people say it.
Audrey Hepburn: I mean it’s very hard for me to understand. You know how one feels about oneself and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and I don’t stand there and say how wonderful I look. But I’m thrilled because it means, as I don’t think and never thought I look like anything much, I did make an effort. Apparently I appeal to women more than men even. It’s terrible to talk about yourself. But my looks are therefore attainable because they can look like Audrey Hepburn if they want. The big glasses, the short hair, the black dresses. I created a look in order to make something of myself.
Barbara Walters: I should show you my early pictures on the Today Show. I copied you. I didn’t realize until you said it. I remember copying that look.
Audrey Hepburn: I worked at it. The result has been a look. But which can be attained.
I was struck by the line, “I created a look in order to make something of myself.”
I realized what Audrey is trying to teach us is that it’s not about being beautiful. It’s about being certain. Certain about who you are. Certain about what you want. Certain about what you love. I think that’s what’s been missing for me. I hate myself in photographs. That may never go away. But I can at least gain some identity. Have a look. Have something that defies this concept of ‘natural beauty’ by being unique. Because there’s not one set definition of beauty. We see beauty in so many things and most of the things we find beautiful are completely original.