Today’s post is a sidestep from jewelry. Although Audrey Hepburn’s image in popular culture became intertwined with one of the great jewelry houses of all time, this post is about what she, and her most iconic role, have meant to me.
Audrey Hepburn died 19 years ago today. She resides in our collective imagination and, perhaps, always will. There isn’t anything that I can say about Audrey Hepburn that hasn’t been said before and said better. Of course, she was a style icon and devastatingly beautiful. She was made all the more beautiful by her humanness and kindness and generosity, which are all well-documented.
The only thing that I can add to the world of sentiments about Audrey Hepburn are my own.
Like so many people, for me, the line between Audrey Hepburn and Holly Golightly is a blurry one. I first saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1985 with my dad. I was ten years-old. We were able to see it on the big screen because the old, fancy theater, where the local orchestra played, had started also showing classic movies. At that time, I did not appreciate what a rare treat it was to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s in a theater. I fell in love with the movie. I was young enough to forgive the movie some of its flaws, such as Mickey Rooney’s horrendously racist portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, and I just focused on the chic, yet goofy, world of Holly Golightly. I think it was also lost on me that she was a prostitute.
Seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time was more than just a cinematic experience for me. My little, ten year-old, mourning heart became helplessly attached to Audrey Hepburn or Holly Golightly or both. At that point, my tall, thin, stylish mother had been dead about two years and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons. I felt like I had been thrown some sort of life-line in the form of Audrey Hepburn. It’s strange, I know, but Audrey Hepburn and my mother have always been a little blended in my mind. I hope they know, wherever they are, that it is a credit to them both.
As an interesting aside, I read once that the character of Holly Golightly is a motherless daughter archetype. I think that goes for both how she is portrayed in the movie as well as how she was written by Truman Capote in the novella of the same name — perhaps that is the only similarity. From what we know of the character’s life, which is not much, she’s a survivor but basically feral. In addition to the fact that Audrey Hepburn reminds me of my mother, the character of Holly Golightly as a motherless daughter resonates with me as well. There is just something disorienting about losing one’s primary example of womanhood. Once an adult, you can end up feeling a little like you sprung, fully formed, from the ground and there you are — a woman — and not entirely sure how it happened. Holly Golightly acts as if she feels like that.
I maintain that I can pick out a woman who lost her mother in childhood at a hundred paces.
I’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s countless times. I know every Audrey Hepburn line and, when drunk, I’ve proven it more than once. As a result of loving the movie, I began a love affair, from afar, with Tiffany & Co., the brand, as well. Honestly, Tiffany is not something that would normally appeal to me. While it’s true that their quality is legendary and their customer service unparalleled, it just isn’t something to which I would naturally gravitate, as it would strike me as too elitist. But, because of all that I have written here, about Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tiffany has always pulled at me from the heart. Successful branding? Perhaps. But, I don’t care. It’s part of my internal world and always will be.
Knowing what all of these things have meant to me, my sweet husband gave me a less complicated reason to be emotionally attached to Tiffany. He proposed at the Tiffany here in San Francisco and, right then and there, we purchased the beautiful engagement ring that sits now on my hand — bringing a long and sentimental story about my childhood, my mother, an actress, and a movie full circle. The ring didn’t come out of a Crackerjack box but I love it all the same.