The Unlikely Life of Audrey Hepburn

By Laurie Bogart Wiles

Audrey Hepburn playing golf and holding a parasol, circa 1955. (Picturelux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy Stock Photos)

You must know something of Ella Audrey if you wish to understand anything of the woman she would become–and the world would know–as Audrey Hepburn.

At 5 feet, 7 inches and just under 100 pounds, her developing beauty and natural grace presented her the opportunity to study ballet with Sonia Gaskell, director of the Netherlands Ballet, after the war. In 1948, Audrey moved to London with her mother and won a scholarship to study under the great Polish-born dancer and influencer would never advance to prima ballerina due to the lasting effects of childhood malnutrition.

Audrey instead began modeling and took small parts in films and theatre productions, becoming a chorus girl in London’s West End musical revues and making her film debut in Dutch in Seven Lessons (1948).

In 1952, Audrey was in Monaco playing a small role in Monte Carlo Baby, when she was spotted by French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, best known for Gigi. The enchanting story, set in late-1800s Paris, follows the platonic friendship between a wealthy playboy and a young girl, being trained as a courtesan by her elderly aunts, that eventually blossoms into love. Upon seeing Audrey, Colette exclaimed to her husband, “Viola, ma Gigi!”

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