Lifestyle

I Lived like Audrey Hepburn for a week

Audrey adopted a deer, so I did too.

By Julia Pugachevsky
Living like Audrey Hepburn for a week

A year ago, a Cosmo writer lived like Marilyn Monroe for a week, and with May being Audrey Hepburn's birth month, it seemed like the perfect time for someone to take on the equally-as-famous starlet of that era. And that someone was ... me?

To be clear, I knew nothing about Audrey Hepburn going into the experiment. It all started because some coworkers believed I looked enough like her to pull it off, which is possibly the most flattering thing I’ve ever been told. (Seriously, no compliment will ever top “You know, you really do look kinda like Audrey! In the eyes! I think it’s the bangs?”)

Black Dress: HAYLEY PAIGE OCCASIONS / Black Gloves: DAVID'S BRIDAL / Extendable Vintage Style Cigarette Holder: AMAZON / Earrings: CLAIRE'S / Hair Accessory: Thrifted / Necklace: Thrifted / Photo Taken at THE REDEYE GRIL

I also quickly realised that on top of not knowing any Audrey Hepburn trivia, I had never seen a full film of hers from start to finish. Audrey is one of those people who's so famous, so popular among college-room wall decor and last-minute Halloween costumes that you can feel like you know her — when, obviously, you don’t at all.

So, after finally watching a few Audrey movies, digging through old YouTube interview clips/screen tests/BBC documentaries, and sifting through fan page after fan page, I embarked on a weeklong journey living as the star. Here's how it went.

Black Pants: H&M / Black Long-Sleeve Shirt: H&M / Earrings: Thrifted / Embroidered Flats: Thrifted

Day 1: Lounging à la Audrey

As Audrey grew older, she became more interested in spending time at home, “recharging” on weekends as all classic introverts do. Since I usually use Sundays as a time to catch up on laundry and meal prep for the week, this didn’t feel so different from my own routine — that is, until I decided to tackle not one, but two of Audrey’s own cooking recipes, from Audrey at Home, a combination cookbook/biography written by her son.

The first was a recipe for madeleines — French butter cakes that Audrey typically ate for breakfast on Sundays and that I’ve only ever bought prepackaged from Starbucks.

I’m one of those people who only cooks or bakes for practical, money-saving and health reasons or as a social activity (aka my friends do most of the work). Luckily, the madeleines were pretty straightforward and mostly required hovering near my oven (which is extra hot and has historically burned everything I’ve ever put in there) to make sure those little babies were, indeed, golden.

Audrey took breakfast seriously and usually had “homemade madeleines, quince jelly, or cherry jam, along with toast, coffee, milk, butter, a small rose from the garden in a tiny vase, and on the side of her tray the International Herald Tribune,” according to Audrey at Home. I added a pink rose and arranged the cakes in the most Instagrammable formation I could.

Afterward, I used the time to take a walk outside, read up on Audrey, and shop for my second meal of the day: spaghetti al pomodoro, another favourite dish of the star.

Audrey seemed to be someone who didn’t deprive herself of the foods she loved — her book is stocked with pasta and cake recipes chock-full of fresh ingredients, which were often plucked right from her garden.

I live in a walk-up in Brooklyn though, so my local grocery store had to do. The recipe also called for a food mill, which I don't own, and hand-chopping about 10 tomatoes, which my roommate said “sounded like I was doing forever.” After impatiently circling the kitchen as the vegetables all cooked so I could grind them in a blender, I was starving.

Hunger aside, I don’t think I’ve ever scarfed down pasta so quickly, and scarfing down is the only way I ever eat pasta. The sauce was simple and aromatic, and I made enough to last the whole week.

The meal was, by far, the most ambitious cooking I’d ever done on my own, but the fact that both recipes turned out more than just barely edible felt like a major win.

Day 2: Ballet Has a Pointe

Audrey got her professional start in ballet and continued to use her dance skills in films like Funny Face and Secret People. My only experience with ballet was a class my parents sent me to in Brooklyn when I was 7. It was run by a red-haired lady who let us run around most of the time after she quickly went over a few of the foot positions. I’ll let the footage speak for itself:

So I felt nervous when I signed up for a beginners' class at the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation. My nerves worsened when I realised I was the only person wearing Vans/not actual ballet shoes, and when the instructor wanted me to stand closer to the front (I politely declined).

The class definitely made me have an “Oh, this is ballet” epiphany, since the instructor focused on teaching us which muscles to use for each exercise. I was by no means good at this, but by the time the class was over 90 minutes later, I was standing up straighter and my legs were pointing slightly more elegantly. Audrey’s impeccable posture suddenly seemed attainable.

Day 3: Letting Off Steam

Audrey’s beauty routine was generally pretty clean and simple, and the same went for her skin — she preferred to use minimal foundation and instead showed off her natural, marble-like complexion (for the record, I'm seething with jealousy because my forehead is prone to breakouts).

Audrey was a fan of a steam facials — which, thankfully, cost nothing. All you do is pour boiling water into a bowl and lean over it with a towel over your head until the steam cools. The hot vapour is supposed to open up and cleanse your pores.

I’d have to do this a lot more consistently (and probably use a cleanser/face mask after) to see results but it felt surprisingly soothing. Even though the TV was on in the background and I could hear my roommates chatting, I felt very insulated and instantly Zen. I could see why Audrey, who valued her quiet moments, would prefer this as her go-to beauty routine.

Day 4: Chocolate Makes Everything Better (Until You Burn All of It)

Audrey loved chocolate and had a very special relationship with it. As a kid, she stress-ate it when her parents argued or anytime she wanted to “banish sadness”; later, after nearly starving to death as a teen during the “Hunger Winter” in Holland during World War II, her first meal was seven chocolate bars and sweetened condensed milk given to her by a Dutch soldier.

According to her son, she kept a stash of dark chocolate in her bedroom. I do this too, but if I were to guess, Audrey didn’t eat six squares at a time. What was a nice little way to treat herself every day is a very dangerous habit for me.

Audrey also enjoyed flourless chocolate cake. Because I figured I nailed the other two recipes, I was excited to try my hand at baking this; I even bought fancy baking chocolate from Whole Foods — I was that confident.

The recipe called for melting chocolate, which I have never done but have seen in about 80 million videos online, so I couldn’t imagine it being difficult. Boy, was I wrong.

Luckily, my roommates rose to the occasion after I showed them my spoon of congealed, burned chocolate. One of them ran out and bought new bars while the other taught me how to “fold” whipped cream into batter. We worked as a team and somehow, a cake was born.

The cake wasn’t overly sweet and paired perfectly with the recommended powdered sugar and ice cream. I’d never experienced such a chaotic emotional arc from baking but it did make me super grateful to have roommates who were down to help. Given how family-oriented Audrey was, and that she shared so much of what she cooked with her loved ones (including this dessert, which she often served on birthdays), enjoying a night where we all made something together felt even more quintessentially Audrey.

Nevertheless, I’m still mad I scorched my gross chocolate.

Day 5: Feel the (Hep)burn

Today was all about doing the extra little things that made Audrey, Audrey. While she was more withdrawn than other celebs, she had a deep passion for gardening. Again, I don't have a garden— nor the confidence to housesit anyone’s plants, let alone care for my own.

So I found a compromise: I bought a succulent and placed it in a hanger from Urban Outfitters, an act that will surely land me in a scathing Brooklyn hipster roundup. I will have 100 percent deserved it.

The other thing about Audrey is that she had a pet deer. This is, without doubt, what I envy the most: the fact that in 1958, she took home a little doe named Pippin from the set of Green Mansions so she could bond with it, and then, no big deal, ended up keeping it as if it were a puppy. When I saw photos of her running around her lawn with the fawn, or cuddling with her on the couch, my heart stung from how badly I wanted the same thing.

So, because Audrey adopted a deer, I did too.

Symbolically, anyway. For $35 USD you can “adopt” a deer, with the funds being put toward helping conservation efforts and other environmental needs. And it comes with a little plush toy, so I could briefly pretend that I, too, possess the undisputed best part of Audrey’s life.

Day 6: My Fair (and Very Charitable) Lady

OK, I lied: My real favourite fact about Audrey was that she was a UNICEF ambassador from 1988 until she died in 1993. Because she had experienced starvation as a child and survived solely thanks to the goodwill of others, she helped hungry children all over the world, traveling to countries like Ecuador, Sudan, Bangladesh, and Thailand, just to name a few.

Coincidentally, I had been volunteering at an organization for a few months that also deals with hunger prevention: Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, which takes healthy restaurant food that otherwise would be thrown out and delivers it to people who are dependent on food-assistance programs. When someone couldn’t make it to their shift, I took over.

Afterward, I went to a postcard-signing party for a group my friends started called Tally Up NY, which strives to pass automatic voter registration in New York and make voting more accessible to younger and more diverse voters. How does this relate to Audrey? She was politically involved during WWII, from delivering secret messages to British soldiers (because young girls on bikes were less suspicious) to performing in super-underground theatre (audiences weren’t allowed to clap, lest they be heard by the Nazis) as part of the resistance.

Pushing for updated voter registration is a much subtler form of protest than the life-risking things Audrey did. Still, it felt good to spend a Friday night working toward a common goal.

Grey Pants: H&M / Black Sweater: H&M / Black Flats: H&M

Day 7: Quel Week!

Since Audrey spent so much of her time being involved with humanitarian work (she even has her own children’s fund), I started the morning with my second, hunger-related service event of the week, and one I haven’t done before: volunteering in a soup kitchen. It was a pretty straightforward two hours of food preparation — you go to whichever station needs help, and the end result is an impressive supply of sandwiches, soup, salad, cornbread, cookies, and fruit. I was self-conscious about my own efficiency in a fast-paced cooking environment, but I see it as all the more reason to keep coming back and improving.

Afterward, I went to the New York Botanical Garden with some friends. It was something I assumed Audrey would enjoy, given her gardening hobby and the fact that she made a documentary called Gardens of the World With Audrey Hepburn.

I wanted to end my week with a day I thought Audrey would approve of: working for an important cause, then walking around with great people through small forests and dandelion hills, all doing wonders in helping us briefly forget we live in the superfluous-cab-honking capital of the country.

Audrey is one of the most iconic actresses of all time. She's heralded as a style icon and a symbol of grace. But for me, the classiest thing about her was her love for family, people in need, and herself.

She practiced self-care long before it reached mainstream culture and moved away from Hollywood's chaos as she grew older. She was humble about her success and grateful for it, but she acknowledged what was important to her, regardless of fame.

Black Dress: HAYLEY PAIGE OCCASIONS / Black Gloves: DAVID'S BRIDAL / Earrings: CLAIRE'S / Hair Accessory: Thrifted / Necklace: Thrifted

On screen, Audrey seems impossibly perfect: the softness of her voice, the litheness of her movement, the way her forlorn face can melt into a smile so genuine, you momentarily forget what sadness is. Off camera, however, she was as real as it gets.

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