9 Things You Didn't Know About Audrey Hepburn

You'll never believe what she made for "Roman Holiday"

If only there were a “Pin It” button for real life. We’d totally use it on a visit to Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, a new exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The photo collection follows the actress’s journey from chorus girl to Hollywood legend to dedicated humanitarian in her later years--but it’s the accompanying factoids about her life we found the most interesting. Can’t make it to the exhibit? Here, nine things that may surprise you about Audrey Hepburn.

Her Real Name Wasn't Audrey Hepburn

She was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4, 1929, in Brussels. In fact, she didn’t go by Hepburn until 1948.


Ballet Was Her Original Plan

Hepburn loved dance so much that she moved to London in 1948 to pursue a career full-time as a prima ballerina. But her above-average height (she was 5 feet 7 inches) meant that career was a no-go. Still, she managed to weave footwork into many of her films.


She Got Her Big Break In A Tourism Commercial

Dutch in Seven Lessons mixed footage of the 18-year-old Hepburn with aerial footage of the Dutch countryside. Random? Sure. But it helped her lock down her first modeling gig.

But Hit The Big Time With A Single Line

Who wants a ciggie?” was pretty much Hepburn’s only line in Laughter in Paradise, but when the movie became 1951’s top-grossing film, she became the woman to watch. Of course, it didn’t hurt that all eyes were already on her--the budding starlet had recently shot her first major ad campaign (for the Marshall & Snelgrove department store), which ran in Tatler and Vogue.

She Once Quit Love To Focus On Her Career

The year was 1951. Hepburn was starring in Gigi on Broadway. She was fresh off filming Roman Holiday. Production on Sabrina was starting. This meant she had to prioritize--and say buh-bye to fiancé James Hanson.

And Was Way Underpaid For One Of Her Biggest Roles

Yep, Hepburn only got $12,500 for her performance in Roman Holiday. She also got an Oscar. Go figure.


Still, She Made Bank For Her Next Gig

Hepburn became the highest-paid actress at the time when she scored the lead role in King Vidor’s adaptation of War and Peace. Her salary? A cool $350K, plus $500 a week in expenses. Not too shabby for 1952.

She Styled Herself--mostly In Givenchy

Hepburn’s love affair with the haute couture designer began after Paramount let the actress personally select her costumes for Sabrina. Same deal for Charade: Hubert de Givenchy, founder of the fashion brand, custom-made Hepburn’s ultra-modern (and ultra-stunning) looks for the 1963 film.


In The End, Family And Giving Back Mattered Most

Audrey took six years off from acting when her second son, Luca Dotti, was born. In 1988, she was appointed Special Ambassador for UNICEF and famously said, “I auditioned for this role for 45 years and finally got it.”

Rachel Bowie Headshot
Rachel Bowie

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...
read full bio