Many assume that Audrey Hepburn is the epitome of effortless class and beauty. Her tall, trim, and delicate yet elegant appearance looks as though she could’ve simply rolled out of bed on any given day and walked into any room as the belle of the ball.
But much like everything else in Hollywood, looks can be deceiving. Hepburn’s visage is certainly no different.
According to her youngest son Luca Dotti, Hepburn suffered from myriad health problems due to malnourishment suffered under the Nazi’s rule of Holland. During the winter of 1944, deemed “the Winter of Hunger,” Hepburn survived by eating endive and tulip bulbs that she dug herself. By the age of 16 years old and at 5-foot-6 inches tall, Hepburn weighed just 88 pounds.
“She was extremely self-conscious and insecure about her physical appearance–her mother even jokingly called her an ‘ugly duckling’–and she often avoided smiling because of the unevenness of her teeth,” reads an excerpt from the book “Fan Phenomena: Audrey Hepburn” by Jacqui Miller.
By 1952 she had found some initial success as a model and actress, appearing in a handful of small television and film roles. But her big break came when she was filming at a hotel in the South of France and the novelist Colette, author of Gigi, noticed her and decided she would be perfect for the titular role in the Broadway version of the story.
Hepburn became a breakout star. Her next role was in 1953’s “Roman Holiday” opposite Gregory Peck, inspiring “half a generation of young females to stop stuffing their bras and teetering on high heels,” according to one critic at the time.
What’s surprising is that at the presumed urging of Paramount Pictures, Hepburn decided to fix her teeth halfway through the shoot.
According to a March 3, 1991, published interview by James Brady:
“Didn’t you have a chipped tooth or something then?” [Brady] asked, perhaps impolitely.
“No,” [Hepburn] replied, “but I had very crooked teeth. Two of them in the front were very crooked, and one cast a terrible shadow on the next, so when I was making a film they slipped a little cap on it, but we were always losing the cap, and everyone would be looking for it for an hour and holding up the movie. So, finally, I did the Hollywood thing and had my teeth properly capped.”
And the rest, as they say, is Hollywood history.