'How to be Lovely' -- Audrey Hepburn, 'My Fair Lady,' and life

'How to be Lovely' -- Audrey Hepburn, 'My Fair Lady,' and life
Photo by Margaret H. Laing

When I recently found Melissa Hellstern’s book “How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life,”  I recognized that it would have to include material about one of my favorite movies, “My Fair Lady.” And so it did, both in Hepburn’s own words about a famous scene and in one speech by her character, Eliza Doolittle.

When the transformed Eliza is ready to go to the embassy ball with her teacher, Professor Henry Higgins, she appears at the top of the stairs in a costume which is, well, lovely. Here’s how Audrey Hepburn described acting in that scene, according to Hellstern:

“In that absolutely sublime dress, with my hair dressed to kill, and diamonds everywhere, I felt super. All I had to do was walk down the staircase in Professor Higgins’ house, but the dress made me do it. Clothes, like they say, make the man, but in my case, they also gave me the confidence I often needed.”

When you can’t gain confidence from your clothes, gain confidence from how you’re being treated — and treat others as lovely people, even when they aren’t. Here’s how Audrey Hepburn’s character, Eliza Doolittle, expressed it in “My Fair Lady” to the professor’s mother:

“You see, Mrs, Higgins, apart from the things one can pick up, the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will. But I know I shall always be a lady to Colonel Pickering because he always treats me as a lady and always will.”

So “how to be lovely” includes treating other people as if they’re lovely. Let’s give one another something to live up to, not down to.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook. 

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  • Margaret, I agree! I recently heard actress Tina Lifford talk about the need to show up being who you want the world to be. She said that if you want to see people smiling and saying hello, then do that for others without waiting for them to do it first.

  • That IS lovely, folkloric! Thank you very much.

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