In London, the National Portrait Gallery has opened a major exhibition made up of images of Audrey Hepburn, called “Portraits of an Icon”. And as noted by this article in The Conversation, it portrays a world of difference from the celebrity status that currently exists.

What is it about women like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly that makes them truly iconic? What is it about them and their images that keep them so renowned, recognised and relevant even years after they were alive?

I think the answer lies in their genuine portrayal of feminine beauty. They both have very different looks, styles and stories, and yet they had something that still attracts and inspires people today:

They Were Classy

Classiness always appeals, in the same way that kindness or generosity never goes unappreciated. I think this is because a classy person conveys that they are aware of their own dignity, which is something that appeals to everyone – whatever their age, gender, location or era. Classy also doesn’t call attention to itself, unlike the too often attention-seeking behaviour and clothing of today’s most famous faces.

They Had Style

As Yves Saint Laurent famously said, “fashions fade, style is eternal” – something embodied by icons like Audrey Hepburn. Her feminine yet boyish look was redefining at the time, but more than anything, its appeal came down to the fact that it was so her – she didn’t try to be anyone else. Being unafraid to be oneself is another very attractive and lasting trait; one that requires knowing who you are and being unashamed of it.

They Maintained a Certain Mystery

Nothing intrigues quite like an air of mystery, but that’s something that today’s celebs don’t seem to realise. After all, how mysterious can you be when you’re broadcasting every thought, feeling, craving and outfit (or lack thereof) across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter? But mystery lies in more than just the quantity of photos available – it also comes across in the way they present themselves.

They Were Genuine

What’s more timeless than a genuine person? Iconic faces such as Audrey Hepburn have a refreshing “realness” about them, especially when most of what we see these days is fake, filtered or Photoshopped. From photos of Audrey and Grace, we see deeper – we notice the whole woman and a glimpse of her personality, not only what her body looks like. Today’s celebrities are all too busy trying to create the image they are trying to project, rather than conveying who they actually are.

This article by Tamara El-Rahi was originally published on under a Creative Commons License. If you enjoyed this article, visit for more.

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