As you all probably know, March 8 is International Women’s Day. Conceived in the early 1900s, it has always been understood as a remembrance and reflection on the political, social and economic achievements of the female gender. There is still a lot of work to be done in this regard, but it is also an occasion to remember the political movements to claim women rights, which date right back to the beginning of the last century.
I grew up having my mother and grandmother as role models; strong, resilient women with innate charisma. They taught me to fight for what I believe in, to overcome my limitations, and to have confidence in myself, even at times when I had less self-esteem and when I felt most discouraged.
In addition to them, I have had various female role models among the famous ones who have been a source of inspiration for me over the years; they have inspired me not only in terms of style and attitude but also in terms of what good and positive changes they have helped bring to the world.
On the occasion of this International Women’s Day, I have chosen five women in history who influenced me in my formative years (which still last today, because I think you never really stop learning):
1) Audrey Hepburn : I think Audrey was one of the most charismatic actresses of all time. I was about thirteen years old when I first saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s, probably the film for which she is best known worldwide. I spent my teenage years reading books about Audrey and copying her style, supported in this by a high school friend of mine, who also loved Audrey very much as an actress and style icon.
What is most striking about Audrey is that certain “je ne sais quoi” as the French say, meaning an unintentional and completely natural charm, devoid of any construction or falsehood; Audrey always conveyed her inner beauty not only through all the roles she played but also in her civic commitments off the set. Born in Belgium but raised between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, she lived under the Nazi regime and studied dance and theater before beginning her film career. After a series of successful roles (which also earned her an Oscar for Roman Holiday), she later preferred to devote herself to her family and toward the end of her life she became an official UNICEF ambassador, committing herself full-time to humanitarian work and the less fortunate (perhaps partly because she remembered all the suffering she had endured firsthand during World War II). Even thirty years after her death, she is remembered primarily for her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and her style on and off the set is still an inspiration today (even for the character of Blair Waldorf in the book-series-turned-TV show Gossip Girl). Many of the items worn by Audrey Hepburn (who was also a friend and collaborator of Hubert de Givenchy) have now become wardrobe staples, such as the ballet flats and the trench coat. Not forgetting her iconic short haircut, which my mother also sported recently; she looks a bit like Audrey because of the dark colors and thick eyebrows, and I still remember when a guy who was carrying one of my Audrey paintings when we were moving out asked my mother, “Excuse me ma’am, is this a picture of you when you were younger?” In addition to the paintings, I also have some magazines with Audrey Hepburn covers, many coffee-table books and a DVD box set of her most famous movies inherited from my grandfather; Audrey is and will always be a great inspiration to me.
2) Annie Leibovitz: I have loved photography for as long as I can remember, like I wrote in this post that is a bit of a tribute to the art of photography. As a child I would take a lot of pictures with the disposable Kodaks that were in vogue in the late 1990s/early 2000s, encouraged also by my father who has always had a passion for videography and photography. At that time he was among the first to buy the new digital cameras available on the market and always filmed our family vacations with a camera. The art of photographing and documenting everything was partly influenced by him as well. As you can see from some of my work on my Flickr profile, I’ve always been the “official photographer” in my group of friends, both with the Canon EOS cameras I have owned over the years and with my smartphones. I have always loved photography of all kinds and admired the work of the world’s most celebrated photographers; Annie Leibovitz has always been one of my favorite photographers especially for her portraits and editorial shoots done for Vanity Fair and Vogue. She has a special empathy that allows her to tell stories through every photograph she takes, and this is particularly evident in her portraits of celebrities. Although she is now recognized as one of the world’s greatest masters of photography, it strikes me how everything she does is preceded by a thorough study of the subject and the story she intends to tell through her work. In 2011 she told the Italian online photography magazine Sguardi: “I always do my homework. For example, to prepare to photograph Carla Bruni, the new wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at the Élysée Palace, I looked at many photos of the palace. I got pictures of other people who had lived there. I looked at several pictures of couples in love, as well as all the pictures of Carla Bruni taken by other photographers. She was immortalized several times, but I think Helmut Newton saw something in her that no one else ever caught. Finally, knowing that she was also a singer, I listened to her songs. Of course, I always carry with me a large “memory bank” made of the images taken by the photographers who came before me, a kind of hard drive that has its seat in my head. I am a photography enthusiast. Or a scholar, if you prefer. I collect photographic books. It happens that some element belonging to the history of photography contributes to the style I choose for my shots. And the style of an image is certainly part of the idea.” I love the self-taught way she learned and her ability to find sources of inspiration on her own; I have not yet purchased her photography volumes but I am very interested in Wonderland. One of the editorials I love most by Leibovitz was made for Vogue US in December 2003; starring model Natalia Vodianova, it was inspired by Alice in Wonderland and it is truly something unique and never seen before.READ MORE
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