In a fascinating exhibition that brings together the essence of a legendary actress, fashion icon, and humanitarian, “Intimate Audrey” has found its way to Manila
With “Intimate Audrey” taking center stage in Manila, the city now stands as the third global exhibition location, following Brussels and Amsterdam, and the first in Asia. This milestone bears testament to the enduring power of Audrey Hepburn’s life and legacy, one that continues to captivate hearts and inspire souls, even after three decades since her passing. The exhibit, nestled within S Maison at Conrad Manila, offers a warm and intimate glimpse into the life of the iconic Audrey Hepburn—from her stellar acting career to her influential activism and her profound bond with her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, who, along with daughter Emma, presented the exhibit.
The journey began when organizer Carmina Jacob stumbled upon the “Intimate Audrey” exhibition in Amsterdam during a fateful visit in 2019. The experience left her with goosebumps and she was deeply moved by the timeless relevance of Audrey’s legacy. Carmina, though not the most ardent Audrey Hepburn fan, found herself captivated by the photos, letters, and artifacts on display, resonating with the authenticity that shone through each element of the exhibit.
Upon her return to the Philippines, she shared her encounter with the exhibition with a friend, who immediately encouraged her to consider bringing it to Manila. Initially hesitant, Carmina decided to reach out to the exhibition organizers, fearing the possibility of rejection. To her surprise, she received a response from none other than Sean Hepburn Ferrer himself, expressing his interest in a call to discuss the prospect further. An hour and a half later, a connection was forged between Carmina and Sean. During the pandemic, this connection blossomed into a friendship, cementing Carmina’s commitment to making “Intimate Audrey” a reality in Manila, even amidst challenging circumstances.
The purpose of this exhibition transcends borders. “Intimate Audrey” is not just about Audrey Hepburn, but also about the profound impact she had on people through her work and humanitarian efforts. The exhibit portrays the enduring legacy of a woman who, even in death, continues to inspire generations, moving mountains with her authenticity and purity of purpose.
This exhibition goes beyond merely celebrating Audrey’s iconic roles as an actress. It delves into the core of her being, including her relationship with her first husband, Mel Ferrer, and her beloved son, who collected and meticulously maintained the memorabilia featured at the exhibit as a love letter to his mother. The display also pays homage to Audrey’s close relationships with esteemed designers like Ralph Lauren, Pierre Balmain, and Hubert de Givenchy. From her childhood as a bubbling creative to her shining superstar power and finally her activist era, it commemorates her entire life, built upon those she touched.
The exhibition also commemorates the 70th year of Roman Holiday, a film that marked Audrey’s breakthrough role. Gregory Peck, her co-star, recognized her star power from the beginning and insisted to producers on giving the young Audrey second billing, and thus setting her up with Mel Ferrer. These pivotal relationships and moments in Audrey’s life are woven into the work of “Intimate Audrey”, offering a heartfelt and intimate portrait of the woman beyond the silver screen.
The exhibition showcased a mesmerizing array of memorabilia that offered a glimpse into the essence of Audrey Hepburn. Among the notable artifacts was the Givenchy L’Interdit fragrance, a scent created especially for Audrey by the esteemed designer, Hubert de Givenchy. The fragrance was a symbol of her unique bond with the designer, reflecting the elegance and grace that characterized both Audrey and his designs.
A centerpiece of the exhibition was the iconic Pierre Balmain wedding dress, which Audrey wore when she married Mel Ferrer in 1954. The ethereal gown captured the essence of Audrey’s timeless beauty, presenting the enchanting allure that captured hearts worldwide.
As guests marveled at the display, they encountered the original Vespa scooter from Roman Holiday, a symbol of the film’s iconic charm and Audrey’s endearing portrayal of Princess Ann. The red ballet slippers, synonymous with Audrey’s legendary role in Funny Face, were a testament to her versatility as a performer, bringing grace and passion to the world of dance.
Beyond her illustrious acting career, “Intimate Audrey” also highlighted her humanitarian achievements. Her Grammy Award for her spoken word album for children and her Academy Award for her tireless humanitarian work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador showcased the depth of her commitment to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
The Manila exhibition boasts a unique addition—a fashion segment that showcases how 22 Filipino fashion designers have been influenced by Audrey’s style throughout the years. It is a passionate inclusion to show that Audrey’s impact extended far beyond the silver screen, reaching the hearts and closets of Filipinos who drew inspiration from her timeless grace.
While Audrey Hepburn never graced the shores of the Philippines during her lifetime, her family has embraced the country with open arms. Three generations of Hepburns have found fascination with Filipino culture, making the exhibition in Manila a momentous occasion, filled with shared admiration and respect.
The opening of “Intimate Audrey” was well-attended, graced by prominent personalities who hold Audrey close to their hearts. First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos paid her respects to the actress who has been an enduring source of inspiration for many. The presence of Teresita Sy-Coson and Hans Sy, key figures in the business world, highlighted the universal admiration for Audrey’s impact that transcends all walks of life. The event also saw the attendance of personalities like Dr. Vicki Belo, Sheila Romero, and Xandra Rocha Araneta, who were captivated by Audrey’s enduring charm and the heartfelt exhibition that celebrated her life and work.
As guests wandered through the exhibition, immersed in Audrey Hepburn’s extraordinary journey, there was a sense of profound connection and admiration for a woman who, even in her absence, continues to touch lives and inspire souls. Her impact on the world is beautifully exemplified by the diverse crowd that came together to honor her legacy in Manila, a testament to her timeless influence that transcends time and continues to captivate hearts worldwide.
When visitors step into “Intimate Audrey”, it breathes new life to Audrey Hepburn’s life and hopes they will not only reconnect with the beloved actress, but also find inspiration in her authenticity. For the younger generation who may not be familiar with Audrey’s work, the exhibit serves as a timeless and exemplary guide to living a life of purpose and beauty.
As we walk through the halls of the exhibition, bathed in the intimate glow of Audrey Hepburn’s spirit, we are reminded that some stars shine not just in the night sky, but eternally in the hearts of those who have loved them—and this star, Audrey Hepburn, shines the brightest.
Photography DANIEL TAN