The mother of all icons for me is Audrey Hepburn. She alone saved my adolescence. If Audrey could be considered "beautiful" when she wasn't even "pretty", there was hope. I still have piles of Audrey clippings dating from 1953. "Funny Face" was the movie that changed my life. I knew for sure I would move to New York and work for a fashion magazine. Which I did.
Digression for story to illustrate youth's determination and naivety: Audrey's character in the film, Jo, the shy bookstore clerk, work black stockings with her tweed jumper. I was driven to own a pair but had no idea where to find bohemian black stockings in 1957 Cleveland, Ohio. I could have tried a dance supply store but certainly had never seen any ballerinas in Cleveland. There were, however, plenty of nuns. So I took myself to the convent department of May Company. I bought a pair of opaque black cotton stockings that rolled around elastic garters. The saleswoman was very sweet and wished me luck in my calling to God. I am Jewish and was 15.
I once stopped a VHS tape of "Sabrina" at all the costume changes to sketch what Audrey was wearing (and try to replicate). I bought every book about her, until they proliferated without end. There are still fine new ones, especially Julia Demos' lovely picture book for children, "Being Audrey".
Over time, of course, I realized Audrey was more than a beautiful image. Her voice, manner, talent and real-life good deeds placed her into the stratosphere of icons. I just can't imagine there isn't a woman who doesn't find in Audrey something she would like to find in herself.
I still love Audrey. She protected me in those bittersweet moments of youth. To look like Audrey may be unattainable; to be like Audrey might be possible. She didn't coin it, but the journey is indeed the destination.