Polling plaudits: Some stars flicker, others always shine

If Helen of Sparta had a face that could launch a thousand ships, we wonder how many Audrey Hepburn could shift?

If Helen of Sparta had a face that could launch a thousand ships, we wonder how many Audrey Hepburn could shift? The diminutive actress, who starred in timeless classics such as Roman Holiday (1953) and My Fair Lady (1964), has just been named the most beautiful woman of the 20th century in a poll conducted by the TV shopping channel QVC. Hepburn, who passed away in 1993, aged 63, after battling abdominal cancer, was chosen ahead of Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly in the poll, which saw more than 2,000 people vote.

Since her death, Hepburn has been the recipient of several other similar accolades, having previously been named the "most naturally beautiful woman of all time" in 2004 by the mineral water firm Evian. Other polls the elfin actress has won include one for "most stylish film icon of all time" (courtesy of BBC magazine What to Wear) and for "greatest female screen outfit of all time" (by the UK magazine Lovefilm) - both for her turn as Holly Golightly in the film version of Truman Capote's novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).

The latest poll was put together by QVC to promote their beauty month, which runs throughout July. Joining Hepburn in the top 10 were a mixed bag of beauties including Cheryl Cole, Marilyn Monroe, Angelina Jolie, Grace Kelly, Princess Diana and Kelly Brook. The full list, which includes some of the most highly influential fashion icons of the past 60-odd years, shows that despite the fickle nature of celebrity polls, there are some stars whose looks have never fallen out of favour with the masses.

The same can't be said for several of today's celebrities, however, whose style choices have landed them in both best and worst-dressed polls during the same year. Cheryl Cole was recently voted the best-dressed woman of the year - for the second year in a row - by Glamour magazine. Following not far behind was Bajan beauty, Rihanna, whose eclectic fashion sense saw her claim the number two spot. But the 2010 poll, in which more than 14,000 people voted, also saw the two stars claim the fifth and fourth rankings on the worst-dressed list respectively.

While this highlights the fact that such polls are entirely arbitrary, it doesn't make them any less fun. One of our favourites used to be the yearly poll conducted by Autograph magazine, which until 2007 named and shamed the best and worst celebrity signers in Hollywood. Johnny Depp, the star of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, was voted the number one star for signing autographs for a third year running when the last poll came out. As if we needed further proof that the man is perfect. Other stars to make the "best" list in 2007 included Matt Damon, George Clooney and Russell Crowe. Crowe, who is famous for his fiery temper, had made the top 10 of the worst signers of the year in 2006. Funny man Will Ferrell topped the 2007 list of the worst celebrity signers.

However, one of the most talked-about lists in celebrity culture, courtesy of the late Richard Blackwell, once again focused on people's personal style. More commonly known as Mr Blackwell, the American fashion critic's annual "Ten Worst Dressed Women" list was a worldwide phenomenon until his death in 2008. The list first premiered in 1960 to moderate success, but rose in popularity after Blackwell's fashion house, House of Blackwell, also grew in prominence. The last list saw Victoria Beckham claim the number one position a decade on from her first mention on the list - alongside her fellow Spice Girls - in 1998.

Other celebs to be "honoured" in the 2008 roll-call included Amy Winehouse at number two and the Black-Eyed Peas singer Fergie, at number four. The list may have waned in popularity in later years due to the vitriolic nature of Blackwell's critiques (2008's number three entry, Mary-Kate Olsen, was described as "a tattered toothpick-trapped in a hurricane") but the exclusion of the former pop princess, Britney Spears showed a softer side to the acid-tongued critic.

Having previously made the final cut on several occasions, Spears was saved from a tongue-lashing due to her much-publicised mental breakdown at the time. Following suit, the animal rights group Peta also swiftly removed the singer from their worst-dressed list which, up until that point, had seen Spears in the number one spot. Don't expect the kind gestures to last much longer though. Spears has already started to receive negative attention again for her (some might say) dubious fashion sense. Surely, a successor to Mr Blackwell is waiting in the wings.

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