If you’ve never heard of Holly Golightly, I highly recommend adding Breakfast at Tiffany’s to your film queue. Fair warning, there are some super cringe moments that have not aged well, including Mickey Rooney in yellow face and the normalization of a fourteen year old girl marrying some creepy old guy. All that aside (and I absolutely won’t fault anyone who feels the aforementioned examples are dealbreakers), the movie holds a special place in my heart.

I grew up idolizing Holly almost as much as the actress who played her, Audrey Hepburn. She exuded elegance and freedom, and represented the kind of woman I aspired to become one day. When I first watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s around the age of ten, virtually all the innuendos went over my head. I had no idea that Holly and her love interest, Paul, would have been considered sex workers by today’s standards.

My main takeaways back then were that 1. Style is everything and I better take note from the effortlessly chic Ms.Golightly on how to dress. And 2. New York is the most magnificent place in the world and I must do whatever it takes to live there one day. I would go on to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s about once every three years from that point forward and each time I watched it, I gained new insights.

But it wasn’t until I became a sugar baby at the age of twenty that I really began identifying with Holly. In many ways, she was the original manic pixie dream girl. Except unlike the one dimensional manic pixie dream girls of more recent times, who serve as supporting characters to their leading male protagonists, Holly was very much the main character in the story that was her life. Fiercely independent, the free spirit that is Holly Golightly lives on in the many young creatives who are chasing their dreams in big cities across the globe.

When, in 1968, a Playboy journalist posed the question: “Would you elaborate on your comment that Holly was the prototype of today’s liberated female and representative of a ‘whole breed of girls who live off men but are not prostitutes. They’re our version of the geisha girl?’” Holly’s creator, Truman Capote, who penned the 1958 novella upon which the 1961 film was based off of responded as follows:

“Holly Golightly was not precisely a call girl. She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and nightclubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewelry or a check…if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night. So these girls are the authentic American geishas, and they’re much more prevalent now than in 1943 or 1944, which was Holly’s era.”

Ahead of their time, Holly and her lover Paul, embody the modern day sugar baby to a tee. Whilst Holly bamboozles wealthy men with her charm and good looks in order to live a life beyond her means, Paul has a sugar mama who pays for everything, from rent to wardrobe and travel abroad. When I re-watched the film for the gazillionth time this week, I had so many “Wow, I can totally relate” moments that I think anyone who has ever dabbled in sex work, lived that starving artist life, or been dubbed a manic pixie dream girl, will also be able to appreciate:

Relatable Moment #1

When Holly says: “It’s useful being top banana in the shock department.”

Meet Holly: A Woman of Many Talents

She says this iconic one liner when explaining to Paul that she knows he probably thinks she is “very brazen or très fous or something.” But rather than being self-deprecating or wining about wanting to be just like everybody else, she embraces her quirky mannerisms and avant garde lifestyle. Anyone in the sex work game knows that personality is just as, if not more important, than physical appearance.

In a sea full of sexually desirable goddesses, the only way to stand out is by having that “Je ne sais quoi” factor. Whether it’s the way you dress, your superb storytelling skills, or your ability to open up and befriend anyone whilst still maintaining a degree of aloofness, charisma and individuality will get you everywhere in life.

It’s honestly kind of absurd thinking about the elite circles I’ve been able to run in simply by playing up the “I’m a well-read creative with a checkered past who is living an unconventional, memoir-worthy life.” Ultra high net worth individuals that are trapped by the conventions of society are desperate to befriend crazy (but not too crazy) vagabonds like me and Holly because it makes them feel relevant and interesting. The patron needs the artist just as much as the artist needs the patron after all. 

Relatable Moment #2

Sometimes the only way to cope with the trauma that comes with instability and scarcity is to buy into the idea that your life is a fairytale – even if doing so is a little delusional.

Holly breakfasting at Tiffany’s

Sugaring is all about creating a character (which unless you’re the most boring person ever, is really just a caricature version of your true self) and pairing it with a compelling narrative. Holly is a total pro when it comes to building her persona.

The running joke between her talent agent and Paul is that “She’s a phony. But she’s a real phony.” In other words, she’s kind of just floating through life, incapable of committing to an acting career, let alone putting in the work required to succeed in such a discipline. She fashions herself a glamorous socialite who is living the dream, despite struggling to save any money and being at the mercy of abusive, powerful men.

While people looking in from the outside can see how lost and scared Holly truly is, she lives in denial as a means of self-preservation. On my lowest of low days, when I was totally reliant on sugaring for my income, had no sense of what I wanted to do with my life, and was self-medicating with drugs, the only thing that would get me through the day was reminding myself of all the outrageous shenanigans I was getting into.

I would dream about the day I would get my shit together, meet my prince charming, and live happily ever after. Ultimately, I was able to find the strength within myself to overcome my inner demons, but if it weren’t for that glimmer of hope, I could have easily joined the ranks of Marilyn Monroe and Amy Winehouse. 

Relatable Moment #3

When Holly calls out Paul for trying to get all possessive:

Holly: Do you think you own me?

Paul: That’s exactly what I think.

Holly: That’s what everybody always thinks. But everybody happens to be wrong.

Meet Paul: The Ultimate Mansplainer

All I can say is ugh. To all my free spirits out there, I’m sure you know this feeling all too well. It’s like being a bird trapped in a cage. A guy falls in love with you for your sense of adventure, air of mystery, and inability to be tied down. But then he tries to take your freedom away by jamming you into the puzzle that is HIS life, not yours. In doing so, he cripples all the attributes that made him fall head over heels for you in the first place.

He may think he’s in love but true love means total acceptance. It means allowing your partner to spread their wings and fly. I’ve encountered so many men like this, both in sugar and non-sugar relationships. They genuinely think it’s love but true love is mutual, not one-sided. What they are feeling is infatuation. They hone in on whatever qualities they find attractive and then project all their own fantasies onto you. They put you on a pedestal and call you their muse. Then they act surprised when they find out you are just as human and fallible as the rest of them. 

Relatable Moment #4

The whole “fuck being a cog in the machine” sentiment Holly and Paul share, which in reality is just as much an excuse to be lazy as it is to play rebel.

Holly inspires Paul to whip out his typewriter for the first time in a long time.

Both Holly and Paul are bohemians who choose to opt out of the matrix by relying on the income of people who are living inside the matrix. This is something I can very much relate to. As a bleeding heart, I could never stomach working a soulless corporate job at a company that prioritized profits above all else – or at least that’s what I told myself. Instead, I took the low-paying non-profit route.

I had no problem accepting “allowances” from finance bros and real estate tycoons who were making money off the blood, sweat, and tears of others, as long as I didn’t have to be directly involved. Later on, when I ditched the non-profit gig to pursue more creative endeavors, I convinced myself that sugaring would provide me with the flexibility and financial security I needed to write my great American novel. But just like Paul, who is a writer that hasn’t published anything in over five years, I ended up idle and uninspired. As the age old adage goes: “adversity breeds innovation.” Sometimes it takes getting kicked out of the sugar nest to overcome creative blocks. 

Relatable Moment #5

When Holly is concocting a scheme to move abroad and find a wealthy suitor, and Paul keeps it a little too fucking real:

Paul: You call yourself a free spirit, a wild thing and you’re terrified someone’s gonna stick you in a bag. Well baby you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. No matter where you run you just run into yourself.

Paul dropping truth bombs.

Holly refuses to commit to anything in her life. She half-heartedly chases one pipeline dream after another, in the form of wealthy, eligible bachelors. Though she does not openly acknowledge her reasoning for doing so, deep down she knows the culprit is fear. Fear of ending up poor with no-one to take care of her. Fear of failing at an acting career. Fear of marrying for love, and as a result, being forced to be vulnerable. She is not grounded in reality and though she believes that keeping her head up in the clouds is the only way to preserve her sense of self, the more she destabilizes herself, the more isolated and desperate she becomes.

I have so been there. It can be terrifying to pick a path to pursue in life because doing so means giving up all the alternatives. Yet by staying frozen, you end up losing time and resources that you will never be able to get back. I’ve moved so many times, hoping for a fresh start and convincing myself that things would be different this time around. But no matter how much I changed the people, places, and things around me, I couldn’t escape my own mind. As was the case for Holly, it was only by facing the hard truths that I was able to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Art
culture
Films
sex worker
Sugar Baby
Jules

Jules

Author

Based in Brooklyn, Jules has dedicated her twenties towards harnessing her pussy power, exploring the muse, whore, and wild woman archetypes along the way. When not blogging, you can find her sweating the toxins out in a hot yoga class or sipping a matcha latte at a pretentious coffee shop, whilst she scribbles away in her journal.


Explore similar articles

3 Essential Films About Transgender Sex Workers

3 Essential Films About Transgender Sex Workers

Iso
Posted by Iso

Sunday 24 April 2022

Out of the surprisingly few films about transgender sex workers out there today, here are three that are thoughtful, beautiful and consequently essential watches.

Songs to Psych up Your Inner Sugar Baby

Songs to Psych up Your Inner Sugar Baby

Iso
Posted by Iso

Friday 25 November 2022

Got a sugar date but not feeling so sugary? Here's a playlist of bad girl bops by exclusively female artists to get you feeling frisky.

Learning to Find Peace With my Sex Work Past

Learning to Find Peace With my Sex Work Past

Jules
Posted by Jules

Saturday 20 August 2022

After hearing from an ex-boyfriend about the existence of a sex tape from my sugar baby days, I decided to get candid about what it's been like to navigate that experience.

Reframing the way we think about periods

Reframing the way we think about periods

Jules
Posted by Jules

Thursday 9 February 2023

It's time to rethink the archaic and deeply self-loathing sentiment we as a society hold towards menstruation. This three-step guide shows you how.

5 short films about sex work

5 short films about sex work

Iso
Posted by Iso

Wednesday 27 March 2024

It's hard to find films that explore sex work without sensationalising or objectifying. Here are 5 modern-day short films intricately exploring the many nuances of sex work.

The art of seduction: the mystery of human attraction

The art of seduction: the mystery of human attraction

Jules
Posted by Jules

Saturday 27 May 2023

The art of seduction is at the core of sugar dating. This how-to-guide delves into the psychology of seduction, while offering tangible solutions for bolstering your seduction game.