What do you think of when you hear the name Audrey Hepburn? Most people will picture her in a little black dress with a slender cigarette holder between her fingers but we should see her as so much more. Before she was Holly Golightly, Hepburn appeared in many successful films including her first film and Oscar winning performance in Roman Holiday opposite Gregory Peck. She would appear with Humphrey Bogart and William Holden in Sabrina and dance with Fred Astaire in Funny Face. With a long and successful career, Hepburn can easily be seen as an overrated star considering the fact that it is her image in that black dress with a string of pearls around her neck that stands out. What should stand out is the work she did after her long film career. Audrey Hepburn was an ambassador for UNICEF. That was the work she was most proud of and that is how we should remember her.
Born Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1926 in Brussels, Belgium, Audrey Hepburn lived a privileged life during her younger years. Due to her father’s job, the family traveled and relocated several times before finally settling in Brussels. Eventually the family would help raise money for the British Union of Fascists before her father left the family for London where he would become more involved in Fascism. This was a turning point in young Audrey’s life and it began the downfall of the family. As World War II broke out, Audrey’s mother relocated the family to the Netherlands believing that they would stay neutral and no harm would come to them there. Sadly things didn’t go as planned. The Nazi’s invaded, her uncle was killed, one brother went to a work camp and the other went on the run. It’s these horrific happenings in her early life that would later inspire her and influence her work with UNICEF.
When the war ended in 1945, Hepburn moved with her family to Amsterdam where she began studying Ballet. Her aspirations to be a prima ballerina were lost when she was told that her height and weak constitution made it impossible. Hepburn decided to focus on acting and she moved to London. Here she would find success after work as a chorus girl when she was offered a role in her future Tony Award Winning performance in the Broadway adaptation of the film Gigi.
As 1953 rolled around, Audrey Hepburn’s life was looking better than ever. An appearance in Roman Holiday, the film that would win her the Academy Award, catapulted her to stardom. After her first Hollywood film, Audrey went on to have a successful career in the US. Popular among female audiences, Audrey’s most iconic role came in 1961 when she was cast as Holly Golightly in the adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her Holly is far different the novella’s Holly. The film traded in the book’s Teenage Blonde with a more appropriately aged brunette; and today we can’t imagine anyone else in the role.
While Hepburn continued to work into the seventies it was her work in the eighties and to her death that should be what we remember her for. Her work with UNICEF has changed lives and spread the word for the wonderful organization. Her work in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Somalia, and Vietnam would lead to being awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom. After a successful film career and a remarkable resume, the work we should remember is the efforts she put in to making the lives of starving children something we were all forced to see.
There is something that attracts so many young women to Audrey Hepburn. I have a picture of her on my wall. I love her movies and anytime I see her image I automatically take note. In the end, we should look past the surface and see the beautiful soul that lived inside this remarkable woman. If you want to honor her, do what you can to help those who are less fortunate. Remember money isn’t the only thing you can give. Your time is also valuable, as are the clothes in your closet you don’t wear and the books on your shelf you don’t read. I challenge you to look into the work Audrey and to research UNICEF for yourself. When you watch a film, or even think of her, share a link on your social media pages. The list of things we can do to help our fellow humans is long so let’s make Audrey Hepburn proud and participate in making this world a better place.