When you think of Audrey Hepburn, what is the first word that comes to your mind? Classy? Stunning? Elegant?
The actress’ legacy has withstood the test of time. Even if you haven’t seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” you’ve probably seen a picture of Hepburn as Holly Golightly dressed in her iconic black dress with black gloves and pearls.
She is one of the most successful actresses to date, being among the few to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. But life wasn’t always easy for her.
Hepburn was a young girl living in the Netherlands when the country was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany. She witnessed a lot of difficult things no child should have to see, including the shooting of her uncle, public persecutions, and Jewish families being taken to concentration camps.
The Nazis took everything her family owned. This only fueled her passion to raise money for the resistance.
Hepburn decided to use her dancing talent. She performed in secret ballets where the audience couldn’t clap because they feared being found.
After the war was over and the Allied troops landed, food was sparse. Her family scraped together as much food as they could, but ultimately Hepburn became malnourished along with other health problems.
Her growth was stunted which affected her pursuit of ballet. That’s when she began acting.
“I was asked to act when I couldn’t dance… and do all kinds of things I wasn’t prepared for. I tried like mad to cope with it,” she said.
In 1988 Hepburn became an ambassador for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as she slowly faded out of her acting career. Her work with UNICEF wasn’t just a charity case. Hepburn had received aid from the organization when she was a little girl just after the end of WWII.
She knew first hand how much hope UNICEF could provide for a family and wanted to return the favor. She said, “People in Ethiopia and Sudan don’t know Audrey Hepburn, but they recognize the
name UNICEF. When they see UNICEF, their faces light up, because they know that something is happening.”
She remained dedicated to helping children through the organization until her death. If she wasn’t oversees working with them firsthand she was busy fundraising money for UNICEF and advocating for them in front of Congress. In 1992, she even received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Her life definitely reflected her statement, “There is just no question that there is a moral obligation for those who have, to give to those who have nothing.”
Many people loved Audrey Hepburn for her films, but she also had a heart of gold. Instead of letting her humble beginnings keep her down, she was inspired to make a real impact.
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