Possessing the face of an angel and a petite enviable frame Audrey Hepburn is admired as one of the most beautiful women in history and of course one of the best actresses of all time. However, she was not only beautiful and talented but also a woman of a good heart and a noble soul.
The tough but brilliant life of an iconic Hollywood actress
Born in Brussels, in Belgium, Audrey Hepburn was forced to flee to Holland with her mother to escape the wartime Nazi occupation and her sympathizing father. During the German occupation, she witnessed numerous public executions, including those of her relatives.
The Nazis eventually confiscated the valuable jewels and many other treasured possessions of her family, leaving her and her mother penniless. However, she promised herself that she would raise money to support the country she now called home. She began performing in secret ballet shows, dancing in front of silent audiences who couldn’t applaud for fear of being discovered.
After the Allies withdrew, the Germans systematically starved many of the Dutch to death. When the food ran out, her family had to use flour made from tulips to make cakes. Because of this, she suffered from respiratory symptoms, jaundice, edema, and anemia. The war eventually ended but the impact that it had on young Audrey was everlasting and irreversible. Severe malnutrition slowed her growth and made it impossible for her to perform ballet. It was at this point that she decided to make the switched to acting.
“I was asked to act when I couldn’t dance … and do everything even though I wasn’t prepared. I tried my best to survive!”
After a few roles, she eventually shot to fame for her role in the movie “Roman Holiday”. The film earned her an Academy Award for “Best Leading Actress” in 1953.
She is today one of the most critically acclaimed actresses of all time and is one of only 12 artists to have accrued through their career an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award. She is of course also renowned for her impeccable and instantly recognizable style, influencing generations, and epitomizing femininity.
“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm. As you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”
After becoming an ambassador for UNICEF, Audrey gradually moved away from acting and focused her attention on helping war victims from around the world, spurred on by her own tragic experiences of wartime. In 1988, she visited an orphanage which was at the time raising 500 children and distributed food with UNICEF. During the trip, seeing the babies in hunger, she reportedly said, “My heart is broken. I feel hopeless.”
Audrey Hepburn traveled the world to witness for herself the poverty, sickness, and suffering that people endure. She was saddened and enraged and longed for action, to help with the hope that love and sincerity could ease the misfortunes of the people she encountered.
In October 1990, Hepburn went to Vietnam to support the Government in deploying a UNICEF vaccination and clean water promotion program. She said, “I want to give more pictures of the country and the people of Vietnam so that people around the world can better understand this place. Vietnam has a lot of things for them to learn about, not just war. The war is a demon and it is time for it to lie down.”
Indeed, the legacy that Hepburn has left behind is not only one of prestigious awards, artful movies or iconic style. It is a legacy of a warm, kind heart, a noble personality, and caring hands.
“I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
Despite her many hardships, Audrey Hepburn always held on to hope in life. This petite and easily underestimated beautiful woman was the embodiment of strength; strength of will, the strength of heart and the strength of immense compassion.
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”
(The cover photo: Wikipedia Commons and FB AudreyHepburnFans)