Updated: May 6
One of the greatest icons of cinema and style was Audrey Hepburn. Her iconic role was as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, where she bewitched us with her elegant and stylish wardrobe and her performance as an extroverted and somewhat ditzy party girl. But in real life, she was more than that; she was a down to earth and humble unlike many of her Hollywood contemporaries.
She achieved success not only in her career as an actress winning an Oscar for the film Roman Holiday but for her philanthropic work with UNICEF in the late '80s. Thus, she became even more human and provided us with lessons in compassion and service to others.
This interest in others had its origins in her experiences as a young girl during the second world war growing up in Belgium, England and the Netherlands. She saw first hand the impact and reality of war, especially the children affected by the Nazi policies. At the time she and her Mother almost starved to death but managed to take refuge in the United Kingdom. To this, her father abandoned the family when she was very young, which made her prone to depression.
However, after succeeding in movies during Hollywood's Golden Age, winning awards and having a unique career, she decided to spend the remainder of her life shining a light on child poverty in the developing world.
So began her role as a spokesperson for UNICEF, with which she travelled extensively to Sudan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Vietnam and Africa countries that have all seen the effects of civil war, disaster and famine especially on their youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
"The only purpose I can serve is to be yet another witness."
In 1989 she was named a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. She knew perfectly well what UNICEF meant for children because as a child, she remembered the food and medical aid she received at the end of World War II.
"I've never known anything about politics," she said in a 1990 Associated Press Interview. "I just care terribly because I saw so much as a child about suffering and the suffering of children."
Hepburn died in 1993 at the age of 63, but her example continued with the creation of Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund to continue her humanitarian work.