Audrey Hepburn

by Kristina from San Diego

Audrey as Gigi.  ( ())
Audrey as Gigi. ( ())

No one can describe American pop culture without mentioning the role of Hollywood's classic movies such as Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Both of these movies have become classics because of the main star, Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn was born on May 4th, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium and died on January 20th, 1993 in Tolochenaz, Switzerland. She was an actress, dancer, activist, and a fashion icon. Hepburn had many talents and an interesting life journey that has brought her through difficult and happy times, and living through different cultures. Audrey wouldn't have become a film star if it weren't for her hard work and Colette's recognition of her in 1951. One of the most important contributions Hepburn has made was her work with UNICEF and traveling to Africa herself to nurse children and report on the suffering she witnessed. Generally speaking, a hero is someone who goes out of their comfort zone, who faces problems but looks for solutions rather than giving up and waiting for another savior. It is someone who gets actively involved to solve problems that may not be their own. Who see's the problems that disregard them and still takes actions instead of ignoring the issue. Audrey Hepburn was admired for her passion to help others in need, her strength to arise from the tragic circumstances she was caught in, and the many talents she had.

For all her otherworldly good looks, Hepburn was a down-to-earth, sensible actress in a Hollywood of excess and a person with endless empathy. Audrey used her fame to expose the problem of poverty and the starvation of children to the people of Western cultures. "In 1992, Hepburn brought the tragedy in Somalia and emergency relief efforts there to the forefront of world attention. 'I don't believe in collective guilt,' she said, 'but I believe in collective responsibility,'" (Ed. Kenneth T. Jackson, Karen Markoe, and Arnold Markoe). Though Hepburn could have continued in the entertainment industry, she preferred to work in the field, nursing sick children and reporting on the suffering she witnessed. Acting became secondary in Hepburn's life as she had known that working to reduce the famine in the poorest countries was far more important. Audrey explains how she considered that nobody should be blamed for the famine, but everyone should take part in resolving it. Hepburn, in addition believed in collectivity rather than individuality solving social problems, such as poverty and hunger; or during emergencies and disasters. It could be considered a strange mix, but Audrey has demonstrated that a person could be both in the entertainment industry and involve themselves in social problems as well. "'If there was a cross between the salt of the earth and a regal queen,' Shirley MacLaine told People, 'then she was it,'" (Encyclopedia of World Biography, December 12, 1998). Audrey used her fame to expose the problem of poverty and the starvation of children to the people of Western cultures. She didn't mention to the people of Somalia who she was and what her social and iconic status was. Shirley MacLaine explains how Audrey Hepburn could balance being a humanitarian and a fashion icon at the same time. For Audrey had been both, this "regal queen" and this down to earth, wise woman. Despite her tremendous success in acting, Audrey Hepburn dedicated herself to work in UNICEF, particularly bringing attention to starving children in Africa, and actually working in the field.

One of Audrey's most admirable traits are her bravery and resilience. When Audrey was ten years old, her mother sent her to the Germanic nation at the beginning of the war to live with relatives. "People noted that "along with her grandparents, she received food from a relief agency-UNICEF's precursor.' 'Your soul is nourished by all your experiences,' she once said 'It gives you baggage for the future-and ammunition, if you like.'" Going through these horrible experiences has given her strength and protection. Later on in her life when Audrey would face a challenge she had protection; or as she put it in her own words "ammunition." This invisible ammunition was used by Audrey not only to survive new life hardships, but to overcome obstacles in her journey. The fact that she referred to a soul being nourished by all one's experiences, explains a lot about her personality. It shows how through all her bad experiences as a child, she has overcome them, rather than burying them and becoming a bitter human being. While in Holland, Audrey earned her family some extra money by giving private lessons at a dance school. "The war was so bad and food was so scarce that Audrey had to briefly stop dancing as she was too weak to keep it up" (Tyle). Audrey Hepburn increasingly acknowledges that because of her limitations that her future is not to be in the ballet. Audrey's tragic experience represented how brave she actually was. She remained strong even when her dreams of being a ballet dancer became unattainable. Impacts like this have shaped Audrey's life and values. Hepburn was a representation of how one can overcome tragedies, and use their experiences for the benefit of herself and others.

With Audrey's many talents, she had gone from riches to rags to riches. Audrey Hepburn's first real show had been when she was offered to be cast in Gigi. "While filming the musical comedy Monte Carlo Baby, is discovered by the French novelist Colette, who insists she be cast in the stage adaptation of her novel Gigi. 'The moment I saw her I could not take my eyes away. There, I said to myself, is Gigi!' Colette later writes. Audrey demurs, saying, 'I'm sorry, Madame, but it is impossible. I wouldn't be able to, because I can't act'" (Encyclopedia of World Biography, December 12, 1998). Even when Audrey Hepburn explained to Colette that it was impossible for her to take the role because she could not act, she had taken the opportunity. Clearly this was life changing for her because it had been the start of her acting career. She got into acting mainly to make money so that her mother would not have to work menial jobs to support them, which also explains how Audrey was including others' happiness when making decisions. (Her mother's). Audrey Hepburn was filled with talent. She danced, acted, and was a fashion icon. "No one thought a new feminine ideal could emerge from World War II, wrote Cecil Beaton. 'It took the rubble of Holland, an English accent, and an American success to launch a wistful child who embodied the spirit of a new day'" (Ed. Kenneth T. Jackson, Karen Markoe, and Arnold Markoe). Though Audrey never studied acting, she was the highest paid film actress in the world at her time. In addition, in her humanitarian work, she never had any degree in social science and international relations as many of UNICEF workers and volunteers are expected to have. Multitalented actress and activist Audrey Hepburn had a very interesting course of life and destiny that gave her small chances and opportunities. Audrey took them all to become not only a successful person in the entertainment industry, but also a full involved and dedicated activist. Audrey Hepburn's life and personality were very interesting and at times contradicting: her life was tragic, yet full of chances; she was extremely multitalented, yet sometimes diffident; she was famous and rich, yet very down to earth and full of empathy to people that were less fortunate.

Audrey during rehearsals for Funny Face  ( ())
Audrey during rehearsals for Funny Face ( ())

Hepburn's attained qualities such as, compassion, resilience, and capability are the traits that have made her the hero she was and is today. Audrey had put other people's lives before her own. She believed that other people, even strangers' happiness came first. Hepburn had done all that she could many times through her life to gratify these people. Rather than holding a charity fund for the children or placing her name onto an organization, Audrey had worked out in the field, actually traveling to Somalia to make the change, and that's what makes her an idol. Most people would never believe that Audrey Hepburn has gone through so much because of her capability to survive through it all. Not only was Audrey a survivor of a broken family, but also the horrendous events of WWII, when walking on a thin line between death and life. Audrey's tragic past has made her resilient and spiritually strong for when she had to face new life challenges. Even though Audrey went through all these traumatic events, it didn't stop her from pursuing her search and the perfecting of her many talents. Many of the things she had attempted she succeeded at. With her multi-talents, Audrey had earned herself the high position she was in. And even from there, she had used it for nothing but the good of others, such as, sending money to her father of who abandoned her at her young age, and traveling and working in another country to abolish the famine and poverty of the children there. In the eyes of many people, Audrey Hepburn is a hero because she cared for others. Humans are social beings; we should help each other, rely on each other and care about each other. No one should be left behind or suffer just because they live in different country, speak different a language or look different. Audrey Hepburn recognized that the starving children in Africa are not the Somalian's, Kenyan's, or even the African's problem - it is our social problem. Stepping out of her comfort zone and speaking out, taking actions, changing someone's life and bringing attention to international problems of famine and poverty made Audrey Hepburn a hero that would be remembered by millions.

Works Cited
"Audrey Hepburn." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. Vol. 3. Gale,

2000. Biography In Context. Web. May 2013. "Audrey Hepburn." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 314-

316. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 May 2013 "Hepburn, Audrey." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. Ed. Laura B. Tyle. Vol. 5. Detroit:

UXL, 2003. 886-888. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 7 May 2013. "Hepburn, Audrey Kathleen." The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Ed. Kenneth T.

Jackson, Karen Markoe, and Arnold Markoe. Vol. 3: 1991-1993. New York: Charles

Scribner's Sons, 2001. 264-266. Biography In Context. Web. 6 May 2013. RM, plc. "Audrey Hepburn." Hutchinson's Biography Database (2011): 1. History Reference

Center. Web. 8 May 2013. "Short Biography of Audrey Hepburn." Short Biography of Audrey Hepburn. N.p., n.d. Web. 7

May 2013.

Page created on 5/21/2013 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/21/2013 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

Short Biography - For more information!
Gallery - For more of Audrey's photos!
Quotes - Quotes that Audrey has said