Today would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 87th birthday, which seems pretty incredible given the fact that her image as a young woman still is one of the top telling images on merchandise, grossing multi-millions of dollars every year.
Most of millennials know the icon for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as well as from other classic hollywood movies, but what most people don’t know was her strong desire to be a mother and her heart for humanitarian work.
It was her oldest son who opened up a bit more about the fact that the actress wanted to focus on being a mother, and that is why she left the majority of her entertainment life behind her when she gave birth to Sean Ferrer during the height of her career.
“I suppose people could blame me for ending Audrey Hepburn’s career. She knew her potential. If she had kept working, the parts were there for her, and her success professionally would have continued at a high level for years. But she wanted to be with her family. She wanted a private life. And she couldn’t bear the thought that she might fail as a mother. It was too important to her.” -Sean Ferrer
Hepburn took media trips to vulnerable areas long before this was the fashionable thing for celebrities to do. Her mission to Ethiopia with Unicef was groundbreaking. Through her work she was able to raise awareness for the dire situation in the drought-stricken country, both for the mainstream population in the West, in addition to peaking the interest of the entertainment industry.
Unicef’s video of delicate star giving aid to an equally soft-spoken breastfeeding mother and baby quickly went viral in 1988, and this was before viral media even had a name.
That is why her efforts helped raise necessary funds for the country during a time period where that would never have happened without her star power.
When the the actress was asked about her work with Unicef, she would always answer in a way that was poised and full of compassion and humility.
“I’m glad I’ve got a name, because I’m using it for what it’s worth. It’s like a bonus that my career has given to me.”
So, how do we celebrate the life of a legend that most of us have never met, but feel connected to through her work and life?
There is an adorable book out called What Would Audrey Do? Which is a fun read about all of the things in Hepburn’s life that were admired or worked for her. Sure she was human, but at the same time, she had created a caricature that continues to inspire millions.
And what would Audrey do today?
Considering her active role in the 1980s Ethiopian drought and famine, it wouldn’t be a big leap to think that Hepburn would be horrified to learn about the severe drought that is once again plaguing Ethiopia and how she would do her part to raise awareness. This sort of drought is now catapulting the country into another famine, which is such a trigger-word for the government that they are avoiding using it at all costs… and I understand why, but we need to use the word because 1. it’s the truth 2. this is an urgent matter which will not go away on its own.
Millions of people are going to die if we, as a whole, do not address the issue. Save the Children lists countries on a number scale (1 being the most severe) and only 2 country are currently listed as level 1 countries- Syria and Ethiopia. As refugee crisis receives the majority of the time slots on the news, the Ethiopian drought/famine has not received the attention it deserves.
What can you do?
A lot has changed since the 1990s when Audrey’s ambassadorship for Unicef was crucial for awareness. Through social media (which didn’t even exist at the time of Hepburn’s death) you now have your own reach. YOU.
You don’t have to visit the country to make a difference, you don’t even have to donate money if you don’t feel called to do so.
What you can do, what we can all do, is share the severity of this issue. Share the photos and the stories of the current situation and the 1980s famine and demand that we as humans, who have the insight to prevent this, do everything in our power to make sure history does not repeat itself.
To learn more about Audrey’s work, please visit Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund on her website.