Audrey Hepburn had many chances to give up in her life. Though there is a lot that she is recognized for in the film world, her role in Unicef, as a mother, as a person who cared more about the lives and rights of children and put others before herself is far more her achievement. But she’s not often reflected for her resilience.
Growing up during Nazi Germany, she faced malnutrition which affected her for a lifetime and abandonment from her father which turned her mother’s hair gray. Her dream was also ruined of becoming a Prima Ballerina because she was taken from her ballet schooling from her mother in order to be safer. Ultimately, she used dance to teach others who to dance bellet during the war. She then helped to relay anti-Nazi messages.
When offered to play Anne Frank years later in her life, she turned down the role. She did not want to capitalize on a young girl’s suffering for her own benefit, especially one she could so relate to.
I’ve always seen Audrey Hepburn as the person both Anne Frank and Sophie Scholl, the young activist who helped run the White Rose movement against the Nazis, could have turned out to be like had they survived. She had the same hopes and vigor and inner beauty. She had the same conviction for life. The only difference is that she survived.
And people wonder when they watch her on the screen why she is so magical. I’ve always known why. I’ve known that she was special. She found a way to dance on the screen later and dazzle millions in her movies. She found a platform to dance. She found an audience to captivate. She found a spotlight that would follow her into her work with Unicef. That spotlight ultimately landed on children in need. She believed in putting others before herself, and not only did she survive, inspire, succeed and create art, but she relentlessly humbled herself to say that it was because of those around her that she made it. She never sought anything. She isn’t particularly beautiful, she would say. She isn’t important.
Perhaps it is because she saw the worst the world had to offer at a time where starvation was around her. But the level of compassion, dignity and empathy it created ensued and lasted her whole life. That is why she is uniquely beautiful. That is why we can’t look away. She represents our humanity, the people who were lost in the war, the heroes that did not live, the Anne Franks in war torn countries, the ones who went on and survived. And yet our society does a disservice to her by simply remembering her as beautiful. The world should have been rejoicing as if Anne Frank had lived, as if Sophie Scholl had not been beheaded. She was our chance to recognize need for great change. And yet she is remembered as beautiful actress.
What they do not ask is…
What if Audrey Hepburn had given up?
She never sought her success after she survived. But she did have to let go of a dream. She had to accept that her war torn chldhood and abandonment from her father was not the end of her either. She had to go on, with a broken heart. She had to make change. Two failed marriages, miscarriages, anxiety and insecurity also wrecked her. She rarely put a spotlight on her problems; rather she chose empathy for others. She chose to use her experiences of suffering to help those who could not help themselves. By taking on empathy, she projected her success onto others. She projected her survival, her fortune found after she had been discovered. She was a ray of hope.
She flew into different countries, some with no government or infrastructure to simply hope that the plane was not shot down. She risked her life even after she survived. She risked her life as a child. She risked her life as an adult.
Now her foundation the Audrey Heprburn Children’s Fund and work with Unicef has left a legacy. But I ask, plead you to think about the fact that she never gave up. Her dreams changed. She went from ballet to acting. She went to survivor to risk taker to save others’ lives. She went from losing love, starting with her father to two future marriages and miscarriages, to going onto to having two sons and finding the love of her life again. And yet she only tried to inspire the world.
That said, what if you never gave up?
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!
“I decided, very early on, just to accept life unconditionally; I never expected it to do anything special for me, yet I seemed to accomplish far more than I had ever hoped. Most of the time it just happened to me without my ever seeking it.”