Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday's Woman: Audrey Hepburn

When I think “Hollywood icon,” I think of beauty, glamour and larger-than-life fame—beyond reality and fuel for fantasy.  However, movie stars are people, too.  Because of their wealth and influence, they possess the ability to make significant change in the world. 

This week’s guest blogger, Aubrey Ortega, highlights one such famous Hollywood icon, Audrey Hepburn.  I was unaware of this mega celebrity's work outside of the silver screen. 

Aubrey was a little concerned that I would prefer she choose someone other than Hepburn for Wednesday’s Woman because of her iconic status.  However, when the famous choose to embrace their own humanity and use their dominant place in culture to affect the lives of others in a positive way, icons become more real and even more inspirational.  It is important to remember the famous for their authenticity, and Aubrey’s choice for Wednesday’s Woman helps us to do just that.

“Maybe it's not so bad to believe in something bigger, something that connects us all. Maybe it's exactly what I need to step outside this box and be something stronger.” ~Aubrey Ortega

I am already stronger for knowing Aubrey through reading her blog Way Too Much Aubrey and I can sense her searching for "something stronger" within her post today.  She’s a PPD survivor striving to reach out to others suffering from PPD, for she knows there is strength in numbers.  Her blog comes with a warning that you’ll get nothing but the truth, and truth she gives.  Way Too Much Aubrey is fun and genuine, a place in the blogosphere I recommend you visit right after your read her inspiring piece for this week’s Wednesday’s Woman.

Wednesday’s Woman: 
When Fame and Beauty is Last on Your Priority List

Audrey Hepburn, in most respects, is old news. I am not going to tell you about her style, her beauty, or her film career, all of which are well-known aspects of her life already. The reason Audrey is my choice for Wednesday’s Woman is because if you were to ask Audrey about those things, she would wave you off and talk about the really important things in life, like motherhood and putting yourself last.

When interviewed by the great fashion magazines on How to Look as Lovely As Audrey Hepburn, she replied, 

"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." 

She was quoted as having also said, “I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people's minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing." Never boastful, or even aware of her own beauty and charm, Audrey’s ONLY hope was to be a loving mother and to use her accidental fame to help others.

Audrey turned down the lead role in George Stevens' Diary of Anne Frank because, as a young girl in Holland during World War II, she witnessed Nazi soldiers publicly executing people and herding Jews onto railroad cars to be sent to death camps. Audrey identified with Anne's story of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam so much that she said her participation in the 1959 film would have been much too realistic and painful in memories.

As a pre-teen Audrey voluntarily aided the underground effort against the Nazis. She ran many messages (in her shoes), risking her own life to help save the lives of others. During the Dutch famine over the winter of 1944, brutality increased and the Nazis confiscated the Dutch people's limited food and fuel supply for themselves. Without heat in their homes, or food to eat, people in the Netherlands starved and froze to death in the streets, particularly so in Arnhem, which was devastated during allied bombing raids that were part of Operation Market Garden. Suffering from malnutrition, Audrey developed several health problems. She would stay in bed and read to take her mind off the hunger, and she danced ballet for groups of people to collect money for the underground movement. She resorted to digging up and eating tulip bulbs to survive the famine. There was even a period of time (approximately one week) during the war when Audrey hid from the Nazi forces in an alley, her five-foot-seven frame scrunched to fit into a box. Unable to move for fear of being discovered, Audrey suffered the affects of malnutrition and physical repercussions of that event for the rest of her life.

Audrey’s chosen charity was UNICEF because that was the organization who came in and brought food and supplies to her community when the war ended. They literally saved her life and the life of her family, and she committed much of her life to that same cause.

Her first field mission was to Ethiopia in 1988. She visited an orphanage in Mek'ele that housed 500 starving children and had UNICEF send food.

Of the trip, she said, "I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can't stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death, many of them children, not because there isn't tons of food sitting in the northern port of Shoa. It can't be distributed. Last spring, Red Cross and UNICEF workers were ordered out of the Northern provinces because of two simultaneous civil wars... I went into rebel country and saw mothers and their children who had walked for ten days, even three weeks, looking for food, settling onto the desert floor into makeshift camps where they may die. Horrible. That image is too much for me. The 'Third World' is a term I don't like very much, because we're all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering."

Wednesday’s Woman was beautiful beyond most of our wildest dreams, was a movie star (31 high-quality films) without even meaning to be, and will forever be a fashion icon around the world. But all she really wanted was to help a starving child, and that she did until her death at age sixty-four.

“If you deny childhood, you deny life.” 

Aubrey asked that this Barbara Walter's interview be included because, "I believe it speaks volumes more than I could."

photo credit: The City Project via photo pin cc photo credit: x-ray delta one via photo pin cc


  1. Thank you so much for the chance to tell your followers why I have Audrey Hepburn plastered all over my walls... because she's not just a pretty face. Another favorite Audrey quote: "It's that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second. This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up.
    Others matter more than you do, so don't fuss, dear; get on with it." -Audrey Hepburn

  2. love this! so glad i found out more about her. and about you, Aubrey. :)

  3. This is such an awesome and inspirational post! I have loved watching old Audrey Hepburn movies for a long time but didn't know about her past, how much she suffered and really only knew a little about her work through UNICEF. Her attitude and outlook are really inspirational when thinking about most of today's self obsessed Hollywood and reality "stars" as well. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, what an amazing women and Aubrey, I love your writing on this one!

    1. Thanks, you are absolutely right about the "stars" of today. A completely different caliber! And that's a huge compliment from you, I always love your writing Anna!

  4. Holy WOW!!! I had no idea of that Nazi history!!! Amazing. She was way more than just one of the most beautiful women to ever live. I'm totally forwarding this to my mom.

    ~The G silent

    1. Hooray! I love that she can still reach people on an emotional level. This is why she's such an awesome icon!

  5. I love Audrey Hepburn and I LOVE Aubrey's blog too - so thank you for featuring two of my faves. (-;

    1. I'm kinda freaking out about this compliment coming from The Momalog, one of the best blogs ever! <3

  6. Beautiful tribute about an inspiring, humble woman! Thank you!


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