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Our Fair Lady of Hollywood’s Golden Age: Audrey Hepburn and Her Inspirational Actress Turned Humanitarian Life

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time watching movies. In particular, old Hollywood movies mystified me. I would watch a television channel called Turner Classic Movies which had movies ranging from the 1920s to the 1980s, and so that meant I was exposed to lots of black-and-white films. The films I felt most enamored with were the ones with Hollywood Starlets like Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, or Elizabeth Taylor, but none mesmerized me as much as Audrey Hepburn. She appeared so graceful on screen and exerted such elegance that I found myself wishing I could embody her. Most would know her for her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), which contains the scene, etched into our minds, of her adorned with glitzy jewelry with her iconic long black dress and black gloves while enjoying a croissant and coffee as she looks into the window display at Tiffany’s. Even if you haven’t seen the film in its entirety, I would feel confident in saying most would know the scene I am talking about. 

Audrey Hepburn was an iconic figure in Hollywood for starring in a plethora of famous films like Roman Holiday (1953), My Fair Lady (1964), Sabrina (1954), and Funny Face (1957). There is no doubt based on her films’ success that she was immensely successful and talented. I think that her acting career was pivotal in Hollywood history, and her name will never die. But, something that I discovered about Audrey Hepburn is how she devoted much of her life to humanitarian work. 

After two strong decades of her successful acting career, Audrey became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1988. Shortly thereafter, Hepburn traveled on a mission to Ethiopia which had been strongly devastated by droughts, famine, and social issues. Audrey worked on various UNICEF projects such as visiting a Turkish polio vaccine post, planning training programs for Venezuelan women, creating initiatives for the children of Ecuador who were living off the streets, and planning to provide clean drinking water in Guatemala and Honduras. She worked within Bangladesh schools, she had taken part in services for Thailand children, helped enact initiatives for nutrition in Vietnam, and worked in camps for homeless children of Sudan as well. 

Audrey participated in UNICEF frequently enough that she was attending the World Summit for Children, and had eventually started UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children reports. She was constantly giving speeches at UNICEF events and promoting the organization as often as possible. Audrey Hepburn even went on to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992, which is considered, in the United States, as the “highest civilian award.” Even when Audrey was diagnosed with cancer, she still continued to travel through various countries to work for UNICEF up until her death on January 20, 1993. 

Audrey Hepburn wasn’t just a movie star who only cared for the glitz and glam. She was a humanitarian who cared deeply for others. She utilized her status as a celebrity to help those in need and was constantly advocating and promoting the values and mission of UNICEF. Audrey Hepburn exhibited something that I find celebrities often lack, which is a passion to help others and using their privilege to accomplish amazing things for the sake of those in need. Audrey Hepburn is an icon, and I will always idolize her for her generosity and beauty. 

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Samantha Weber

U Mass Amherst '23

Samantha is a senior Communication major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a content writer at the UMass Amherst chapter for Her Campus.