My sister in-law is a big fan of Audrey Hepburn and has collected various things to do with Audrey over the years. So, as she (my sister in-law) has a special birthday coming up we were looking to see if we could get her something to do with Audrey as a birthday present.
While searching the internet I came across lots of beautiful black and white photographs of Audrey and to say that she was beautiful doesn’t do her justice. She was truly stunning.
The saying beauty is only skin deep gets put about quiet a lot, so it got me thinking about Audrey. Was beauty only skin deep with her?
I decided to do some research about her and came across some very amazing facts about her life.
She was born in Brussels, and spent her childhood between Belgium, England and the Netherlands, including German-occupied Arnhem during the Second World War.
Although born in Belgium, Hepburn held British citizenship through her father.
Because of her father’s British background and job with a British company, the family often travelled between Belgium, England and the Netherlands. With her multi-national background, she went on to speak five languages; she picked up French, Spanish, German and Italian in addition to her native English and Dutch.
In 1937, Ella (her mother) and Audrey moved to Kent, South East England. In September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany, and Hepburn’s mother relocated with her daughter back to Arnhem in the belief that the Netherlands would remain neutral and be spared a German attack, but that was not the case. After the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Hepburn adopted the pseudonym Edda van Heemstra, because an “English sounding” name was considered dangerous during the German occupation.
Ella, and Audrey moved in with Ella’s father Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra in nearby Velp. During her wartime struggles, Hepburn suffered from malnutrition, developed acute anæmia, respiratory problems, and edema.
Audrey occasionally acted as a courier for the resistance, delivering messages and packages. After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse and Arnhem was subsequently devastated in the fighting during Operation Market Garden. During the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, the Germans had blocked the resupply routes of the Dutch already-limited food and fuel supplies as retaliation for railway strikes that were held to hinder German occupation. People starved and froze to death in the streets.
When the Netherlands was liberated, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration trucks followed. Audrey said in an interview that she fell ill from putting too much sugar in her porridge and eating an entire can of condensed milk. Her war-time experiences sparked her devotion to UNICEF, an international humanitarian organisation, in her later career.
As we know Audrey went on to become a huge film star in such films as Roman Holiday, Sabrina, War & Peace, Love in the Afternoon, The Nuns Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady etc. Although she had done work for UNICEF in the 1950s starting in 1954 with radio presentations, in later life she took on a much higher level of dedication.
Hepburn’s first field mission for UNICEF 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. “
She went on to visit many countries with UNICEF and made appeals to US Congress but it was her visits to these countries that helped to promote humanitarian suffering through UNICEF and the UNICEF supported immunisation and clean water programmes.
In October 1989, Audrey went to Bangladesh. John Isaac, a UN photographer, said, “Often the kids would have flies all over them, but she would just go hug them. I had never seen that. Other people had a certain amount of hesitation, but she would just grab them. Children would just come up to hold her hand, touch her – she was like the Pied Piper.”
Now you might think that this is just homage to Audrey Hepburn and maybe it is in some way. That Audrey was beautiful is in no doubt, and it was hardly ‘skin deep.’ She devoted her time to help others and like many other good people who have gone before her and after her it was not for self gain.
She never considered herself attractive. She stated in a 1959 interview, “you can even say that I hated myself at certain periods.”
So when we look at people how do we see them?
We fawn over good-looking celebrities and would-be celebrities following their every move whether they are footballers, sports stars, pop stars, actors or models. We see them as someone to aspire to and to be like, but how many times have we been let down by some of these good-looking celebrities. I’m not saying that all celebrities don’t have other qualities. Some have, and do things in a quiet way not seeking attention.
But there is another kind of celebrity out there – maybe not on television or in magazines every day – who do everyday things like ourselves but who go that extra mile without reward or recognition to help others.
These people may or may not be physically beautiful, but they do many remarkable things in life for people less fortunate. Many of these remarkable people are never heard of or recognized and we would probably never give them a second look as we would have Audrey, but nevertheless they are beautiful and it’s not just skin deep.
Having lived with depression for many years I have had people with these qualities help me. Some in ways they will never know by kind words or just being there for me when I need it most. Others, like my doctor and counsellor, with tangible help to get me back on the right track, and they continually do so.
The people from Healthy n Happy who have given me brilliant help over the years have been quite literally a life saver for me. Help has been continuous over the last 7 – 8 years encouraging me, understanding me and above all it’s somewhere I can join in with other people like me, suffering with depression or suffering from poor mental health, getting us involved in our community and thus helping to grow our confidence. But most importantly it has given me a voice to talk about mental health openly and has put me on the road to recovery for which I am truly grateful.
Beauty isn’t only skin deep, it might be hidden in the people that use their time to help us and for little recognition or reward, but it’s a beauty that is precious, loving, kind, caring and giving.