Today Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston would have turned 85. She passed away 21 years ago, on January 20, 1993 at 8pm, at the young age of 63 from a rare type of cancer. Soon after losing her we felt that, would she have had more time on this earth, she would have spent it continuing to speak on the behalf of the millions of children who don’t have a ‘fair start’ in life. This was the generation she worked for tirelessly for the last 5 years of her life as an ambassador for UNICEF. During her tenure (1988-1992) 45,000 of them died of preventable causes each day. Today the number is down to 21,000. She believed in education as a way to change the course of history in those countries that are still developing, which is why we created both the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund (www.audreyhepburn.com) and the Audrey Hepburn Society at the US Fund for UNICEF (www.unicefusa.org/AudreyHepburnSociety). Both dedicated to assisting in the survival and development of children in need all over the World of which over 100,000,000, 2/3 of whom are girls, still do not have access to a basic education.
While she is still remembered as a film actor, she also remains a symbol of both inner and outer elegance for many, her last chapter as a humanitarian forever intertwined with her Hollywood and style legacies. This truly brings home the concept that it is not what you wear but how you wear it – not what you say but how you say it - as she always used to say, “it’s not just the words but it’s also the ‘tune’ that counts”. “Put yourself in the other person shoes” was also one of her motos. This is how she reached the inner core of the roles she played and probably what also made her humanitarian missions so unbearably vivid. She could feel their pain.
What is extraordinary about this last chapter of her life is that she truly was a ‘sprite’ – youthful at heart and fun to the core - which is probably why she has successfully communicated with our youth. Today they represent more than half of her fan base. And it is this same generation that wishes to find a way to be an active player in ‘changing the World.’ In time, they will cause the way we look at business – at profit – to change. Rather than having separate ‘for profit’ and ‘nonprofit’ activities, they will cause the two to merge into one, thus giving the possibility for all to do what they love while doing something that enhances society as a whole.
Thank you to all of you who have kept her ‘story’ alive. In the end this is who & what she was… a great story teller. Whether on the silver screen or on a UNICEF podium fighting for the survival of millions or wearing the iconic ‘little back dress’ or smiling at you from a poster on your cupboard door… her story of feelings and emotions, style and grace, elegance and compassion lives on thanks to your affection.