Here is my speech draft. I realize this is after the fact, but sadly I deleted the post the first time around.
Right now, I could tell you about Audrey’s life the way the world saw it. Her awards, her career, everything the media could make sense of from the little tidbits that she shared of her personal life, but then I might as well just have you all pull out your phones and read her Wikipedia page. So, being her best friend, I feel as though I should share with you the real Audrey Hepburn, not the actress, but the wife, mother and best friend that she was.
I remember when I first met Audrey. It was at a party in 1961 that Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh gave for their tenth wedding anniversary. I was just married, knew nobody, and was obviously starstruck by all. Audrey was a star. She was an icon, yet like all bright and intelligent people, often doubted herself. She would say to me, ‘My feet are so big and yours are just so much smaller and nice.’ She always felt that her looks were due to makeup. One day she came to see me on her way to the studio, just stood there, with no makeup on . . . looking at me with those big eyes and said ‘You see, no makeup, no eyes, and a square face!’ None of it was true of course, but from that day on I always called her ‘Square’ and she would call herself that to me. After that, she became my best friend, my soulmate. We had no secrets from each other. We laughed and cried together. She was funny and she did everything so well: cooking, decorating her homes. Christmas and Easter were always great. Audrey’s friendship was by far one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Now, everyone knew Audrey as one of the most amazing actresses of her time and from what I could see, Audrey was one of those Hollywood actresses whose presence as the star of a film always sold tickets and made the studios great profits. Not that she would ever admit that of course. Audrey was moved to this code of perfect behavior by the most touching modesty. According to her, she had just been lucky to be singled out for a fabulous career and she spent her lifetime, forever trying to measure up to what she thought she ought to be. Audrey once said, ‘As a child, I was taught that it was bad manners to bring attention to yourself, and to never, ever make a spectacle of yourself… all of which I’ve earned a living doing.’ And as I got closer and closer with her family, it was clear to me that she wanted to pass on this trait to her two sons, Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti. Half-brothers. Same mother, different fathers. Over her lifetime Audrey had held 2 long marriages, but secretly I think it should have been 3. She and Robert Wolders spent nine years together and she even said it herself, they were married, just not formally.
As her years went on, Audrey starred in less and less films and began devoting more of her time towards UNICEF. Ever since she was a little girl she always felt compelled to helping people. During the war time it was her who needed the help and the extra food rations. So, in a way, I guess she felt as if she owed it to pay that deed forward for the rest of her life, because without the support from the volunteers from various different charities and organizations she herself might not have made it past childhood alive.
As she became more involved with UNICEF, Audrey went on many different missions. She visited a polio vaccine project in Turkey, as well as projects for children living and working in the streets of Ecuador and projects to provide drinking water in Guatemala and Honduras. In 1989 Audrey was appointed as the Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF. I could not have been more proud of her. It really did reflect her efforts and energy spent towards helping, not only children, but people in need. I remember on her appointment she had said, ‘I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II,’ Which brings up what I said before, she had been on the receiving end of the spectrum, and she hadn’t talked about it much, but there had been brief periods in conversations where she would sometimes tell me stories of her life as a little girl growing during the war. She said she could never forget the memories of being at the station and seeing trainloads of Jews being transported away. I really felt for her, they were such awful images to have always lingering in the back of your head. But, now it was her time to do everything in her power to pay it forward. To give back to the world what it had given her. A life.
It is rare when someone who has so much devotes their life to giving even more of themselves back to the world, but that is exactly what Audrey always strived to achieve and something I will forever admire her for.
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