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Monday, June 16, 2014

Hepburn, Princess Di, Jolie, the Critics & Humanitarianism


Star-gazing and celebrity-worship do not form part of my daily routine. But since the late 80's I watched (and much admired her for it) Audrey Hepburn being a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and traveling to all those countries whose plight began to receive some increased international attention thanks to her presence there. She was in her 50's at that point, and interestingly, had not succumbed to the peer pressure of plastic surgery. On a talk show with Larry King in 1991 or so, in which the topic was precisely her humanitarian work and the terrible difficulties the people in all those countries were faced with on a daily basis, a caller asked her why she had not had her face lifted ... I myself was in my 30's, fresh-skinned, and young, and yet I could not get over the caller's lack of comprehension about what was truly important.

Around that same time, in 1989, my admiration had grown around Princess Di for the handshake she gave at age 28 - and the entire world gave a collective gasp - to a person suffering from AIDS. In one fell swoop the stigma attached to the disease began to crumble. What a woman, I thought. In 1997, in her late 30's, she began her work against the use of landmines, and again, my admiration for her grew. She was much criticized for meddling in matters that were not of her incumbency, as well as for her lifestyle. Again, I wonder if those who criticized managed to leave a mark such as hers. Isn't that what counts?


Which brings me to Angelina Jolie. Her LC movies were fun, but as a person I felt she left a lot to be desired, until she appeared on my radar at the World Economic Forum in Davos when she was about 29 in 2005 or so, and very regularly since then in order to push human rights. Her work on behalf of human rights over more than a decade, and now recently, with William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, at the London summit on ending sexual violence during war, speaks for itself. Yet ... if you look at the press there is - once again - so much criticism. Of her lifestyle, of the potential fact that she does this to garner even more publicity, of her double mastectomy, of all those children, and so on ad nauseam. She's carried out field trips to countless countries, including Cambodia, Ivory Coast, Sri Lanka and Sudan. She said that keeping near the spotlight was crucial to publicizing humanitarian needs, and that her ambassadorial role with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was "more fulfilling and more interesting to me" than films. "And I know it's more important." 


So to all the critics of these three women - all too human, yet so involved in their causes - I say: Using their status to garner attention for corners of the world that have long been forgotten, or to shed light on atrocities that no one wants to look at or discuss, while putting themselves in situations that so many, who have access to such status, do not do, or do little or nothing, is a fine - even noble - use of their celebrity-hood. Would that we would all do the same in our own little corners ... is this not what living a life worth living is all about?
      
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Books by Dr. Gabriella Kortsch:


                         
                   
                                           

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