LifestyleAudrey Hepburn's unseen struggles: Hollywood icon's battle with health, heartbreak and war

Audrey Hepburn's unseen struggles: Hollywood icon's battle with health, heartbreak and war

Audrey Hepburn became an icon during her lifetime.
Audrey Hepburn became an icon during her lifetime.
Images source: © Getty Images | Bettmann
6:31 AM EST, January 29, 2024

Audrey Hepburn is a name familiar to many people in different parts of the world. Not only did she become one of the most popular actresses of her time, but she also served as a massive inspiration to many women. The characters portrayed by Hepburn contributed significantly to making the "little black dress" a classic. The 'Audrey cut' fringe, which resurges in popularity every few years, is equally iconic.

Her private life, however, didn't always proceed as planned. The Oscar-winning actress struggled with anemia, suffered a distressing divorce, and grappled with war trauma throughout her life.

Audrey Hepburn: a global cinema star and 'Italian homebody'

In an interview with "Viva!", Audrey Hepburn's son emphasized that his mother was a remarkably modest person despite her fame. She avoided scandals and lavish parties, instead prioritizing her family over her acting career. Hepburn had always wanted a large family, but her health made that challenging.

"Mom struggled with pregnancy. She was always delicate, and her health was further strained by wartime experiences and the horrific hunger she suffered. (...) After the birth of Sean, my older brother, she had two miscarriages. She once confessed that it was the worst experience of her life, even worse than her parents' divorce and her father's departure. She also spoke about the sacrifices she made when giving birth to me. Doctors advised her to remain bedridden for my entire gestation," Luca Dotti recounted in the magazine's interview.

Her husband's infidelity led to their divorce. The split was the talk of the town

Audrey Hepburn divorced Luca's father when Luca was ten. Over three decades later, Luca as an adult disclosed that the separation left him shocked. He recently came to the realization that the absence of quarrels between his parents did not signify a friendly relationship.

"My father wasn't fair to my mother. It cost him dearly (...). He enjoyed partying, while she preferred staying at home. The age difference between them was 10 years but the mentality gap felt like 30. As I grew up, I was astounded by how dissimilar they were from each other," explained Dotti.

War, the loss of her father, and a son's concern for her

Audrey Hepburn lost contact with her father in childhood. Her father, a member of Britain's Nazi party, had been deported from the country. After the war, he chose not to reconnect with his daughter to safeguard her reputation. Hepburn was deeply affected by the events surrounding her father's loss and her wartime experiences. Later on, she became a collaborator with UNICEF, where she travelled to the world's poorest regions to offer aid to starving families, primarily children. Her son acknowledged that these efforts were extremely taxing for her. Regardless, Audrey never contemplated abandoning her charitable endeavours.

"You've grown up now, and there are other children I need to take care of," Luca remembers his mother saying.

In the course of these humanitarian trips, Hepburn sampled many local cuisines. Upon returning from a trip to Somalia, she began suffering severe abdominal pain, initially suspected to be an infection contracted during her visit. Tragically, she received a different diagnosis: doctors discovered Audrey had intestinal cancer. Despite her fight, the disease eventually took her life. One of Hollywood's biggest stars passed away at the age of 64.

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