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In the Arts

Audrey Hepburn | Actress & Humanitarian

Raised throughout Belgium, England and the Netherlands, Audrey Hepburn was trained as a ballerina and spoke six languages. She was living in the Netherlands when the Germans invaded in 1940, and was sent to live with her grandfather for protection after her uncle was executed and brother deported to a labor camp. She performed in “underground concerts” to raise money for the Dutch resistance effort, and was an active member of the Dutch Resistance itself by delivering an underground newspaper and transporting food and messages to downed Allied flyers hiding in the woodlands north of Velp. Audrey also volunteered in a nearby hospital, and briefly hid an Allied paratrooper in her home during the Battle of Arnhem. She enjoyed a successful film career from 1948 to 1993, though she went into semi-retirement around 1967. Though her work with UNICEF began in the 1950s, Audrey’s boots-on-the-ground work began in 1988 when she traveled throughout Central Africa visiting orphanages, and spent ten days working at an immunization camp in Turkey. In October of the same year, she traveled through Venezuela and Ecuador assisting in the installation of water systems in remote mountain communities. Over the next several years she would traveled with UNICEF through South America, Africa, and Asia. Just four months before her death in 1993, Audrey was in Somalia assisting with famine relief. Audrey died of a rare abdominal cancer on January 20, 1993. Learn more about Audrey’s life outside of the spotlight in Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II.

Laverne Cox | Actress & Activist

Laverne Cox was born in Mobile, Alabama, and raised by her mother and grandmother. Laverne struggled with suicidal attempts beginning at age 11, after finding herself attracted to male classmates while, at the time, living as a boy. After actress Candis Cayne came out as transgender in 2007, Laverne felt brave enough to begin perusing an actor career as an openly trans woman. She landed her first starring role in 2013 on Orange is the New Black as Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate, saying, “Sophia is written as a multi-dimensional character who the audience can really empathize with. All of a sudden, they’re empathizing with a real trans person. And for trans folks out there, who need to see representations of people who are like them and of their experiences, that’s when it becomes really important.” Laverne has been given numerous awards for her activism and advocation for the LGBTQIA+ community. Learn more about Laverne in her memoir, Daring to Be Myself.

Amanda Gorman

Jazz Jennings

Jazz Jennings was born in Florida, and originally began using the pseudonym Jennings for privacy and protection when she gave a 2007 interview to Barbara Walters about being young and transgender at age 7. Jazz’s family has devoted their lives to advocating for the transgender community, and founded Trans Kids Purple Rainbow Foundation in 2007. Throughout her pre-teen and teen years Jazz starred in the documentary series I Am Jazz and published her memoir, Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen. From 10 to 13, Jazz was involved in a legal battle with the United States Soccer Federation, fighting for her right to play on a girls’ soccer team. She won the lawsuit in 2013 with the assistance of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In 2014, Jazz was named one of Time’s 25 Most Influential Teens and also became the youngest person to be featured in Out’s Out 100 list and Advocate’s 40 Under 40 list. Learn more about Jazz by following her on Instagram at @JazzJennings_.

Audrey Hepburn

Angelina Jolie | Actress & Humanitarian

Although best known for her extensive acting career, Angelina Jolie has devoted much of her life to humanitarian work and activism. While filming in Cambodia in 2000, Angelina witnessed the humanitarian effects of a war-torn country, and upon her return home, contacted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 2001, she began traveling to refugee camps throughout Sierra Leone and Tanzania. From 2001 to 2010, Angelina made over 40 trips to over 30 countries to meet with refugees and displaced people. In 2004, she earned a private pilot license and purchased a single-engine aircraft so as to ferry aid workers and food supplies to remote areas. In 2006, Angelina purchased a 6,000,000 acre reserve and began developing a Millennium Village, which became home to 6,000 villagers by 2007. The village is staffed by 72 former poachers, working as rangers to protect wildlife on the reserve, and includes schools and a soy milk factory. In 2005, she opened a girls’ boarding school at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. She has also opened a Cambodian medical and educational facility for children living with HIV, and an Ethiopian hospital that treats and educates children living with HIV and tuberculosis. In the United States, Angelina has lobbied in DC for the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2005 and funded the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants’ National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children. Learn more about Angelina’s humanitarian efforts in the Newsweek article The Secret World of Angelina Jolie: Charity Work.

Amanda Gorman | Poet

Amanda Gorman was raised by her single mother in Los Angeles. Throughout childhood, Amanda struggled with a speech impediment and an auditory processing disorder that made her hypersensitive to sound. She credits her time spent in speech therapy with sparking her love for reading and writing, and used songs from the musical Hamilton to practice her r’s. Amanda graduated from Harvard University in 2020 with a degree in sociology. In 2021, Amanda was invited to read her poem The Hill We Climb at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, after being recommended to event organizers by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Following her performance at the inauguration, Amanda was commissioned to compose an original poem for the Super Bowl LV pregame ceremony. Amanda’s awards include the 2014 Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, the 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate, and being named one of Glamour magazine’s College Women of the Year. When asked how she prepares for performances, Amanda shared that she recites a mantra: “I am the daughter of black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters, who broke through chains and changed the world. They call me.” Learn more about Amanda by following her Instagram account, @AmandaSCGorman.

Jazz Jennings
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