See Audrey Hepburn's Granddaughter, Who's Carrying on Her Legacy
Emma Ferrer shares her famous grandmother Audrey Hepburn's passion for humanitarian work.
Emma Ferrer never met her grandmother, screen and style legend Audrey Hepburn. She was born in 1994, just a little over a year after Hepburn died in 1993. But she's been inspired by the work her grandmother did during her lifetime and the powerful example she set.
Ferrer, 27, is the daughter of Hepburn's son Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Leila Flannigan. As a model and actor, Ferrer has definitely followed in her grandmother's footsteps regarding her career choice, but she's also inherited Hepburn's compassionate and giving side. Read on to hear more about how Emma Ferrer keeps her famous grandmother's memory alive.
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Early hardship inspired Audrey Hepburn to help others.
While Hepburn is best known as the refined star of classic films like Funny Face, Roman Holiday, and Sabrina, she came from humble beginnings. She was born in Belgium in 1929, but after her father abandoned the family in the mid-1930s, her mother moved the family to the Netherlands. "I was in Holland during the war, during the German occupation," she said in a 1988 interview with UNICEF. "The last winter was the worst of all. Food was scarce, and whatever there was went to the troops."
In 1946, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund was formed to provide humanitarian aid to children around the world. Representatives from the group came to Holland, and Hepburn said she personally received aid from the organization. "I can testify what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II," she said. "There's a big difference between dying of starvation and malnutrition, of course, but I was very, very undernourished."
Hepburn spent her later years traveling the world for UNICEF.
Hepburn's early experience led her to pursue volunteer work with UNICEF later in life. In 1989, she was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and she made aide trips with the organization to war-torn and famine-stricken countries like Bangladesh and Ethiopia, visiting with children and mothers worldwide.
Even after being diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 1992, Hepburn joined aide missions to Turkey, Kenya, and Somalia. That same year, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to humanitarian causes. She would travel and support the work of the organization until her death in Jan. 1993.
"There is just no question that there is a moral obligation for those who have, to give to those who have nothing," she said in a 1988 interview.
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Hepburn's granddaughter is now carrying on her humanitarian legacy.
Emma Ferrar may have never met her grandmother, but Hepburn's compassion inspired her. "Having sort of begun my own journey working with humanitarian organizations, this has been a way for me to really kind of feel a connection to her," Ferrer said in a 2021 interview with Today.
Ferrer also spoke of Hepburn's game-changing decision to use her celebrity to help others in an interview with Forbes in 2019. "I think when my grandmother went out into the field, she saw herself in those children she met, and those mothers also," Ferrer told the outlet. "She was the first celebrity to do anything like this, but she was also the first public figure who would go to these countries and not just say hello to the children or greet the mothers. She would really pick them up and cradle them and kiss the mothers' hands. She was really physically involved. I think it demonstrates really well how personally she took all of that and how she wanted to be involved in a very personal way."
It was Hepburn's enthusiasm for the organization, along with her parents' own activism, that led Ferrer to begin volunteering with UNICEF as a teen. (She's pictured here volunteering in 2014.) Later, she became a spokesperson for UNICEF and ambassador for the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
"I was exposed to charitable work from a very young age. I was involved in family efforts from as far back as I can remember," Ferrer told The Chic in 2019. "It's as though doing good for others and providing for those who have less were words that constituted a family vocabulary of implicit values. I grew up watching my father's efforts to make a difference in the geographical and metaphoric spaces that meant something to him. I learned that that is not only a possibility, but a human responsibility."
Ferrer is also helping shed new light on Hepburn's life.
In 2020, director Helena Coan released Audrey, a documentary on Hepburn's life that focuses more heavily on her early hardships and her desire to help others. It features both Emma and her father, speaking about the actor's legacy.
Ferrer (pictured here in 2019) told Harper's Bazaar that the film offered a deeper look into her grandmother's life. "I really think that the message to take away from [the film] is Audrey took pain and turned it into something really revolutionary. A lot of other people in her situation would have kind of just tried to numb that pain," she said.
And that continues to inspire Ferrer to work with UNICEF. "People care deeply about something that's important in their own family, and they care about what it means to carry on that legacy," she said in a 2019 interview with the organization. "If they feel that drive, I think it's infectious. I think it spreads."
As Ferrer continues to build a career of her own, she's prepared for inevitable comparisons.
As she's grown up, Ferrer has also dabbled in modeling and acting. She made her magazine debut on the cover of Harper's Bazaar's Sept. 2014 issue and was signed by Storm Management shortly thereafter. She's since modeled for Dior, Givenchy, and Tiffany & Co.
In 2019, she had a part in the feature film The Man in the Attic, a psychological thriller directed by Constantine Venetopoulos. "She has this old-soul aspect to her. It's almost like she is from another time," Venetopoulos told The New York Post of Ferrer. "There is some element in [her] DNA that [makes her] able to transport and become this other person."
As for where she sees her career going, Ferrer told The New York Post: "I'm acting very gently and very slowly. I want to be able to have the freedom to be part of artistic projects I believe in." On Instagram, Ferrer shares another artistic side of herself—she's also a painter, and did a piece in 2020 in honor of her grandmother.
In her 2021 interview with Today, Ferrer said living up to the success Hepburn had does weigh on her. "When 21 rolled around I was like, 'OK, what have I done?' It's kind of inevitable to compare and despair, as they say," she admitted. "It's like this dichotomy of wishing that I had had the chance to know her and also feeling really intimated by who she is and how amazing she is."