Netflix Documentary Review: Audrey

The inspiration behind my engagement shoot was the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey Hepburn’s classic style is not only of elegance, but transcends all generations. I remember excitedly planning for this shoot with Ahmad and Farah Taam of Signature Design and Photography. She was the muse of our shoot: I wore a modern twist of the famous black Givenchy dress (mine was from Zara) and donned my mother’s pearls. Although we weren’t in New York, the Detroit skyline served as our backdrop. We took pictures in front of the historic Paul Martin building in downtown Windsor and some other notable hotspots, including restobar Panache.

Director Helena Coan examines the life, the struggles and the triumph of Hollywood actress and humanitarian, Audrey Hepburn. Although Audrey Hepburn was a mega-star, she endured many hardships in her life, including malnutrition, divorce and war. Audrey Hepburn first rose to stardom after her role in the film Roman Holiday alongside Gregory Peck. Her timeless style rose to prominence as she famously collaborated with French designer, Hubert de Givenchy, who became one of her closest friends.

The life of Audrey Hepburn was told through the lens of her son, Sean, as well as many close friends and people she had worked with, making it for a genuine yet candid account of the starlet’s life. Director Helena Coan eloquently tells the story of Audrey Hepburn’s life in such a beautiful manner that as a viewer, you are left intrigued and inspired.

My greatest takeaway from this account of Audrey Hepburn’s life was her dedication towards humanity. Her story was extremely moving and and provides us with a teachable moment: to never stop caring for one another. Her exemplary dedication towards the welfare of children (as made evident with her many missions with UNICEF) is a testament of her love for humanity. Audrey’s own childhood experiences most definitely influenced her passion for advocating for the world’s poorest children. Although she is predominantly known for her classic beauty, I would argue that her compassion, kindness and generousity are her most prominent features.

Audrey had once publicly stated that “taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicisation of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanisation of politics.” Although Audrey Hepburn will forever be remembered as a Hollywood icon, she is most importantly, a role model for each one of us to follow.

Audrey the documentary by filmmaker Helena Coan is currently available on Netflix. Enjoy!

Reflections On International Women’s Day: MOTHERHOOD, WORK-LIFE BALANCE IN A PANDEMIC WORLD

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.….It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would become a full-time employee and homeschool teacher at the same time. I am not going to deny it, but this was probably one of the most difficult things I ever had to endure. I was exhausted and anxious to say the least. It was definitely challenging trying to work and navigate online learning, but somehow, we survived it. As much as I was frustrated with the situation, I was fortunate in a sense where I had a very supportive spouse, employer and a network of friends online to talk to. The majority of people that I talked to regarding the school closure situation were actually women and I think everyone had the same feelings that I had. We all shared the same worries about our children’s future, we all vented to each other with how challenging it was to teach and work at the same time and how we were all worried about the mental health of our children and ourselves. At the time, I felt it was so important to advocate for the safe return to school and in doing so, I realized it was a very empowering and meaningful experience.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought out many inequalities within society, namely within racial, ethnic and indigenous communities, refugees and women. Women, who bare the burden of most household responsibilities, have been negatively impacted as a result of school and daycare closures. This in turn negatively impacts the workforce, creating an even greater gender divide on the economy. But the silver lining in all this is that women’s rights and equity have come to the spot light and change is happening: the conversation has started. In a post-pandemic world, we really need to ask ourselves how can we better support women? I believe the answer is simple.

Everything starts in the home:

I truly believe that any conversation must start within ourselves and within our homes. As parents, we need to start having conversations with our children regarding the value of women within society and provide them with the perspective of the world through the lens of a woman. Education is a key element in teaching our children about the values of gender equality as an important role within a democratic society.

Advocacy and support:

Continuing to advocate for things such as paid leave during an emergency for example or more equitable workplaces are important policies that would help women. Providing women with support, for example, during motherhood, could be extremely beneficial towards women who, for instance, want to further themselves in their careers. Today there is an array of online support groups and outreach services available within many communities to help serve women in such situations. I am also seeing more and more platforms on social media supporting women in various roles of society. It’s important that we continue to advocate for things such as parental leave, child care leave, flexible work schedules to help women move forward.

Supporting women through business:

Today, many women are taking on the roles of becoming business owners and entrepreneurs, however, only a small percentage of women are CEO’s throughout the world. According to Catalyst, although the number of women CEO’s have gone up in 2020, “there are still nearly 13 companies run by a man for every company run by a woman.” However, more and more women are stepping up to the challenge and starting their own business ventures. Today, I ask you to look around in your own communities and go out and support businesses owned by women. Even doing something small, such as tagging a female-owned business on Instagram or picking up a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop run by women, can go a long way in showing our support for women in business. Women supporting women is a very powerful thing!

Celebrating women:

Celebrating women’s empowerment doesn’t have to be only on one day, but rather should happen everyday and there are small things we can do to help celebrate women. Maybe its contributing towards a charity that is geared towards the empowerment of women or learning about an important historical figure within the women’s rights movement. We can also honour the women in our own lives, such as a parent, grandparent, a teacher or a friend.

In summary, given all the hardships that we have been through this past year, if anything, I have learned that as a woman and as a mother, I am strong, I am resilent and I am fearless. Not only will I continue to advocate for my children, but I will advocate for all women, to help create a more just society.

Book Review: The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull

Long before Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Diana, Princess of Wales, there was another controversial Royal that caused a stir within the house of Windsor: Wallis Simpson, also known as the Duchess of Windsor. Wallis’ relationship with Edward VIII (also known as David,) led to his abdication to the British throne and in the words of David himself, had no choice but to “discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.” David’s abdication prevented a constitutional crisis from occurring in Britain and was a story that rocked the entire world.

However, this particular novel is not about Wallis, but the woman who introduced David (then the Prince of Wales) to Wallis: Thelma Morgan, the Lady Furness, who is the protagonist in Bryn Turnbull’s debut novel “The Woman Before Wallis.” Thelma was a American socialite, and twin sister of Gloria Vanderbilt, who was married to Marmaduke Furness, the 1st Viscount Furness, at the time. Through the Viscount Furness, Thelma met many prominent figures within British high society, including some members of the British Royal Family such as Edward, the Prince of Wales.

The book highlights the many scandals that rocked the house of Windsor throughout the 1930’s and high-class society at that time. It discusses topics that were considered controversial during that period of history, such as divorce, homosexual relationships and extramarital affairs. The story is loosely based on Lady Furness’ life and goes into detail about her relationship with the Prince of Wales. During this period, her twin sister, Gloria, was also entangled in her own scandal as her relationship with Nadejda Mikhailovna Mountbatten, the Marchioness of Milford Haven, was up front and centre during her custody battle over her daughter, “Little Gloria” in New York. The trial is known as one of the biggest and most scandalous custody battles in U.S. court history.

Some of the prominent themes throughout the novel are the need to be accepted and loved; the balance of rank and power within high society and the importance of family. Thelma in my view, is a strong character of principle who is completely devoted towards her family and makes all her choices by following her heart. Author Bryn Turnbull describes her quite exquisitely and does not miss a beat. Turnbull proliferates the importance of family throughout the novel, as made evident between the relationship with her twin sister, Gloria, and devotion towards her ex-step-daughter, Averill. Finally, Thelma’s previous marriages heavily influenced her decisions regarding her journey towards finding true love by which the author describes very eloquently all throughout the novel.

An excellent debut for author Bryn Turnbull, I could not put this novel down. If you enjoy reading about royal history with a bit of a twist, then this book is just for you.

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