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Airs Friday, September 25, 2015 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Full-length promotional portrait of Belgian-born actor Audrey Hepburn reclini...

Credit: Courtesy of © Paramount Pictures/Getty Images (1954)

Above: Full-length promotional portrait of Belgian-born actor Audrey Hepburn reclining in a black pantsuit for the film, "Sabrina," directed by Billy Wilder. (Agency reference 1719038).

They seemed to have it all – glamour, power, wealth and adoration. Grace Kelly, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Indira Gandhi, Madame Chiang Kai-shek... they were worshiped, loved and sometimes even feared by millions the world over. These were the pioneers who showed that a woman could be the equal of any man. But behind the public success, there was so often private heartache and personal tragedy. Featuring archive, interviews and dramatic re-enactment, this series reveals the price these extraordinary women paid for their achievements. Yet in the end, they overcame all adversities to emerge as triumphant, inspirational icons of the 20th century.

"Audrey Hepburn" - Audrey Hepburn was one of the most stylish women the world has ever seen, and she took Hollywood by storm. Winning an Oscar for her first major film role in "Roman Holiday," she went on to star in the iconic "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" and the huge box office hit, "My Fair Lady." Her natural, effortless beauty charmed millions. Audrey was more than just a movie star – she was a fashion icon the world over.

But behind the glamour was a life marked by tragedy and loss. When Audrey was just 6 years old her father walked out on the family. His abandonment haunted her for the rest of her life. She endured the horrors of the Nazi-occupation in wartime Holland, and aged just 12 years old, Audrey witnessed the deportations of Jewish families to the death camps.

In 1945, the joy of liberation brought with it the harsh reality that her dreams of becoming a professional ballerina had been crushed. Her near starvation through Holland’s Hunger Winter had left her without a dancer’s body or a dancer’s strength. But it quickly became clear that it was only a matter of time before she would become a movie star.

A hugely successful film career followed, and even through the joys of the birth of her two children and the sadness surrounding her two divorces, Audrey Hepburn would never forget the terrible suffering during the war, nor those humanitarian organizations who saved her from it.

In 1988, Audrey Hepburn was able to repay her debt of gratitude when she became a Special Ambassador for UNICEF. And in what was to be the last few years of a life cut short by cancer, she traveled to some of the poorest regions in the world, dedicating her life to making the world a better place for children.

Distributed by BBC Worldwide

EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN: Audrey Hepburn Preview

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